A common reason for stopping oral contraceptives or oral birth control pills is a desire to get pregnant. But, how soon will it take to get pregnant once you stop the pill? There are some general guidelines available, but every woman is different.
Although ovulation (release of an egg by a woman’s ovaries) can start within weeks after stopping the pill, it can take months for some women to begin ovulating again. Ovulation occurs during a woman’s menstrual cycle and you can become pregnant when you ovulate (as long as the egg is fertilized by a sperm). Estimates state that it takes most women anywhere from 1 month to 1 year to conceive after stopping the pill. Some sources state that 50% of women will get pregnant within 3 months of stopping the pill and 80% of women will get pregnant by 1 year. For women who get pregnant during their first menstrual cycle after stopping the pill, they will not experience a period. Women who had irregular periods before starting the pill will most likely experience irregular periods after stopping it. If you don’t experience a menstrual cycle or period after 3 months, you may want to take a pregnancy test or speak with your doctor.
The take home message is that once you stop the pill, you can get pregnant. It is generally recommended to start taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid as soon as you stop any form of birth control. This is to prepare your body for pregnancy and provide the necessary vitamins and minerals for a developing fetus.
Since it is possible for some women to get pregnant soon after stopping the pill, it is important to debunk some common myths related to the pill.
- FALSE: If you conceive soon after stopping the pill, you have a higher risk of miscarriage.
It used to be recommended to use a backup form of birth control for your first 3 cycles after stopping the pill before you got pregnant. The only benefit related to having 3 cycles before conceiving is that it is easier to track your cycles and it is easier to determine your due date.
- FALSE: The longer you are on the pill, the more it impairs your fertility or ability to get pregnant.
One British study in over 1000 women found no association between duration of pill use and fertility. Many factors can affect a woman’s fertility including maternal age and gynecologic conditions including pelvic inflammatory disease.
Other forms of contraception besides the pill
Some women use alternative forms of birth control such as the barrier method (condom, diaphragm, spermicidal foam, etc.), intrauterine devices (IUDs), and injectable contraceptives. Unlike the pill, which is considered easily reversible with a relatively quick return to fertility in most women, other birth control methods may take longer to reverse.
Birth Control Method
|Time to Return of Ovulation/Fertility After Stopping Birth Control Method 2,3,6||12 Month Conception Rates 5|
|Depot Provera||3-18 months||70%-78%|
|Intrauterine device (IUD) (ex. copper, hormonal)||Within first menstrual cycle after removal||71%-92%|
|Progestin-only implant (ex. Implanon, Nexplanon)||Immediate after implant removal||77%-81%|
|Progestin-only pill (“mini-pill”)||6 months||70%-95%|
|Vaginal ring (ex. NuvaRing)||Same as the pill (1-12 months)||Assumed to be same as the pill (72%-94%)|
|Patch (ex. Ortho Evra)||Same as the pill (1-12 months)||Assumed to be same as the pill (72%-94%)|
|Pill (Oral contraceptive)||1-12 months||72%-94%|
Many women will start ovulating and become fertile within the first year, if not sooner, after stopping birth control. Similarly, pregnancy rates at 1 year are generally similar after stopping any birth control method. However, each woman is different, so the amount of time that it takes to get pregnant after stopping birth control will differ between women. It is important to speak with your doctor if you are planning to become pregnant or you think you may be pregnant.