get pregnant after birth control

How do I stop taking the pill?

The birth control pill prevents pregnancy by preventing ovulation because without ovulating, you cannot get pregnant. So if you are on the birth control pill, the first step in trying to get pregnant is to stop taking the pill. Preferably, you wait until the end of the birth control pill pack and then just don't start with the new pack.

How much time should I wait after stopping the pill before I try to conceive (TTC)?

You do not have to wait a certain period of time after stopping the pill in order to have a safe pregnancy. It is safe to get pregnant as soon as you stop. However, it may take some time after stopping the pill before ovulation begins. Some women may ovulate within 1-2 weeks after stopping, while for others, it can take several months. Ovulation may be delayed or not happen for a long time if you had started the pill initially because your periods were irregular and you already had problems with ovulation.

For some, getting pregnant after birth control, such as the pill, is as easy as stopping the medication and trying to get pregnant. For others, however, getting pregnant may take more effort.

The birth control pill has been around for more than 40 years. The birth control pill commonly referred to as simply “The Pill,” supplies hormones to the body essentially tricking the body into thinking it’s pregnant. When the body reacts to the hormones in the pill, pregnancy is prevented over 99% of the time. When women are ready to conceive, they must stop taking the pill to resume normal ovulation and menstrual cycles.

Returning to a normal ovulation cycle

Ovulation is the prime time for conception. When taking the pill, women do not ovulate. After women stop taking the pill, the body may take some time to return to normal ovulation and menstrual cycles. Sometimes that happens within 2 weeks, other times it may take 1-2 months. It is perfectly safe to start trying to get pregnant as soon as you stop the pill, though it may take time to actually get pregnant because of delay in ovulation and other factors involved in getting pregnant. 

The ovulation cycle is important for conception, but also for determining gestational age. Obstetricians will often ask women to estimate the first day of their last menstrual cycle. This date is used to determine the current age of the pregnancy in gestational weeks. Current age is then used to determine pregnancy due date. While estimating pregnancy due date based on ovulation is not perfect in all cases, it does give the obstetrician a baseline age with which to compare fetal growth. If ovulation does not occur at the common time during a menstrual cycle due to birth control use, gestational age and due date may be inaccurate.

So, how long do you have to wait after you stop taking the pill in order to get pregnant?

Women should wait at least one month before trying to get pregnant. The longer a woman waits, the more “regular” her menstrual cycle may become leading to more accurate ovulation cycles. Some women may find it difficult to get pregnant the first one to three months after stopping the pill due to irregular ovulation, which is another reason to give the female body some time to adjust without hormones present in birth control pills.

Getting pregnant after birth control

Some women spend many years on birth control because they want to wait until the perfect time to get pregnant. Once they have decided that time has arrived they can often be impatient for the pregnancy to begin. While it is impossible to predict exactly when you will get pregnant there are a few norms to be aware of so you will be able to have realistic expectations.

How long should you wait?

You can begin trying to conceive as soon as you stop taking your birth control.  However, some doctors recommend using an alternative form of birth control until you have had one normal cycle just to make dating the pregnancy easier. Additionally, in the past, it was thought there could be negative consequences to the fetus if one became pregnant too soon after going off birth control. More recent studies show there is little to no evidence to support this.

How long will it take?

Usually, you will begin to ovulate normally a month or two after you cease your birth control. However, for some women, the process will be quicker and for others, it may take longer. One of the factors that will determine how long it will take for your ovulation to return to normal is how regular your ovulation was prior to birth control. If you were extremely regular you will likely return to that state more rapidly than someone who had irregular ovulation. Likewise, the more regular your ovulation the easier it is to get pregnant. While it is possible to become pregnant immediately after the cessation of birth control, it is unlikely. Conception usually takes several months and up to six months is not an unreasonable estimate. If you are not pregnant six months after you have stopped taking your birth control you can consult your doctor.

Health-related birth control prescriptions

Some women take birth control not to control conception, but as a treatment for a health-related condition. When choosing to stop taking birth control in order to conceive, talking with your doctor about the related health condition is important before you stop taking the birth control.

Why can’t I get pregnant?

