Want to stop taking the pill? This is what you should know

A woman is lying on a bed beside a packet of femsense patches. She is looking at the femSense app

Stop taking the pill? The idea might make you feel slightly panicky, you don’t know how your body will react to the change and you’ve heard you could get spots, put on weight, and even have to deal with PMS again! Read on for the facts …

A lot of women are becoming more body and health aware, they know that the pill, and the synthetic hormones it contains, is possibly affecting their physical and mental health, but making the decision to stop taking oral contraception is still a struggle. It’s the big unknown. After years on the pill what happens when you stop – how long will it take till your cycle regulates, until your natural hormone balance has been restored? We are here to set the record straight and dispel some of the myths about the side effects of giving up the pill so that you know exactly what to expect when you take that big step.

Reasons to stop taking the pill

Risks and side effects

The list of possible side effects of the oral contraception pill is long. Not every woman is affected by them, but many have experienced at least some of them:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain
  • Cycle irregularities
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Psychological changes
  • Mood swings
  • Decreased libido
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression

The pill can not only cause these direct side effects, but can also increase the long-term risk of certain health problems. These include serious cardiovascular problems such as blood clots, stroke, and heart attack. There is also evidence to suggest that long-term use of the contraceptive pill increases the risk of certain cancers.

The pill is not recommended for some women

Sometimes the pill is not advisable for medical reasons. For example, some medications or supplements can make hormonal birth control less effective. These medicines influence how the body breaks down hormones and can therefore affect hormonal contraception.

There are also some medical conditions that prohibit women from taking the pill. These include, for example, liver disease, blood clots, diabetes, migraine with aura or uncontrolled high blood pressure.

You want to stop taking synthetic hormones

The pill is very convenient and is a reliable method of contraception, but one of its big disadvantages is that you are taking synthetic hormones and creating an unnatural hormonal balance in order to prevent ovulation. A woman’s menstrual cycle is more than just the week of her period or her fertile window, it is a finely tuned hormonal fluctuation which takes place over +/- 28 days. Many women are no longer comfortable with taking artificial hormones and want to restore their natural hormonal balance.

You would like to have a baby

Are you ready to plan rather than prevent a pregnancy? One of the most obvious reasons to stop taking the pill is because you want to get pregnant. You can get pregnant straight away once you stop taking the pill, but it usually takes a couple of months for the body to readjust to a natural cycle.

Things you should consider when you want to stop taking the pill

Talk to your doctor

Before you stop taking the pill talk to your doctor. If you have a pre-existing medical condition or take medication these are factors that need to be taken into consideration.

Look for an alternative form of birth control

Unless you are planning a pregnancy you will need to look for an alternative form of birth control. Fortunately, there is a wide range of natural birth control and hormone-free contraception available. In one of our previous blogs we outlined and compared some of the most common options. It is advisable to choose another method before you stop taking the pill.

Be absolutely sure that you want to stop

Stopping the pill is not only a physical stress for your body but there are other risks too. The most obvious of course is the risk of getting pregnant but stopping and restarting the pill after a short break also increases the danger of blood clots, which are most common in the first year. The temporary changes in your hormone balance may also cause mild side effects like changes in your period.

Your cycle may be irregular for a while

If you have been taking the pill for a long period of time your body will need time to adjust and regulate your normal hormonal balance and menstrual cycle. For some women this can take up to six months.

Although you might not see that your hormones are finding their balance, or your cycle is starting to regulate it makes sense to track your cycle from the beginning. Use the femSense app to enter symptoms and watch for signs and patterns which will help you identify which phase of your cycle you are in.

A woman is holding her femSense app towards the camera. The app shows the level of her fertility today. Today is high fertility

This is what happens when you stop taking the pill

No, you will not gain weight

That you gain weight when you stop taking the pill is a very stubborn myth and it is simply not true. In fact, it’s the opposite!

Hormones in the contraceptive pill can cause water retention which in turn causes weight gain. But stopping the synthetic hormones also stops the water retention and as a result you might actually lose weight.

Skin and hair can change (in the short term)

Yes, unfortunately, when you stop taking the pill, you might get skin blemishes. This usually affects women who previously suffered from spots. In the case of spots and acne the pill only cures the symptom and not the cause. The pimples were suppressed by the hormones, but the skin problem wasn’t cured. It can therefore happen that when you stop taking the pill the spots come back.

No one really wants to hear this, but it is possible that you may experience hair loss in the first few months after stopping the pill. The good news is that although this is a nuisance, it is temporary, and your hair growth will soon return to normal.

Lucky in love - your sex drive increases

One of the possible side effects of the pill is a decreased libido. This is because the hormones in the pill can potentially lower your testosterone. Although testosterone is more commonly known as the male hormone it is present in women in small amount and has a significant impact on sex drive. Low testosterone can mean low libido. When you stop taking the pill and your natural hormone balance is restored then you may notice an increase in your sex drive, especially in week two of your cycle when estrogen and testosterone levels are rising in preparation for ovulation.

You have a natural cycle and can get pregnant when the time is right.

If you have decided that the time is right for you to have a baby, then the good news is that you can get pregnant as soon as you stop taking the pill. Don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen immediately though, it can take a few months for your hormones to find their natural balance and for your cycle to regulate. When your cycle is irregular it is more difficult to pinpoint your most fertile days and to time intercourse around ovulation. However, as soon as your cycle is regular femSense can predict, measure, and confirm ovulation and advise you when you are most likely to get pregnant – the rest is up to you!

One of the less positive aspects of a natural cycle is the possibility of PMS (premenstrual syndrome). Not all women suffer from PMS and it can be influenced by lifestyle and nutrition. Some women only have occasional symptoms and others only very mild ones but the fact is that they can be part of a natural cycle. One of the big advantages of tracking your cycle is being able to recognize these symptoms and patterns and therefore being better prepared to deal with them.

You can use the femSense patch from the second natural menstrual cycle

Although you might be really excited about using the femSense patches to get pregnant or as part of your natural birth control method, you should wait until your cycle is regular again. This will probably only take a couple of months, and cycle length variations of two or three days are considered perfectly normal.

The femSense system is more reliable when your cycle is regular. The app can predict when you need to apply the patch so that it can measure continuously during your fertile window. Once the patch has detected and confirmed ovulation the app will notify you and update your fertility status.