Coming Off The Pill: Possible Side Effects & Tips to Manage Them-image

Coming Off The Pill: Possible Side Effects & Tips to Manage Them

While coming off the pill may have some side effects, both positive and challenging, most side effects are manageable, and fertility typically returns to normal within a few months.

In this ultimate guide, we’ll look at the potential side effects, symptoms and shifts you might experience when you come off the pill. Armed with practical tips, we’ll help you to manage the transition and not just survive, but thrive, supporting your reproductive and overall health along the way.

Common Side Effects of Coming Off The Pill

The experience of coming off the pill is unique to each individual. Yet, research indicates that side effects and symptoms such as mood swings, acne, and irregular menstrual cycles are common. Knowing how to manage them can make your life easier.

Physical Symptoms and How to Manage Them

Stopping the pill may bring physical side effects including changes in your menstrual cycle, skin issues and weight fluctuations.

Menstrual cycle changes

Hormonal fluctuations can cause your menstrual cycle to change. While on the pill, your body receives a steady and specific dose of synthetic oestrogen and progestogen to prevent pregnancy, but your body also has its own natural hormonal dance working around the clock.

When you stop taking the pill, the synthetic hormones gradually leave your system, allowing your natural hormones to kick in and work their magic. But since your body hasn’t needed them recently, it can take a while for them to find their rhythm. It takes some time for your natural hormones to balance and your menstrual cycle to regulate.

A key sign of hormonal balance is a regular menstrual cycle. After coming off the pill, most people have their first natural period within 2-3 months. If you’re testing your hormones after coming off the pill, we recommend waiting 3 months.

You may observe changes in vaginal discharge, which is normal and can vary in consistency and colour throughout your menstrual cycle.

If your menstrual cycle doesn’t become regular after three months, reach out to our in-house fertility experts for guidance. They can provide insights, conduct hormone and fertility tests, and offer personalised advice on everything from menstruation to motherhood and menopause

After coming off the pill, you might experience your menstrual cycle differently too. It’s common for your periods to be heavier or to get more painful cramps. If you started the pill to manage painful or heavy periods, they can unfortunately return.

Around 40% of women experience ovulation pain, in the form of twinges, cramps, or sharp pains in the lower abdomen, typically in the middle of the cycle. If you were on the pill, you might not have felt this ovulation pain (mittelschmerz) before. It usually lasts a short time and is nothing to worry about.

To be informed and have a better understanding of your reproductive health, track your menstrual cycle and symptoms after stopping the pill. This data will empower you and support your reproductive health going forward.

Skin problems

Some birth control pills have an anti-androgenic effect, meaning they lower testosterone levels in your body, which can impact acne. If you are taking a birth control pill with this effect, you might find that you break out once you come off it. This is often temporary. If acne is affecting your confidence and daily life, consult a healthcare professional for advice. You could also switch up your skincare routine or speak with a dermatologist.

Unwanted hair growth

You may have started the pill because of unwanted or excessive hair growth. Unfortunately, when you come off the pill, the hair may return. Although there are several reasons it can occur, unwanted hair growth is a common symptom of PCOS, and if you’re concerned, it’s a good idea to talk to a Fertility Advisor.

Weight fluctuations

People’s responses to the combined pill vary. Some report weight gain, while others report weight loss. These changes may be due to increased appetite and the oestrogen content in the pill causing fluid retention.

Your weight can impact your reproductive and overall health. If you need support, consult with a fertility nutritionist who can guide you on diet, exercise, and lifestyle adjustments tailored to your needs.

Sex drive

When you come off the pill, you might find your sex drive (libido) increases and you’re up for sex more often. This is because of a boost in testosterone during ovulation. Time to get physical!

Headaches

Some take the pill to control headaches because the oestrogen in it can help. When you stop the pill, headaches may come back. Use pain relief, and if they significantly affect your daily life, consult a healthcare professional.

Emotional and Psychological Effects

Your hormones have a lot to answer for, and coming off the pill can cause emotional and psychological effects that impact your daily life.

Mood changes

Usually, PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome), PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoria disorder), and mood swings intensify when you stop the pill, while rates of depression seem to ease.

PMS and PMDD symptoms vary, but they often include anxiety, low self-esteem, mood swings, tiredness, irritability, fatigue, sluggishness, sleep issues, breast tenderness, cravings, a lack of interest in activities you usually enjoy, feeling tense, overwhelmed, and even having suicidal thoughts.

This typically occurs in the second half of your cycle—the luteal phase—before your period and after ovulation. This is the time to be kind to yourself, and understand that you are not your thoughts, and they will pass.

Tracking your menstrual cycle so you know when you might experience PMS can help to support you.

When PMS hits, try steering clear of things that could ramp up your anxiety. Maybe skip bustling events and opt for easy dinners (hello, freezer leftovers!) when you’re not up for cooking.

