Getting Pregnant After the Pill
Written by: Dr. Amy Beckley, PhD, Founder and Inventor of the Proov test — the first and only FDA-cleared test to confirm successful ovulation at home.
Written on 8/21/21
If — like many women — you start your TTC journey by stopping your birth control pill, you’re in the right place!
If you’ve just decided to start trying for a baby, congrats! This is an exciting time and we are so honored to be even a small part of your journey (even if that just entails you reading this blog).
However, you may be wondering where the heck to start. If — like many women — you started by stopping your birth control pill, you’re in the right place. Keep reading to learn more about getting pregnant after the pill.
What does the birth control pill do?
As you likely know, the birth control pill prevents you from getting pregnant. Some women also may use it to regulate their cycles or manage PMS symptoms as directed by their doctor, but its main purpose is to prevent pregnancy.
The approval of the birth control pill by the FDA in June 1960 revolutionized women’s health. For the first time in history, women could use a reversible and almost 100% effective contraceptive method that allowed them to plan motherhood and enjoy spontaneous sex without the fear of an undesired pregnancy. It essentially empowered women with a newfound control over their body and reproductive health.
The birth control pill contains small doses of hormones (either just estrogens or estrogens and progestins in the combined version), the pill may prevent pregnancy in one or more of the following ways, depending on which one you use:
- By preventing ovulation (the release of an egg) from occurring
- Thickening cervical mucus so sperm can’t swim through to find the egg
- Thinning your uterine lining so that it’s more difficult for a fertilized embryo to attach
But, as we mentioned, preventing pregnancy is not all the pill is used for. Studies show that women who use this form of birth control are less likely to develop uterine and ovarian cancers.
The pill is also used to regulate periods, alleviate acne, reduce excess hair, and diminish premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. Although it doesn’t cure it, the pill can be one of the best ways to manage PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).
When taken as directed, the pill is up to 99% effective and starts working from the first month, although some doctors may recommend a second form of contraception when you first start taking it.
While it can be taken by almost any woman, there are some specific use cases where the birth control pill is not advised. If you have questions about whether or not the pill is a good fit for you, we recommend consulting your doctor.
When taken as directed, the pill is up to 99% effective and starts working from the first month.
How long does it take to get pregnant after the pill?
As we know, every woman and cycle is unique. This means that the amount of time it takes to get pregnant varies from woman to woman.
If you are coming off the pill, you likely will not have an issue conceiving. Recent studies show that about 80% of women conceive in the first year after giving up the pill.
However, it’s important to note that this means there are 20% of women who do not conceive in one year after discontinuing use of their birth control pill. In the case of Proov founder, Amy, she believes the pill may have masked subfertility issues (specifically ovulatory disorders) that prevented her from conceiving for several years.
Had Amy done hormone testing immediately after stopping the pill to better understand her cycles, she may have detected an issue sooner. If you went on the pill to manage symptoms of hormone imbalance or do not have a cycle within 3 months of discontinuing the pill, we recommend consulting your doctor.
We are often taught that getting pregnant is easy and can happen at any moment when in reality a young healthy couple has only around 20% chance of conception every month. Even without a birth control pill in the mix, every couple’s journey to a baby is different and it may take some shorter or longer than others.
Additionally, there are often other factors at play than just the effects of your birth control pill; fertility is complex! For many women, the pill is a long-term contraceptive solution, meaning they could be on it for many years.
If, for example, you were to come off the pill at age 35 after taking it for 10 years, your ability to get pregnant may be impacted more by your age and egg quality rather than the pill. If you are concerned about fertility issues after coming off the pill, we recommend consulting your doctor.
Will I experience symptoms after coming off the pill?
The symptoms you may experience following the birth control pill may depend on various factors. Your symptoms could be influenced by the specific pill you used or the reason you started the pill in the first place.
If you mainly used birth control as a contraceptive and mainly had normal periods before starting the pill, chances are you will not experience too many unpleasant symptoms when coming off the pill. Other women may experience changes of mood, light PMS symptoms, or some irregular bleeding during the first month.
Most of these symptoms do not last long as hormones tend to get out of our systems pretty quickly. Note that if you experience irregular or abnormal bleeding for long periods of time, we recommend consulting your doctor.
If, on the other hand, you have been on the pill primarily to keep PCOS symptoms under control, get rid of acne, or unwanted hair, chances are these symptoms might come back as your body returns to its old normal. When you decide you want to come off the pill it is best to discuss it with your doctor first.
If you have been on the pill primarily to keep PCOS symptoms under control, chances are these symptoms might come back as your body returns to its old normal.
What should I do after coming off the pill?
If you stopped the pill because you are planning on trying to conceive, keep in mind your body needs some time to get its hormone balance back on track. While it can be disappointing to not get a positive pregnancy test right away, remember that this is totally normal.
Tracking your cycle is super helpful when trying to get pregnant and, after ditching the pill, it is even more so. Hormonal shifts and slight irregularities in your cycle may make ovulation less predictable, meaning it could be more difficult to conceive.
Additionally, if you went on the pill to manage hormonal imbalance symptoms such as cramps, acne, or heavy periods, the pill could have been masking subfertility issues that could make it more difficult to conceive. In this case, tracking your cycle and testing your hormones is especially important to get to the root of a potential issue.
While an egg can only live for 12 to 24 hours after it’s released, healthy sperm may survive in the female reproductive tract for up to 5 days. This time period is called your “fertile window” and it’s the only time during your cycle when conception is actually possible.
It’s important to identify your fertile window in order to accurately time interourse, to ensure the sperm is waiting for the egg once ovulation occurs. The best way to do this is by testing your luteinizing hormone (LH) levels with a test like Proov Predict.
LH is the hormone that spikes right before ovulation and triggers the ovary to release the egg. After an LH surge — which is observed with a positive LH test — ovulation should occur in about 12-48 hours. This is the time to “try.”
While we typically recommend beginning LH testing with Proov Predict 18 days before your next suspected period, you may want to start testing right after your first period after coming off this pill. This is because your hormones may be adjusting which could cause irregular cycles and we don’t want you to accidentally miss your LH surge!
But, an LH can only predict ovulation; it cannot tell you whether or not ovulation occurred. This could a problem for women who’s birth control pill inhibited ovulation altogether. Enter Proov Confirm!
Proov Confirm is the first and only FDA cleared PdG (progesterone marker) test kit to confirm successful ovulation at home. Not only can our PdG tests confirm ovulation occurred, but they can also confirm whether or not you’re producing sufficient PdG for long enough following ovulation.
You see, PdG levels need to remain elevated for long enough in order to allow for the best possible chance at implantation and conception. Without enough PdG, it can be more difficult to successfully conceive. Since the pill can potentially throw your hormones out of balance, ensuring adequate PdG production is a critical step on your fertility checklist.
If you track your ovulation and everything looks good, but you still aren’t conceiving, we recommend consulting your doctor. We believe the more information you have coming off the birth control pill, the better set up for success you’ll be on your TTC journey!