How long it takes to get pregnant after stopping birth control depends on the type of birth control method you’ve been using, but it can range from immediately to more than a year. With hormonal birth control, most women have no issue with getting pregnant after they stop taking it.
Here’s an overview of how long it could take a woman to get pregnant once she stops using various birth control methods.
Birth Control Pills
There are two types of birth control pills: combination pills that contain both the hormones estrogen and progestin and progestin-only pills (also called mini-pills) with only the one hormone. Both cause the cervical mucus to thicken and the uterine lining to thin to keep sperm from reaching an egg. Combination pills, however, also prevent women from ovulating. For this reason, it will take you longer to get pregnant after you stop using the combination pill than the mini-pill.
When you stop taking combination birth control pills, it might take a few months for your body to adapt and begin ovulating again. While it is possible to get pregnant right away, it’s most likely to occur after one to three months.
When you discontinue taking progestin-only birth control pills, you can get pregnant right away. In fact, missing just two pills in the pack can put you at risk of an unplanned pregnancy.
Women on the patch wear the hormone-releasing adhesive bandage on their upper arm, buttocks, back or stomach for a week at a time before replacing it. After you stop using the patch, you can usually become pregnant within one to three months, similar to stopping the combination pill.
Injectable contraceptives work by slowly releasing small amounts of progesterone into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy. Women using this birth control method get the shot every three months. After taking your last shot, it might take anywhere from three to 18 months for ovulation and your menstrual cycle to return to normal and for you to get pregnant.
The vaginal ring is a small plastic device you insert into your vagina, where it releases progestin and estrogen to prevent pregnancy. You must replace the ring every three weeks. Once you stop using it, however, you should begin ovulating and be able to get pregnant within one to three months.
Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)
IUDs are small, T-shaped devices made of either copper or plastic. They are inserted into the cervix junction, where they alter sperm motility and prevent sperm from reaching the egg. Depending on the type, they can remain in your body for three to 10 years before needing to be removed or replaced. After having either type of IUD removed, your fertility returns right away, and you can typically get pregnant after your first period post-IUD.
Implants are contraceptive devices placed under the skin that release progestin for up to three years. Your healthcare provider can insert an implant in your upper arm area. Once you have the implant removed, however, you can usually get pregnant right away.
Barrier methods of birth control include male and female condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, and sponges. If this is your main form of birth control, you must use it every time you have sex. You can get pregnant, however, as soon as you stop using them during sex.
Myths and Misconceptions
Many misconceptions surround birth control use and its effect on pregnancy. To clear these up, remember that:
- The number of years you’ve been on birth control does not affect how quickly you’ll be able to get pregnant after stopping.
- The hormones in birth control do not cause birth defects or miscarriages.
- Birth control does not affect a woman’s fertility.
Reasons for Reduced Fertility
The above-mentioned time frames for getting pregnant after stopping birth control can vary between individuals. Plus, other factors can affect your fertility, potentially lengthening the amount of time it might take you to conceive. Possible physical causes of infertility include:
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which occurs when a hormone imbalance prevents you from ovulating normally.
- Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), when a woman’s ovaries stop working properly.
- Uterine problems.
- Blocked fallopian tubes (the vessels that transport eggs from the ovaries to the uterus).
- Endometriosis, when the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus begins growing outside the uterus.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease, which is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, cervix, and/or ovaries.
Things that can increase your risk of infertility or make it more difficult to get pregnant include:
- Increased age — as women age, they have fewer healthy eggs left.
- Excessive drinking.
- High stress levels.
- A poor diet.
- Being significantly overweight or underweight.
- If left untreated, sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and human papillomavirus.
- Irregular or missed periods.
- A subfertile or an infertile partner.
Women under age 35 who have stopped using birth control and still haven’t gotten pregnant after a year of trying might want to talk to their healthcare providers about ways to help them conceive. If you’re over 35, you might want to reach out if you haven’t gotten pregnant after six months of trying. Your medical provider can run fertility tests and recommend ways to help you get pregnant, including:
- Medications such as bromocriptine, clomiphene citrate, follicle-stimulating hormone, gonadotropin-releasing hormone, human menopausal gonadotropin, or metformin.
- Surgery to correct blocked fallopian tubes, remove scar tissue, and more.
- Artificial insemination.
- Assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization, zygote intrafallopian transfer, gamete intrafallopian transfer, and intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
Remember that even though it can take your body time to adjust and begin ovulating again after stopping birth control, it’s also possible that you’ll begin ovulating immediately. So don’t stop using birth control or barrier methods until you are ready for a potential pregnancy.