When you’re considering a change to your birth control method—or thinking about getting pregnant—it’s natural to have questions about what it will be like to go off birth control. For example, how long does birth control stay in your system? The answer depends on what type of birth control you are currently using, as some forms of birth control can last much longer than others. We spoke to the experts to get the details.
How long does birth control stay in your system?
“Hormonal birth control lasts in a person’s system for different lengths of time, depending on the type of medication,” explains Dr. Joya Johnson, an OB-GYN at Spectrum Health West Michigan. However, in general, most birth control methods do not stay in the body very long after you stop using them. “In general, it takes 4-5 half-lives to eliminate a medication,” says Johnson.
However, if you’re not sure how to think of your birth control in terms of half-lives, never fear. “For an oral progesterone-estradiol pill (or “oral combination pill” or OCP), it’s 40-225 hours. In other words, you can imagine that within a day or two a lot of the medication will be out of your system Or, another way to think about it is that if you accidentally missed a pill, you could be playing with fire. “If a person uses an OCP for pregnancy prevention, it is still effective if they take one miss a pill,” says Johnson. “But if they miss two or more pills, the effectiveness of contraception is drastically reduced and contraceptive methods are recommended.”
Once the hormones are out of your system, it may take a while for your regular periods to make an appearance. “The combined pill works by suppressing ovulation, so it can take a while for ovulation to resume once the pill is stopped. In some women, it can take up to six months for periods to resume,” says Dr. Alex Polyakov, an OB-GYN. “On the other hand, ovulation can start again immediately and it is not unusual for women to get pregnant without having a period after stopping the pill.” If you are not currently trying to conceive, consider using another type of birth control, such as a condom or a cervical cap.
“For progesterone IUDs, the medication works primarily locally (affecting the uterus and cervix),” Johnson explains. “Once removed, the majority of its effects are immediately lost.” In other words? If you are not trying to get pregnant and your IUD has been removed, be sure to use an alternative form of birth control. “In fact, I advise patients to abstain from intercourse for 72 hours prior to removal, especially for the IUDs,” says Dr. Tiffany Woodus, an OB-GYN, because the effectiveness ends so immediately with removal.
The Depo-Provera shot is one form of birth control that can take a while to leave the system, sometimes months after the last injection. For the Depo shot, the half-life is 200-250 days. Therefore, “if a person is planning when they can try to get pregnant, it could be 7-9 months after their last shot before they ovulate,” says Johnson. Keep this longer return time in mind if you are considering getting pregnant in the near future. There are a few things to know about getting pregnant after Depo-Provera, and tricks like charting your ovulation can help. That said, it’s a reversible form of birth control, so a little time (and a doctor’s advice) may be all you need.
Remember, everyone is a little different
In addition to the birth control methods themselves, each individual’s body may react differently to quitting. Age is one factor. “Metabolism (our bodies’ ability to break down and process what we put into it) usually slows down with age. So, as we age, it can take our bodies longer to process any medication (including hormones), meaning the effects can last longer,” says Woodus.
Other medicines you take can also have an effect. “There are also certain medications, such as some antibiotics, that interfere with the metabolism of hormonal contraceptives when taken at the same time,” explains Woodus. So while there is a general time frame for how long it takes birth control to leave your system, the exact time will vary a bit from person to person. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to address any of these concerns with your healthcare provider, while explaining your plans for the future, such as whether you’re trying to get pregnant or switching to another method of birth control altogether. to call
When can I start getting pregnant after stopping birth control?
Once those hormones are finally gone for good, is it safe to start trying to conceive? “There is no danger of getting pregnant immediately after stopping birth control preparations, and this applies to both the pill and IUDs, since the hormones are metabolized and leave the body within 24 to 48 hours,” Alex Polyakov, An OB-GYN, says Romper.
So, if you’re done with birth control and hoping to get pregnant, there’s no harm in starting almost immediately. As always, however, the best advice will come from a discussion with your healthcare provider.
Dr. Joya Johnson, MD, OB-GYN, Spectrum Health West Michigan
Dr. Alex Polyakov, MD, Senior OB-GYN Consultant
Dr. Tiffany Woodus, Managing Director, FACOG
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