The body is a precision instrument that carries out hundreds of processes the millisecond the egg is implanted with the sperm. The intricate nature of this process can lead the body to self-abort several fetuses before a viable fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus. There is no evidence that birth control pills will prevent a woman from getting pregnant and any pregnancy delays are more than likely just normal delays in the process of conception.

Birth control is a huge part of the societal choice to have sex without the chance of pregnancy. When stopping birth control for the sake of getting pregnant, women often think their bodies will immediately be ready to conceive and the baby will be born 40 weeks after they take that last pill. The truth of the matter is that the body needs a bit of time to adjust and in most cases, the pregnancy will happen when the body is ready to conceive.

No period after the pill

Missing your period is also called amenorrhea and the very first thing that comes to mind when you don’t have your period is that you could be pregnant. If you don’t get your period for some time after stopping the pill chances are that you are either pregnant (do a pregnancy test!) or you did not ovulate. Even without getting your period first there might be a chance you are pregnant. Take a pregnancy test. A negative pregnancy test, especially if it’s repeated over a week or so, usually means that you are not pregnant.

Is there anything wrong if my period hasn’t come for 2-3 months after stopping the pill? When should I see my doctor?

You can be reassured that the sort of delay you're experiencing after going off the pill is quite common. Here's what is going on:

Combined contraceptives, containing both estrogen and progesterone, are the most commonly used oral contraceptives. They prevent ovulation by maintaining certain hormone levels and suppressing other natural hormones that would otherwise stimulate the ovaries to ripen and release an egg. By taking combined oral contraceptives, you prevent an egg from developing or being released for that cycle.

While a woman is on the pill, the menstrual period doesn't come — as it usually does, as a result of ovulation — but because of the sudden decrease in hormone levels during the one week per month when the pills you take are placebos (they don’t contain any hormones). Because your cycle is controlled by the pills, when taking oral contraceptives you are used to getting regular menstrual periods every 28 days.

When you stop taking the pill entirely, the constant hormone level that suppresses ovulation stops. Your body has to start its own hormone production and may sometimes need a little time to regain normal rhythm. The ovary itself has to get ready so that an egg can mature and can be released.

While there are several hundred thousand eggs in the ovaries ready to mature, they may need some time before your first new ovulation.

What does all this have to do with my menstrual period?

It is important to remember that your regular menstrual period is usually the result of ovulation, not the other way around.

The average woman takes one month to three months to start ovulating again after stopping the pill.

Menstrual bleeding usually results from a decrease in natural hormone levels about 14 days after the ovulation, if you're not pregnant. The average woman takes one month to three months to start ovulating again after stopping the pill. Sometimes ovulation may occur sooner; other times, it may take longer. So the first sign that your ovulation has returned is usually the reappearance of your regular menstrual cycle, a couple of weeks after ovulation. The average woman takes one month to three months to start ovulating again after stopping the pill.

"Post-pill amenorrhea," the absence of a menstrual period after you stop the pill, is seen in about 1 in 30 women after they stop the pill. Until you start menstruating regularly, it's going to be difficult to tell exactly when you've ovulated, unless you start checking for other signs of ovulation.

To improve your chances of predicting the day of ovulation, you may want to do the following:

  • Use a basal body temperature thermometer and create a temperature chart
  • Check your cervical mucus for signs of ovulation
  • Add an ovulation-prediction kit (OPK)

You might want to have sex regularly, once a day or every other day, around the time you think you might be ovulating or when the ovulation-prediction kit shows you are about to ovulate, just to make sure you don't miss the important day of ovulation.

If your menstrual period doesn't return, or if it continues to remain very irregular for several months, that may be a sign that you haven't started ovulating regularly yet.

After the IUD (intrauterine device)

If you have an IUD, an intrauterine device, and you want to get pregnant then the only thing to do is to have it removed. This is usually a quick and painless process in the doctor's office. There are 2 different IUDs on the market, a copper-containing IUD, and a hormone-containing IUD. No matter which one you have, as soon as it has been removed, it is safe to get pregnant. It may take a little longer to ovulate after the hormone-containing IUD, but pregnancy can happen very quickly after the IUD.

If your menstrual cycle has not returned by three months, or more, after you stop the pill, you probably want to see your doctor and discuss what to do next.

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