What to do when coming off the contraceptive pill

Written by Jessica Baker, MPharm. Locum Pharmacist

→ Stopping the contraceptive pill is a simple process that can be done by yourself.
→ You should finish your current pill cycle before stopping the pill.
→ You can become pregnant as soon as you stop taking the pill.
→ If switching to another form of oral contraception you may have to start your new contraception before stopping your old one.
→ You may experience temporary withdrawal side effects on stopping the pill.

Reasons for stopping contraception

There are many reasons you may be thinking about stopping birth control. This may be because:

→ You want to become pregnant

You can become pregnant as soon as you stop taking your contraceptive pill. Taking the pill does not affect your fertility, even if you have been taking it for several years.

If you are trying to become pregnant it is best to chat with your midwife or family planning doctor – they will advise you on any lifestyle changes, such as giving up smoking and reducing alcohol, as well as taking any supplements, such as folic acid, that will help you aid conception and have the healthiest pregnancy possible.    

It may be best to wait until your periods come back and your regular menstrual cycle returns before trying to conceive. This gives you time to ensure that you are in good health which will optimise your chances of conception. It also helps your midwife predict a more accurate due date.

→ You are switching to a different form of contraception or a different type of Pill

You may have decided to switch to another form of contraceptive that better fits into your lifestyle or you may be experiencing side effects from your current contraception and want to try another type. If this is the case you should consult your doctor before doing so.

As soon as you stop your current contraceptive pill you are at risk of becoming pregnant, therefore it is important that you use a second type of contraception such as a barrier method – condom. This is by far the safest.
You can start your new contraception as soon as you’ve stopped your current one, you don’t have to leave a gap!

In most cases it may even be appropriate to start your new contraceptive before you have finished your old one, giving an overlap. This is important as it gives the new method a few days to work before the old one stops, ensuring you are protected against pregnancy. You should always consult product literature to see how long this overlap should be.

If you are uncertain there is no harm in overlapping contraception and using a third barrier method to ensure protection against pregnancy.

You are experiencing side-effects of hormonal contraception.

You may be experiencing bad side effects of the pill and want to stop it altogether. In some situations, contraceptive pills are not taken for their use in preventing pregnancy but for other conditions such as acne, heavy periods, painful periods and female hirsutism.

Whatever the reason, this article is here to guide you through stopping your contraceptive pill.

When can I stop my contraceptive pill?

You can choose to stop your birth control pill at any time however you should finish your current pill cycle before doing so as stopping abruptly may cause irregular bleeding.

Getting your periods back

Your periods may take longer than expected to return after stopping contraception and they may be irregular for the first three months due to the hormones that have been in your body.

Most women will get their period back within two to four weeks from stopping the pill however everyone is different and it depends on your natural cycle.

If your period hasn’t returned after one month of stopping the contraceptive pill it may be best to get checked by your GP, although it is most likely that your period is just very late.

You may find that your periods are naturally irregular. This is something that the contraceptive pill can mask as it forces your period to occur in a regular pattern.

Side effects of stopping the contraceptive pill

Stopping the contraceptive pill will influence your hormonal balance within your body and therefore you may experience some side effects, however, these should only be temporary and last a few weeks at most. These side effects may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Hot flushes
  • Irregular bleeding

Some benefits you may have experienced from the contraceptive pill will also disappear, for example, improvements to acne and lighter periods.


NHS . (2018). How can I improve my chances of getting pregnant. Available:

Accessed February 2019.

NHS (2018). When will my periods come back after I stop taking the pill?

Accessed February 2019.

The information contained in this article is not a substitute for personalised medical advice.
Should you have any concerns about your health please speak to your pharmacist or doctor.