Can I Get Pregnant If I Just Stopped Birth Control?

Woman taking contraceptive pill
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If you are considering pregnancy, you might wonder how easy it is to get pregnant. I mean, can't you just stop taking birth control? The answer is that yes, you may be able to just get pregnant by discontinuing your birth control. This goes for almost any type of birth control. (Remember that some forms of contraception like the intrauterine device (IUD), implants, etc.) will need to be removed by your doctor or midwife.)

While it is absolutely possible to become pregnant the first cycle after you stop using a birth control method, there may be reasons you may not want to get right away. Some of these reasons include:

Preconceptional Health

Be sure that before you get pregnant, you have your health in control. Talk to your doctor or midwife about any chronic conditions you may have like thyroid disease, high blood pressure, your weight, etc. Being the healthiest you can be will help you have not only a more comfortable pregnancy, but will enable you to have a safe pregnancy for you and your baby. This is frequently done in a special appointment with your obstetric care provider. Part of this discussion includes when to stop taking your birth control pills or other methods of contraception.

Planning Pregnancy

It may come as a shock that only about half the pregnancies in the United States are planned. When a pregnancy is unplanned, there is more risk that the mother and father are not physically prepared for pregnancy.

There is also an emotional component of pregnancy. Many times waiting for a cycle or two after stopping birth control methods can give you a mental break as you prepare for pregnancy.

Return to Fertility

There is also the concept of a return to fertility. This is the length of time it takes you to be fertile after discontinuing your birth control.

Largely, you should consider yourself fertile once you have stopped taking your birth control pills, had your diaphragm, IUD or implants removed. If you are taking injections to prevent pregnancy, these wear off in about 13-15 weeks, so it would take at least this long to return to your fertility. The other thing is, your baseline fertility level might not be as fertile as you would like.

Most hormonal forms of birth control, like the birth control pills (oral contraceptives), and some IUDs recommend that you wait for a few cycles before getting pregnant. Though there is largely considered to be no additional risk to the pregnancy from the birth control method itself.

Methods of birth control like condoms, foam, diaphragms do not have any such recommendations on waiting. In fact, if you're just off a hormonal method and are trying to temporarily avoid pregnancy, these methods work very nicely for that brief period of time. (Read about how long it takes to get pregnant?)

If you are trying to determine if you are pregnant - think pregnancy test.

A pregnancy test is the best way to tell if you are pregnant or not. Though you must wait until you miss your next period to get the most accurate results. This can be a home pregnancy test or a pregnancy test from your doctor, midwife or health department. In most cases, you do not have to notify anyone of the test or the results.

Sources:

Barnhart KT, Schreiber CA. Fertil Steril. 2009 Mar;91(3):659-63. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2009.01.003. Return to fertility following discontinuation of oral contraceptives.

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