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

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

Medically Reviewed by Hertility on March 28, 2024

In this article, we’ll look at the potential side effects, symptoms and shifts you might experience when you come off the pill. Read on to understand how to support your reproductive and overall health as you manage your post-contraception journey.

Quick facts:

  • Coming off the pill can bring on both physical and psychological side effects. 
  • You won’t necessarily experience side effects, it’s all dependent on the individual. 
  • If you experienced any hormonal symptoms before going on the pill, these may return.
  • It generally takes around 3 months for your menstrual cycle to regulate again. 
  • Taking a hormone test after you’ve been off the pill for at least 3 months can help you understand more about your reproductive health.

Common side effects of coming off the pill

Whilst side effects like mood swings, irregular periods and acne, the experience of coming off the pill (or any hormonal contraception) is totally unique to each individual. This is because each of our hormonal make-ups is unique. 

While coming off the pill may have some side effects, most can be managed or treated and fertility, including a regular menstrual cycle, typically returns to normal within a few months.

Knowing how to manage and prepare for any possible symptoms will make your post-pill journey much easier. Let’s take a look at both the physical and mental side effects of coming off the pill.

What are the physical side effects of coming off the pill?

Stopping the pill may bring on 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 or progestogen to prevent pregnancy.

When you stop taking the pill, the synthetic hormones gradually leave your system, allowing your natural hormones to kick back in. 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 notice cycles return to what was normal within 2-3 months. If you’re testing your hormones after coming off the pill, we recommend waiting three months.

If your menstrual cycle doesn’t return 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 based on your specific situation.

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 irregular, painful or heavy periods, they can unfortunately return.

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 reduce 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

Again if you were taking a pill with an anti-androgen effect, unwanted hair growth may return after you stop taking it. Although there are several reasons it can occur, unwanted hair growth on the chin, neck and chest 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 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, but this is very individual. 

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 changes

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. 

What are the emotional side effects of coming off the pill?

Your hormones also significantly control your mood and coming off the pill can cause emotional and psychological effects too.

Mood changes

Usually, PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome), PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoria disorder), and mood swings may intensify when you stop the pill. 

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. 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. If no other underlying health conditions are impacting your fertility, you should be able to conceive. 

At Hertility, we can support you at every stage, whether you’re trying to conceive or planning for future children

Keep in mind that your fertility timeline after coming off the pill depends on many different factors. Age plays a role (females 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 hasn’t been found to 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.

Tracking your cycle post-pill

Tracking your cycle can help you to understand your natural flow, even if your cycle is irregular initially. After a few months, it usually evens out and you’ll be able to begin tracking when your fertile window is and when any symptoms you’re experiencing are cropping up.

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.

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

Maintaining a balanced diet, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, managing stress, sleeping well and limiting alcohol and smoking can all contribute towards you’re hormones balancing out again sooner.

Consider taking a hormone and fertility test

Taking a hormone and fertility test around 3 months after stopping the pill can be a great way of understanding more about your reproductive health. Whether you’re planning a pregnancy, curious about your hormones or getting a treatment plan for any symptoms that have cropped up—our at-home Hormone and Fertility test has got you covered.

Coming off the pill FAQs

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

Give it at least 3 months for your hormones to settle. Usually, any significant side effects should settle around the three-month mark as your menstrual cycle becomes more regular. If you’re experiencing any symptoms that are impacting your quality of life, don’t put up with them! Ask a health professional for advice and ask to explore symptom management or treatment.

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 and depression. 

On the flip side, for some, coming off the pill can reduce instances of low mood and depression. It’s completely individual.

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.


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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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