What to Expect When You Go Off Birth Control Pills

For so many women, the birth control pill has been a daily staple for many, many years. But there comes a time in every woman's life when she shuts off her 10 p.m. iPhone reminder and gives up the Pill for a spell. It's kind of a scary thing -- not only is the Pill weirdly a part of us, but there are also lots of myths and misinformation floating around about the side effects of going off the pill -- probably as many as there are about going on it.

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But Dr. Diana Ramos, MD, MPH, and co-chair of the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative, says that most of that fear about side effects is unfounded. All the changes and weird things that happen to your cycle are really your body returning to its original, pre-hormone therapy state.

"Mostly, women tend to have slightly heavier periods than they're used to," Ramos says. "And it's not even that they're heavier -- they're just normal. They'll have to readjust to that."

Part of the readjustment process is dealing with high-hormone periods again. The Pill suppresses hormones as long as you're on it, but it's not like eight years of hormones are going to flood your body as soon as you stop the Pill. Your first period post-Pill will likely be the same as your last period pre-Pill.

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"Women will sometimes get acne again," Ramos explains. "They'll also often have worse cramps and their cycle might be a little longer. Also, if their periods were not normal before they started the Pill, they'll likely be abnormal after."

Though it'll likely be a little uncomfortable to adjust to a heavier/crampier/pimplier period, Ramos says there's really not much you can do in terms of medication, natural remedies, or lifestyle changes to lessen symptoms. 

"It's really okay to just stop and let your body get back into it," she explains. "Though, women who had an abnormal period before starting the Pill might want to talk to their health care provider to get medical attention directed at them. It's case by case, but there may be other solutions for dealing with their period."

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If you're quitting the Pill so you can switch to another kind of birth control, then that's about it. Once you stop, you stop. There won't be any lingering side effects, but there also won't be lingering uterus protection -- as soon as you start ovulating again, you're opening your body up to the possibility of pregnancy. If you're planning to stay off birth control for a while, Ramos recommends starting on a multivitamin. 

"The folic acid in multivitamins and prenatal vitamins helps prevent neural tube defects in babies, and lessens nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, but it's most effective if women start taking it before they get pregnant," Ramos explains. "Since half of the births in the US are unplanned, it's good to start taking vitamins right away."

But Ramos emphasizes that going off the Pill isn't anything to be scared of -- it's just going to be a readjustment process. 

 

Image via iStock.com/Daniela Jovanovska-Hristovska

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