You’ve been on the contraceptive pill for years but you’ve decided to come off it because you want to start a family. That's so exciting. But you have one burning question - can you get pregnant the next day? And would you want to?
The quick answer is yes, you can get pregnant straight away
Around one in three UK women of childbearing age take the pill.
With 3.5 million of us using it to prevent unwanted pregnancy, it is a hugely popular form of birth control. Until your thoughts turn to babies and you wonder how long its effects will last, you may never have given a second thought to how it works.
So how does the contraceptive pill work?
The most common Contraceptive Pill is the combined one, which contains two hormones, oestrogen and progestogen. Its main effect is to stop you from ovulating every month. And without an egg, you can’t get pregnant. Taken correctly, i.e. you never forget to take a tablet, your chances of getting pregnant while on it are almost zero.
Less commonly prescribed is the mini-pill, which contains only the progestogen hormone and is mainly used in women over 35 and breastfeeding mothers. This is also now prescribed for women who have any history of aural migraines.
How soon can I get pregnant after coming off the pill?
Once you've stopped taking the Pill, there is no medical reason why you can’t start trying straight away, even if you’ve been taking it for years. But there is a good reason you may want to wait for one or two months.
‘I suggest to my patients that when they’re coming off the pill, they use condoms until they have had their first proper period,’ says Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, from the Royal College of General Practitioners. ‘That way they have some idea what their cycle is doing.’
When you come off the Pill, you’ll first experience a withdrawal bleed which doesn’t count as a normal period, it's just the effects of the hormones leaving their system.
Ovulation can be delayed when first coming off the Pill so it's sometimes difficult to estimate a due date if you do get pregnant. Once your periods have returned to a more regular cycle, use our ovulation calculator to work out your most fertile days.
When will my periods come back after I stop taking the pill?
According to the NHS, it can take a while for your periods to fully return to normal after taking the Pill. Most women will have a period around two to four weeks after stopping the pill, but this depends on your body and what your cycle was like before you started the Pill. Weight, health, stress, exercise and conditions such as polycystic ovaries can all influence your cycle, and it is perfectly normal for your periods to be irregular when first stopping the Pill.
For some women, periods may not return straight away after stopping the Pill - this is a condition known as post-pill amenorrhoea, the good news is that it normally sorts itself out within a few months. As the hormones in your pill stop ovulation, you should allow up to three months for your natural cycle to re-establish itself.
‘It can last up to nine months,’ says Dr Stokes-Lampard. ‘It almost always rights itself but we have no way of predicting who that is going to affect.’
Should I wait until I've had a period before trying to conceive?
According to the NHS, the first period after coming off the pill is a 'withdrawal bleed', the second period is your first natural bleed. Although you can get pregnant as soon as you come off the pill, the NHS recommends that you wait until after your first natural period, to let your cycle settle and to help your GP or midwife predict your due date more accurately.
Trying to conceive? Take a look at these 19 ovulation facts:
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