Yay! Now or sometime soon, you’re thinking about trying for a baby. But chances are, some sort of birth control has been part of your life up to this point – and you’re wondering how quickly you can get pregnant once you stop using that protection.
So, how long does it take to get pregnant after stopping birth control?
The short answer is: You could get pregnant right away – but how long it actually takes to conceive is different for every woman. That’s because there are several factors that play a role, not just your birth control usage.
In this article, we’ll help you understand:
- How birth control works to prevent pregnancy and how that affects your fertility
- When to expect your fertility to return after stopping birth control
- The first step to take once you’ve decided to try for a baby
How does birth control work (and how does birth control affect your fertility)?
All birth control methods help prevent an egg and sperm from meeting. If sperm can’t reach the egg or an egg isn’t released, pregnancy can’t happen.
But each birth control method works a little differently, and some can affect your fertility or fertile window differently.
When we say “fertility,” we mean your body’s ability to conceive. And your “fertile window” is the time in your cycle when your chances of conceiving are at their highest.
Some types of birth control just act as a barricade, while others use hormones to help you “skip” your fertile window or make it difficult for your partner’s sperm to reach their desired destination.
Barrier birth control
What is barrier birth control? Condoms, sponges, diaphragms, cervical caps and spermicide (which is meant to be used with other barrier methods and not on its own) are all examples of barrier birth control methods.
The way barrier birth control methods work is pretty simple. They don’t have an impact on your fertility or fertile window. Rather, they provide a temporary wall that helps block sperm from making their way to the egg.
The only exception here are spermicides, which are designed to kill sperm. And without sperm, pregnancy isn’t possible.
Short-term hormonal birth control
What is short-term hormonal birth control? Birth control pills, birth control rings (like NuvaRing) and birth control patches are all examples of short-term hormonal birth control methods.
How does short-term birth control impact your fertility? These methods work by preventing ovulation. Ovulation is the release of an egg from your ovary, which happens during your fertile window. They can also make your cervical mucus thicker. This way, even if an egg is released, it’s really hard for the sperm to reach the egg.
Longer-term birth control
Longer-term birth control methods are also called long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs). These types of birth control have become popular among women who plan to get pregnant in the future but want the best protection against pregnancy today.
Longer-term birth control is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, and it works anywhere from three to 10 years. It just depends on which option you choose.
Types of long-term birth control
There are two main types of longer-term birth control: intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants.
IUDs are small, T-shaped devices that a doctor places inside the uterus. There are two types of IUDs: hormonal IUDs and non-hormonal IUDs (also called copper IUDs).
- Hormonal IUDs release progestin – which is the synthetic form of the naturally occurring progesterone hormone – into your body. They work much like short-term birth control methods but with one key difference. If an egg does become fertilized, hormonal IUDs help keep it from attaching to the lining of the uterus. Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta and Skyla are the four brands of IUDs currently available in the U.S.
- Non-hormonal IUDs have a thin copper wire wrapped around them that’s toxic to sperm. Non-hormonal IUDs can also prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Paragard is the only non-hormonal IUD offered in the U.S.
Implants like Nexplanon are similar to IUDs in that they’re considered highly effective and require a medical professional to place and remove them. These tiny tubes are implanted under the skin of the inside of your arm, about half-way between the armpit and the elbow.
Implants work much like hormonal IUDs. But the main difference between an implant and a hormonal IUD (aside from where it’s placed) is that, in the rare event that an egg does become fertilized, an implant will not prevent the egg from attaching to the uterus.
How soon after stopping the pill or other birth control will I ovulate?
Ovulation after stopping birth control can begin as soon as your next cycle.
Some women think they need to let the birth control “get out of their system” before they can become pregnant. That’s not usually the case. It’s often possible to get pregnant right after you stop using birth control – no matter which option you use.
But again, all women are different.
When will I get my first period after stopping birth control?
Depending on when during your cycle you stop using birth control, you could get your period as soon as a couple weeks after. But some people can experience some irregularity in the first couple months after going off birth control. For most, periods return to normal by three months after they stop using birth control.
What if I don’t get a period after stopping birth control?
Again, some people experience cycle irregularity after they stop using birth control. This could mean no period after stopping birth control for a few months, or your period may come early or late for the first few cycles.
If you don’t get a period within the first few weeks or you’re spotting on and off, take a pregnancy test. If you ovulated during your first cycle after stopping birth control, getting pregnant was possible. And if you did get pregnant, that first post-birth control period wouldn’t come.
If you haven’t had a period after stopping birth control for more than three months, make an appointment with you primary care doctor, OB-GYN or midwife.
So, how soon can you get pregnant after stopping birth control?
Some women conceive within the first one to three months of being birth control-free. For others, it may take several months. Why the difference?
Your overall health and age and your partner’s fertility are important factors for getting pregnant. But timing is big, too.
To increase your chances of pregnancy, you’ll want to become intimately familiar with your menstrual cycle. Understanding your cycle is the best way to identify your fertile window. So, if you’re ready or getting ready to try for a baby, it’s a good idea to start tracking your menstrual cycle now.
The good news is there are apps for that. A fertility tracker app can make it easier to understand your patterns, so you can plan your baby-making sessions with confidence. There are dozens of apps to choose from, so you should be able to find one you like. Popular fertility apps include Clue, Flo, Fertility Friend and Premom. Some apps even pair with ovulation test kits for extra-easy tracking.
Also, getting pregnant isn’t easy for everyone, and it’s important to prepare your body for it. Taking care of your physical, mental and emotional health can increase your chances of conception and a healthy pregnancy. To help you get ready, we’ve also put together a preparing-for-pregnancy checklist.
Ready to try for a baby? Here’s what you need to do next.
You’ve stopped birth control. You’ve started to track your cycle. Now what?
In addition to these steps, we recommend that you get preconception counseling. Preconception counseling is like an annual physical, but also includes additional care and focus on family planning and pregnancy. You can also check out our robust pregnancy and parenting resources page, which includes all kinds of tips and information for every stage of pregnancy – including planning.
It may take a few weeks to get an appointment, so schedule your preconception checkup early on. You can also schedule a video visit to better fit with your schedule. During your visit, you’ll also be able to talk about any specific questions or concerns you have.