All you need to know about coming off the contraceptive pill.
How long should I wait before trying to get pregnant?
Before you start trying for a baby it's generally recommended that you wait until you have experienced one 'normal' menstrual period after stopping the pill. This will not only ensure that the hormones used by the pill to artificially control your cycle have left your system, but will also help your doctor to accurately pinpoint your due date when you do fall pregnant.
Certain individuals in the medical profession advocate waiting longer (2 - 3 cycles) before you start trying to conceive. This point of view is often encouraged on the basis that the contraceptive pill induces changes to the lining of the uterus that stop a fertilised egg from implanting as well as preventing you from ovulating. Because of this some experts believe that the chance of very early miscarriage could be increased slightly by conceiving before your uterine lining has returned to 'normal'.
Despite these recommendations it is possible to come off the pill and start trying to conceive right away at little risk to you or your pregnancy.
How does the pill affect my fertility?
Research has shown that neither short or long term use of the contraceptive pill is likely to have any lasting affect on your fertility and ability to conceive. In fact, recent research has found that around 90% of women fall pregnant within a year of coming off the pill.
How long will it take for my periods to start again?
Exactly how long it takes before your menstrual cycle resumes and you start experiencing 'normal' periods will depend on a number of factors. These include how long you were taking the pill, which pill you were taking, how old you are and how your health is in general.
Some women start ovulating again right away and find that they fall pregnant on their first pill free cycle. Others find that it takes a number of months for their natural menstrual cycle to resume. Waiting two to three months before experiencing a period is quite normal after coming off the pill. However, if you still haven't experienced a period after six months you should see your doctor as he will be able to carry out some checks to make sure that everything is ok.
It's important to realise that the pill can mask 'abnormalities' within your natural menstrual cycle as it induces artificial bleeding at the end of each cycle rather than a normal period. Because of this, fertility related issues such as irregular periods and anovulation can be masked.
Can I get pregnant while taking the pill?
When used properly the pill is 99.5% effective so statistically there is a 0.5% chance that you could become pregnant at any time while taking it. This 'risk' increases if the pill is not taken properly. So, if you miss a pill, take a pill late or take medication that could interfere with the pill, its contraceptive effects will be lessened and there will be a greater chance that you will fall pregnant.
Will taking the pill while pregnant harm my baby?
In the past there was concern that the artificial hormones used in the contraceptive pill could harm a developing foetus if you fell pregnant while taking it. However, the introduction of newer versions of the pill have eliminated this risk. As a result, research has consistently shown that taking the pill while pregnant is unlikely to cause any complications or abnormalities with foetal development.
Similarly, there will be no adverse effects to your baby's development if you fall pregnant straight away after stopping the pill.
How should I come off the pill?
It's a good idea to wait until you come to the end of a packet before coming off the pill, this way you'll experience a withdrawal bleed as usual. The next bleed you will experience will be your first 'normal' menstrual period.
There is no harm in stopping the pill midway through a pack, however by doing this you're more likely to experience erratic bleeding before your menstrual cycle resumes.
Once you stop taking the contraceptive pill it's a good idea to start taking folic acid supplements (these help to prevent neural tube defects), stop smoking, reduce the amount of alcohol you consume and try to eat as healthily as possible to start getting your body ready for a baby. If you plan to wait until your 'natural' menstrual cycle resumes before you start trying to conceive you should use an alternative form of contraception in the meantime.
Whether you have a question about coming off the pill, getting pregnant or something else all together why not visit the AskBaby forums for a chat.