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Side Effects of Stopping Birth Control Measures

Side Effects of Stopping Birth Control Measures

From intrauterine devices to birth control pills, family planning has become a lot easier nowadays. However, some women go through certain complications when they start using or get off the birth control options. This HerHaleness write-up talks about the common side effects of stopping birth control methods.
Debopriya Bose
Last Updated: Apr 20, 2018

Reversible birth control methods include devices like condoms, cervical caps, diaphragms, intrauterine device (IUD), hormone pills, etc; whereas irreversible methods include vasectomy, hysterectomy, and tubal ligation.

A woman conceives when the eggs produced by her ovaries are fertilized by a man's sperms in the uterine cavity. After an egg has been fertilized, the embryo needs to migrate to the uterus and attach itself to the uterine lining (implantation), so as to derive nutrients from the mother's body in order to grow and develop into a baby. There are a number of birth control methods that obstruct any one of these stages, and prevent a woman from conceiving.

Birth control pills, patches, and vaginal rings are a few contraceptives that work by changing the levels of the hormones like estrogen and progesterone in a woman's body. These hormones prevent pregnancy by either stopping the ovaries from producing eggs or by altering the thickening of the walls of the cervix, that prevents the entry of sperms into the uterus. Alternately, these hormones may also change the lining of the uterus (endometrium), because of which the egg can't attach to the uterus wall once it has been fertilized. Once a woman wants to conceive, she needs to come off these methods. However, many women complain of experiencing certain side effects once they discontinue the use of these contraceptives.

Negative Effects of Stopping Birth Control

Menstrual Cycle
Women on hormonal contraceptives often witness a change in their menstrual cycle. While some may occasionally miss their periods, there are others who experience more regular periods. However, after discontinuing the use of birth control pills, some women go through post-pill amenorrhea, which refers to long gaps between successive menstrual cycles. It may take several months for their cycles to regularize. Some may experience fake periods as soon as they stop using a hormonal contraceptive, but do not undergo menstruation for a month or more after that. They may also experience excessive cramping and abdominal pain while menstruating.

Mood Swings
This is one of the most common side effects of going off birth control methods. This is quite understandable, because once these contraceptives are discontinued, there is a change in the hormone levels in the body. Women complain of going into depression, feeling sad, and becoming highly irritable. All this causes increased levels of anxiety, and some women are even seen crying for no apparent reason. These emotions gradually subside and normalize as the body adapts to adjust to the removal or cessation of birth control.

Weight Changes
Many women experience a slight increase in weight once they start using hormonal birth control methods. So once they are off it, they expect that they will lose weight. However, this isn't always the case. Some women have been reported to have gained 30 pounds once they discontinued the use of these contraceptives. However, there are others who didn't experience any change in weight at all. There are also women who have undergone temporary loss of weight. Hence, the loss or gain of weight depends on each individual, and cannot be generalized.

Increased Sex Drive
Hormones regulate the desire for sexual intimacy and libido. The presence of contraceptive devices suppresses ovulation, and in turn suppress the sex drive of a woman. Hence, when the birth control is stopped, and normal ovulation resumes, the libido also increases. The duration of such an effect is unpredictable, and it may last a few months, or even longer.

Changes in Skin
The hormones that are introduced in the body by the pills, patches, or vaginal rings, control oil production in the skin. They reduce certain skin problems, especially acne. Once these methods are discontinued, some women feel the reverse effect on their skin. Some women who never had any skin problems may find that their skin has become more oily, and that they suffer from frequent breakouts and rashes on their skin. The duration of this effect depends on how long an individual's body takes to adjust to the change in hormonal levels.

Awareness of Ovulation
There have been cases where women have reportedly felt temporary sharp pains in one side of the lower abdomen, and on consulting a doctor, it was found that this pain was due to the release of an ovum or egg from the ovary. The pain can also be due to the release of blood or other fluids that accompany the release of the egg from the ovarian surface. Sometimes, ovulation cramps are accompanied by a clear or an off-white discharge from the uterus.

Other Observed Effects
On stopping the use of birth control, a woman may experience tenderness in the breasts, nausea, vomiting, or lightheadedness. She may also experience a heightened sense of smell. Often, these effects are misinterpreted as signs of pregnancy. The exact cause behind them is not known, but it is speculated that these presentations are due to the hormonal imbalance that occurs immediately after one stops using birth control options.

It is natural to experience side effects when one uses or stops taking birth control methods that prevent pregnancy by changing hormone levels in the body. However, not every woman reacts to these birth control options in the same way. The side effects also vary according to the birth control method used. Also, do not get extremely alarmed on observing these changes, since hormonal therapy suppresses normal hormone production of the body. Hence, when one goes off the treatment, it takes some time for the body to realize the change and adjust the natural hormone secretion levels. In case of severe discomfort, it is best to consult one's physician.

Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.