Coming off the pill - everything you need to know according to experts
Will my sex drive increase? When will my periods return? Here Dr Shree Datta, gynaecologist for intimate wellbeing brand INTIMINA UK, answers all your questions about coming off the pill…
Everything you need to know about coming off the pill
Can you just stop taking the pill?
Believe it or not, yes, you can just stop taking the pill if you are taking it for contraceptive purposes. You don’t need to finish the full packet, however, just remember that if you are not using alternative contraception you may fall pregnant as soon as you come off the pill. Also, if you don’t finish the full packet, your menstrual cycle may be a little irregular to start with.
If you have swapped to a different type of contraceptive – for example, the coil – it’s worth speaking to your gynaecologist to work out the best time to come off the pill to make sure you still have contraceptive cover throughout. If you are taking the pill for other reasons, such as heavy periods or endometriosis, it’s worth planning when you stop taking the pill so that you can consider any side effects or returning symptoms that you may experience. Regardless of why you are taking the pill, it may be a good idea to speak to your doctor before you stop it, to make sure you know what to expect.
Are there any negative side effects?
Again this depends on why you are taking the pill in the first place. When you stop taking the pill, the hormones within it usually clear from your body pretty quickly. But it can take some time for your body to adjust and what’s normal for you may have changed. If you had heavy, crampy periods before taking the pill, these may gradually come back as your periods resume over time. If you suffered from PMS symptoms previously, these may also come back, with pains at the time of ovulation as your body starts releasing an egg monthly again. For some women, the pill corrects hormonal imbalances that cause skin breakouts and unwanted hair growth, so once you stop, these problems may gradually come back.
When will your periods go back to normal?
Usually, periods resume within the first three months but it depends on what your normal cycle is like. For a few women, it can take over 6 months for your periods to come back, depending on how long you were taking the pill and other factors such as your weight, stress and medical conditions such as PCOS, which can all affect your menstrual cycle. When you first come off the pill, your periods may be irregular but this usually irons out after 3-4 months. Don’t forget some pills have hormones that stop ovulation, so your first period after stopping the pill may be a ‘withdrawal bleed’, with your natural periods resuming after that.
Could your libido increase?
There’s no doubt that for some women, libido may increase once you’ve stopped the pill, with evidence relating this to the type and dose of your contraceptive pill and the effect hormones may have on your body. It’s worth thinking about how your libido was affected when you started the pill to work out how it will change once you stop. Don’t forget that libido is affected by lots of different factors, such as age, stress and general health to name a few.
How soon can you get pregnant?
Theoretically, if your body hormones return to normal, you can become pregnant within the first month or two once you’ve stopped taking it – so make sure you have planned for this. If you are thinking of becoming pregnant, it’s a good idea to make sure you are taking preconceptual vitamins and supplements, including folic acid. The guidance suggests you should start these approximately three months before falling pregnant. This is a good time to think about stopping smoking or reducing your alcohol intake to give your body the best possible opportunity to fall pregnant naturally.
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