When people stop using birth control, they may experience side effects, including irregular menstrual cycles, cramping, acne, and weight changes.

To come off birth control, people can simply stop taking pills or removing birth control rings. However, implants and other forms of birth control require professional treatment.

There has been little research into the adverse effects of discontinuing birth control, but anecdotal reports suggest some people experience health issues and physical changes.

Stopping birth control can have different effects on individuals. Below, learn what stopping entails, what issues to expect, and how to manage them.

Stopping any form of hormonal birth control removes external sources of progesterone or progesterone and estrogen. This changes the levels of these hormones in the body, which can cause temporary side effects.

Once a person stops using hormonal birth control, there is most likely a higher chance of pregnancy.

Some studies have found that after someone stops taking birth control, there is a delay in the ability to conceive for the first few months. However, research suggests that, overall, contraceptive use does not negatively affect fertility.

Learn more about getting pregnant after stopping birth control.

A person should always speak with a doctor before discontinuing birth control. They can provide guidance about doing this correctly and safely.

In most cases, stopping birth control is simple. If a person is on the birth control pill, they simply take no more pills, whether or not they have finished their pack.

An individual with a NuvaRing, which is a type of vaginal ring, can remove it themselves.

For someone with an internal device, such as an implant, discontinuing use requires a minor medical procedure to remove it.

Intrauterine device removal

Intrauterine device (IUD) removal is typically not painful, though it can be uncomfortable.

If the IUD becomes embedded in the uterus, a hysteroscopy may be necessary.

Some people bleed or have bloody discharge after the procedure.

In some cases, a person has a fever, chills, or heavy bleeding following an IUD removal. If this happens, they require immediate medical attention.

Learn more about IUD removal.

Anecdotal reports indicate that discontinuing hormonal birth control can cause:

Some of these effects, such as menstrual cycle changes, may last longer.

For example, doctors have described “postpill amenorrhea.” This refers to a person missing their period right after going off the birth control pill. It may take a few months for the natural menstrual cycle to return.

People who stop using an IUD may experience light bleeding and cramping after the removal.

Also, some people have reported a phenomenon called Mirena crash after the removal of the device. This involves longer-lasting psychological, neurological, and physical issues. However, no research into this currently exists.

Clinical studies have yet to explore the adverse effects of stopping hormonal birth control. The specific effects may depend on the type of birth control and factors specific to each person.

Just like the side effects of starting hormonal birth control, the side effects of stopping it are temporary. Most disappear over time without treatment.

The best approach is to manage each individually. For example, a person can apply cold compresses to sore, tender breasts or take pain relief medication for headaches.

Learn about managing the side effects of Mirena removal.

Anyone with concerns about weight changes after stopping hormonal birth control can follow nutrition and physical activity guidelines to maintain or achieve a moderate weight.

The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, for example, clearly set activity and diet-related targets for people by age group.

Once a person stops using hormonal birth control, their menstrual cycle may return to how it was before the medication began.

If an individual had heavy periods and PMS before starting hormonal birth control, these issues may return after stopping the medication.

Learn how to manage heavy periods.

The side effects of stopping birth control disappear over time, though they can last longer for some people. If any adverse effects do not seem to resolve, a person needs to consult a doctor.

It is especially important to consult a healthcare professional if periods do not return within 6 months of stopping hormonal birth control. If this happens, a person may require treatment to restore the regularity of their cycle.

After IUD removal, a person should receive immediate medical care if they experience a fever, chills, or excessive vaginal bleeding.

Below are answers to common questions about stopping birth control.

Can a person stop birth control at any time?

Stopping birth control is usually straightforward. If a person is taking birth control pills, they simply need to stop taking them, regardless of whether they have completed their pack.

As for someone using a NuvaRing, they can remove it on their own.

However, for those using an internal contraceptive device, such as an implant, discontinuation involves removal by a specially trained doctor or nurse.

What are the benefits of coming off the pill?

The benefits of coming off the pill will vary for each person. The advocacy group Planned Parenthood lists the following as potential benefits of coming off the pill:

  • clearer skin
  • lighter periods
  • the ability to get pregnant as soon as you stop

Anecdotal reports also suggest that coming off the pill improves mood and increases sex drive.

How long do birth control withdrawal symptoms last?

It can take a few weeks or months for the body to adjust after stopping hormonal birth control.

During this time, some people report symptoms such as acne, weight gain, headaches, heavy periods, a lack of periods, and mood swings.

This is known as post-birth-control syndrome, although this is not an official medical diagnosis.

Some people report side effects after discontinuing hormonal birth control. While very little research has looked into this, any adverse effects may result from the changes in levels of hormones.

The side effects are temporary and may include acne, weight changes, and changes in mood. IUD removal can sometimes cause vaginal bleeding, which should disappear within a few days.

Other side effects that signal the need for urgent medical care include a fever, chills, and excessive bleeding. An individual should always consult a doctor before stopping hormonal birth control. They can recommend how to do it safely and describe what to expect.