Are There Any Side Effects Of Stopping Birth Control? Here’s What Experts Say

Planning to go off the pill? Your body can have some side effects of stopping birth control are less obvious, others may require you to see a doctor.

By Ameya Arora
02 Aug 2022

Birth control pills are often represented as a silver bullet approach to regular periods and reliable contraception. Most people start the pill with high hopes, but it doesn’t work out for some. Whether you’ve been on birth control pills for months, or are a dedicated user for years, your body will need time to adjust once you stop. In the process, you are likely to experience various side effects of stopping birth control, from mood swings to irregular periods.


Coming off of birth control pills is a challenging decision and process. A 2007 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology shows that from the 60 per cent of the people who stop taking the pill in the first 6 months, 34 per cent do so because of the side effects. We discussed what happens when you stop taking birth control with Dr. Anuradha Panda, consultant, obstetrician, gynecologist, laparoscopic and robotic surgeon, Apollo hospital, Hyderabad.


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Reasons For Stopping Birth Control


According to Dr. Anuradha, there are many reasons that a person might want to stop taking the pill, such as:

1. Wish to conceive

2. Heavy bleeding

3. Severe headache

4. Acidity

5. Mood swings

6. Development of new diseases, like hypertension

7. Diabetes

8. Weight gain


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Side Effects Of Stopping Birth Control

According to a 2010 paper published in the American Family Physician, side effects from the pill are most common during the first 3 to 5 months of use. While most people understand that accommodating a new medication into your routine is a process, fewer realise that readjusting to your normal routine after discontinuing the medication takes just as much time and effort.


1. Natural period

Most people can enjoy the benefits of the natural cycle once they come off the pill, but not immediately. Since the pill inhibits ovulation, individuals looking to conceive may be able to ovulate from the next few pill-free cycles.


2. Post-pill acne

As birth control pills are effective in regulating sebum production, they reduce breakouts. Hence, coming off the pill can cause breakouts.


3. Irregular periods

Lack of periods or irregular cycles can result after you stop the medication. It happens because birth control pills suppress the hormones that cause ovulation, and lack of ovulation leads to lack of periods. Some women begin ovulating right after coming off the pill, for others, it can take months or years before they ovulate consistently again.


Related Story: Choosing The Right Contraceptive Method—Everything You Need To Know


4. Physiological effects

Cramps, mood swings, bloating, are common post-pill side effects. It happens because birth control pills have a direct effect on your hormones, and thus you may notice significant hormonal changes after you stop taking the pill. It can also cause breast tenderness, nausea, acidity, and headaches.


5. Emotional effects

Mood swings and anxiety are common responses to stopping birth control pills. Moreover, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine reported that birth control pills lower libido in women. Getting off birth control can increase libido.


6. Nutrient depletion

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reported that many women experience a drop in Vitamin D levels once they stop taking birth control pills. This is especially critical for women who stopped birth control with the wish to conceive, as Vitamin D is known to support the fetal skeleton in pregnancy. Speak to your doctor about supplementing low levels of Vitamin D in your diet or through other means.


7. Spotting and heavier flow

Some people may experience heavier flow and spotting mid cycle as their body gets used to functioning without the pill. It is recommended to have pads or tampons at hand.


Related Story: Are We On The Brink Of A Contraceptive Revolution?


Managing The Side Effects Of Stopping Birth Control

According to Dr. Anuradha, there are only minor side effects of stopping birth control, in most cases. All the minor side effects disappear over time, without any treatment. The doctor stays in close contact to monitor the symptoms, and additional medicines are given depending upon the case. For example, “medicines to reduce acidity, or to reduce blood flow in the first 2-3 cycles are given, and then your body adjusts”. According to Dr. Anuradha, “calcium is very important for the readjustment of the body to the natural process”.


Apart from medications to cure physical effects, self-care can go a long way in building your resilience and emotional strength. Accepting that your body needs time to readjust to the old ways, allowing yourself that time, and taking care of yourself, are all great ways to start. Stress can worsen the minor side effects that you might be experiencing, so take out some time to relax.


Lastly, communicate what you’re feeling or experiencing with your partner, or loved ones. Being open about our feelings can open doors to speedy recovery, and support from loved ones can minimise the feeling of distress.


When To Consult A Doctor

It is normal to not feel quite like yourself as soon as you get off the birth control. But you should see your doctor if you are not getting back to natural cycle, months after you stop the pill. For instance, if you haven’t gotten your period in 3 or 4 months, let your doctor know as it could be a sign that your body is not ovulating the way it should.


See your doctor if:

1. You have extremely irregular cycle

2. You have very heavy bleeding

3. You have periods that last several days which isn’t normal

4. You have severe cramps in the abdomen

5. You experience severe migraine

6. You feel tired most of the time

7. You experience shortness of breath


While it is always better to consult your doctor from time to time to discuss your progress, be mindful of approaching your healthcare provider whenever you feel that the side effects are causing you extreme discomfort. According to Dr. Anuradha, every case is different, and thus your experience and journey is unique to you. Even if you don’t identify with the above list, see your doctor to avoid any complication of symptoms that you may be facing.


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Q: Are sore nipples a side effect of stopping birth control?

A: Yes, sore nipples or tender breasts can be a side effect of stopping birth control pills. It may be a response to ovaries getting back in the process of making estrogen and building the egg.


Q: When would side effects of birth control stop?

A: Most common side effects of birth control usually go away in 2 to 3 months.


Q: Do birth control pills stop your period?

A: Yes, birth control can stop your period. The pill and other hormonal forms of birth control influences reproductive hormones that control periods. Some may experience light period flow, some experience no cramps while others may completely skip their period.


Q: At what age should you stop taking birth control pills?

A: It is recommended by the North American Menopause Society that women can stop taking birth control pills when they hit menopause or reach age 50-55. It is best to consult your doctor.






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