Get Pregnant After Birth Control: What You Must Know
The whole idea behind using birth control is for you to decide if and when you want to get pregnant. If you’re like most people, you may have spent close to 15 years of your life trying to make sure you didn’t get pregnant—by using birth control to prevent pregnancy.So, fast forward, and now you’re ready to get pregnant. Does that mean that once you stop taking birth control you will automatically be able to get pregnant? Is it as simple as not taking the pill or not inserting another NuvaRing and poof—your fertility returns? The best answer we can give you is it depends.
How Long Does It Take to Get Pregnant?
Well, to answer this question, we need to point out an important distinction: having your fertility return does not automatically mean that you will get pregnant. But, your fertility must return before you can get pregnant. Confused?
- Most hormonal birth control methods work to prevent pregnancy by stopping you from ovulating.
- If you do not release an egg, then there is nothing for sperm to fertilize, so you do not get pregnant.
- In simple terms: no ovulation = no fertility.
Once you regain your fertility, this means that your body has begun to ovulate again. So, you could get pregnant. How long does that take? A lot of this depends on what birth control method you were using. Let’s compare.
Getting Pregnant After Stopping Birth Control
- Natural Methods and Barrier Methods: If you were using condoms, female condoms, a diaphragm, or spermicide for birth control—good news—your fertility should return immediately! All barrier methods do is block sperm from reaching your egg. So, they never messed with your ovulation in the first place.
- When you are not using them, nothing changes in your body. If you were using condoms, you were also being protected against sexually transmitted infections (STI)—an added bonus! Left untreated, some STIs can actually lead to infertility.
- If you were using natural family planning, you may be able to get pregnant faster. Many of these natural methods require you to keep track of your most fertile days. So now, just do the reverse. Instead of not having sex around those days, go try to make a baby.
- Combination Birth Control Methods: So, you are stopping your combination birth control pills, NuvaRing, or Patch—how fast can you get pregnant? Well, like we pointed out above, getting pregnant is not the same as your ability to become pregnant. That said, many women get confused about how soon their fertility returns after stopping the birth control pill. This is because there is a lot of misinformation out there.
- Here’s the scoop: If you’ve heard that it takes at least three months for your body to start ovulating again after stopping the pill—this is not true. For most women, ovulation will start within weeks, though it can take one to three months. Think about it—the pill works by stopping ovulation; if you miss a couple of pills, you could become pregnant because your body will ovulate. Some doctors even say that you are most fertile right when you stop taking the pill.
- So where does the “three month myth” come from? Many doctors may tell you to use a condom (or other OTC method) until you have had three periods. This advice is only based on the fact that waiting the three months will help you keep track of your cycle. So, if you get pregnant, you can better predict when the pregnancy took place. There is no medical reason to wait. Just be prepared that your fertility can return within the first month after stopping the birth control pill.
- Since NuvaRing and the Patch work the same way as the pill, the same goes for these methods—a quick return of fertility. Most research shows that within a year after stopping the pill, NuvaRing, or Patch, 80 percent of women who want to get pregnant will get pregnant. This number is identical to that of the general population. The same also seems to be true of progestin-only birth control pills as well as extended cycle pills. This means that once you stop these types of birth control pills, plan on your fertility quickly returning.
- IUDs: Because of a scandalous background, you may believe that IUDs actually cause pelvic inflammatory disease which leads to infertility. This is also not true. There are two types of IUDs: hormonal IUDs (Mirena and Skyla) and copper (Non-Hormonal) IUD (ParaGard). You can have your IUD remoed at any time by a qualified doctor (please do not try to take it out yourself). Once removed, your fertility returns very quickly—usually within a month. This is the case for both types of IUDs. Your uterus just needs a little bit of time to get used to the IUD not being there anymore. Research shows that once an IUD is removed, pregnancy rates are about the same as the rest of the population.
- Nexplanon: This is a progestin-only birth control implant. Nexplanon releases progestin over a three-year time period. You can have this birth control implant removed any time before the three-year time limit.
- You can expect a rapid return of your fertility after having Nexplanon removed—usually within one month. Research shows that 90.9 percent of women’s menstrual cycles returned to normal within three months after Nexplanon removal. Also, the amount of time that you used Nexplanon does not affect how quickly fertility returns.
- Depo Provera: The Depo Provera injection protects against pregnancy for 12 weeks. If this is your birth control method, don’t expect to get pregnant anytime soon. The manufacturer of Depo Provera actually suggests that you stop getting the depo shot one year before you want to get pregnant.
- So why is this? Even though Depo Provera will no longer provide you with pregnancy protection after three months, the hormone (medroxyprogesterone acetate) stays in your body much longer because it is injected into your muscle.
- Though some women have reported the return of fertility within three months after their last Depo Provera injection, this is not typical. It takes some time for the hormone to make its way completely out of your body. On average, it takes about nine to 10 months (and sometimes more than a year) to begin ovulating after stopping Depo Provera.
Other Fertility Factors to Consider
A general rule of thumb is that your fertility should go back to the way it was before you began using birth control. So, if you had regular cycles prior to starting birth control, you should have regular cycles once stopping birth control. But your age may also play a factor here. This is because fertility is negatively affected the older you are, especially once you turn 35.
A comprehensive review of studies in which researchers looked at the return of fertility after stopping birth control showed that birth control use does not negatively impact fertility. The results revealed the percentage of women who got pregnant within one year after stopping birth control:
- Birth control pill users: 72-94 percent
- Condom/barrier method users: 91 percent
- Progestin-only birth control method users: 70-95 percent
- Natural family planning users: 92 percent
- IUD users: 71-92 percent
Fertility Does Not Equal Pregnancy
Just because your fertility has returned doesn’t mean that you will get pregnant immediately. Some women may become pregnant within a month after stopping birth control, while others may be trying to get pregnant for a long time.At this point, your fertility—and ability to get pregnant—depends on several things that have nothing to do with your birth control. Your age, health, and lifestyle may make it more difficult to become pregnant. Also, you could possibly be experiencing infertility.So what should you do? After stopping birth control, make an appointment to talk to your doctor if:
- Your period doesn’t return after three months.
- You see noticeable changes in the number of days you have your period.
- You notice that you are having irregular monthly cycles.
- Your experience major changes in the heaviness of your monthly bleeding.
- You are younger than 35 and have been trying to get pregnant for 12 months.
- You are over 35 and have been trying to get pregnant for six months.