You might have heard that you need to give your body a break from hormonal birth control before you start trying to conceive. The idea goes like this: after years of tricking your body into thinking it was pregnant, you need some time to let the hormones leave your system so you can return to your natural (read: fertility goddess) state.
Well, we did the research for you, and we’re happy to tell you that this simply isn’t true: You don’t need to take a break from hormones before trying to get pregnant.
How Hormonal Birth Control Works
To explain why, let’s start by going back to the basics of how the Pill works. While there are many different brands of birth control pills, they all contain either progesterone, estrogen, or a combination of both. They work via some combination of the following effects:
- Preventing ovulation
- Thickening your cervical mucus to block sperm
- Making your uterine lining inhospitable to an embryo
Regardless of the mechanism or hormone composition, one of the most important requirements for birth control pills is that they are taken daily. Constant intake of hormones is required in order to override your body’s regularly scheduled hormonal agenda, which is to prepare for the possibility of pregnancy every single month. If you skip the Pill for even just a day or two, your body’s natural hormone production springs back into action, and it’s possible to conceive.
How Soon It’s Possible to Conceive
If you don’t have any underlying health issues, you should expect to begin ovulating within three months after stopping the pill. Some women ovulate much sooner—it’s even possible to get pregnant on your first cycle off the pill, before you get your first period again.
In one study, 70 percent of women started ovulating on their first cycle after stopping the Pill. Three cycles later, 98 percent had ovulated1. Return of ovulation was not impacted by how many years the women had been taking the Pill for.
In another study, one year pregnancy rates after stopping birth control were about the same as one-year pregnancy rates after stopping barrier methods or no contraceptive use2. Median time to pregnancy after no contraceptive method was two cycles; after stopping birth control pills, it was 2.5 – 3 cycles.
What if You Don’t Get Your Period Back?
Some women don’t get their cycles back more than three months after stopping the Pill. This is sometimes referred to as “post-pill amenorrhea,” which makes it sound like the Pill had something to do with it.
But doctors say that it’s much more likely that the pill was simply masking a health problem that would have disrupted your cycle anyway. There are many conditions that can cause irregular cycles after you stop birth control. Some of the most common include PCOS and hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Can the Pill Harm Your Baby?
Okay, so now you know that it’s fully possible to conceive right after you stop taking the Pill. But is it safe? Indeed it is. Many babies have been safely conceived when their mothers were on the Pill, and numerous studies have shown there is absolutely no increased risk of birth defects for those babies.
Some doctors do advise using protection in the first few months after stopping the Pill, until you start to have a regular period again. But this isn’t for health reasons—knowing the date of your last period and your ovulation simply helps your doctor accurately pinpoint your due date.