By Margaret Dufreney, MD
Women have a variety of birth control options, including oral medications, intrauterine devices, hormonal implants, and injections. These products can help a woman prevent pregnancy, but how long does she need to be off birth control before trying to get pregnant?
My patients ask me this question often. The good news is that there isn’t a reason to wait; It’s safe to stop using birth control whenever you choose. The question really is how quickly can you expect to get pregnant after using birth control?
Pregnancy After the Pill
Oral estrogen and progesterone medications (“the pill”) inhibit ovulation, so when you stop taking them, it can take a few months to start ovulating again. Taking the pill won’t affect your ability to get pregnant, and it’s safe to start trying to get pregnant right away. Most women will begin ovulating again within about 90 days. However, you may start ovulating sooner.
When you stop taking hormonal birth control treatments like the pill, there shouldn’t be any hormones left in your system when ovulation resumes, so there isn’t any risk to your baby. However, if you suspect that you’ve gotten pregnant while on the pill, stop taking them.
Getting Pregnant After Using Other Forms of Contraception
Here’s what women using other forms of contraception can expect:
- Vaginal ring (NuvaRing) – Once you stopping using the ring, you should get your period and begin ovulating again in a month or two.
- Injections (Depo-Provera) – Fertility can resume within 10 months of your last injection, although it may take up to 18 months.
- Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) – IUDs prevent pregnancy by preventing fertilization and/or implantation, not stopping ovulation. Therefore, once the IUD is removed by your doctor, you may be able to conceive right away.
- Barrier methods (condoms, diaphragms, sponge, cervical cap) — You should be able to get pregnant once you stop using these methods.
See your doctor if you’ve been off birth control for three to six months and still aren’t getting your period regularly. He or she will run bloodwork to check your hormone levels and see if there are any underlying medical issues.
If you are ready to start building your family or want to add to it, you can stop using birth control immediately and begin trying. It’s a good idea to see your gynecologist for a preconception check-up to ensure that your body is ready for pregnancy and that you’re giving yourself and your baby the best chance for a healthy pregnancy. Your doctor will probably prescribe prenatal vitamins and will check your weight and other medical markers.
When it comes to choosing to get pregnant, you’re in control.