Combat feelings of sadness or hopelessness with coping strategies that suit you. Think self-care like journaling, meditation, dancing, yoga, baths, or just some quiet time.

Spruce up your surroundings for a more relaxed vibe. Soft blankets, candles, mellow lighting, and soothing music can make you feel more zen.

And don’t forget, talking it out can work wonders. Share with friends, and family, or book an appointment with our clinical team. CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) has been shown to ease the burden of PMDD.

Long-term Effects and Fertility Considerations

Usually, after a few months of stopping the pill, your ovulation and menstrual cycle will return to normal, and you should be able to conceive. At Hertility, we can support you at every stage (excluding in the bedroom!) whether you’re trying to conceive, planning future children, or considering same-sex fertility.

Keep in mind that your fertility timeline after coming off the pill depends on many different factors. Age plays a role (women are generally more fertile in their 20s and early 30s), along with lifestyle, overall health, and potential underlying fertility issues.

While the pill itself doesn’t impact fertility, it might mask health conditions like PCOS or endometriosis that could affect conception.

Everyone’s experience is different after stopping the pill. If you’re worried, chatting with a fertility advisor or taking an at-home hormone and fertility test can offer insights.

Our private gynaecologists can create a personalised care plan based on blood tests and your health history.

Tips for a Smoother Transition Off the Pill

Stopping the pill brings different changes for everyone, but you can handle them with lifestyle adjustments to ease the transition.

Feel free to stop the pill whenever you’re ready, but finishing the current pack can help normalise your menstrual cycle sooner.

Empower Your Health Journey: Track Your Menstrual Cycle After Stopping the Pill

Track your cycle to understand its natural flow, even if it’s irregular initially. After a few months, it usually evens out. Knowing your cycle empowers you on your health journey.
If no period shows up after three months (post-pill amenorrhea), or if your cycles remain unpredictable and irregular, consult with an online doctor for guidance.

Balance Hormones Naturally: Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle Post-Pill

Maintain a balanced diet, stay hydrated, exercise regularly, manage stress, sleep well, and limit alcohol and smoking to balance hormones and support your overall health.

Explore hormone-balancing nutrition and lifestyle changes to naturally support reproductive health.

Be Prepared: Coping Strategies for Potential Side Effects Post-Pill

Know the potential side effects and have coping strategies ready.

Build a Support System: Navigate Post-Pill Changes with Help

Having a supportive friend, family, or a trusted fertility counsellor can make a big difference. Seek solace in support groups or online communities.

Hormone and Fertility Test: Insights for Your Post-Pill Health

Consider a hormone and fertility test a few months after stopping the pill. Whether you’re planning a pregnancy or curious about hormones, the online health assessment, blood test, and doctor-written report can provide useful insights. Pair it with your cycle knowledge, and discuss any questions with our in-house experts.

FAQs

How long do side effects last after coming off the pill?

Give it 2-3 months for your hormones to settle, and the side effects should become less noticeable or easier to handle. If your menstrual cycle doesn’t regulate, chat with a fertility advisor for guidance on what to do next.

Can coming off the pill affect my mental health?

Stopping the pill can impact your mental well-being in various ways. Hormonal shifts might bring on PMS or PMDD symptoms like mood swings, anxiety, depression, and more. However, tracking your cycle, adopting a healthy lifestyle, and having coping strategies and a support system can ease these symptoms.

For some, coming off the pill can even reduce instances of low mood and depression.

What are the signs that I should consult a healthcare provider after stopping the pill?

Trust your instincts. Allow three months for your body to adapt to hormonal changes. If, after this time, you haven’t had a period or the symptoms are disrupting your daily life, reach out to a private gynaecologist to figure out the next steps for you.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1903378/
  2. https://onlinedoctor.lloydspharmacy.com/uk/contraception-advice/coming-off-the-pill
  3. https://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/stopping-pill-10-ways-body-changes
  4. What Happens When You Stop Using The Combined Pill?
  5. https://www.health.com/condition/menstruation/period-going-off-birth-control-pills
  6. https://www.drfelix.co.uk/health-center/coming-off-the-pill/
  7. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/combined-contraceptive-pill/
  8. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/post-pill-pcos#:~:text=Stopping%20hormonal%20birth%20control%20cannot,with%20PCOS%20in%20some%20people
  9. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/premenstrual-dysphoric-disorder-pmdd/treatment/
  10. https://patient.info/sexual-health/hormone-pills-patches-and-rings/combined-oral-contraceptive-coc-pill
  11. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/loss-of-libido/
  12. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/when-periods-after-stopping-pill/

 

Zoya Ali BSc, MSc

Zoya Ali BSc, MSc

Zoya is a scientific researcher with a Bachelor's degree in Biotechnology and a Masters in Prenatal Genetics & Foetal Medicine from University College London. Her research interests are reproductive genetics, fertility preservation, gynaecological health conditions and sexual health.

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