Can you get pregnant after coming off the pill?
Reviewed by our clinical team - 22.9.22
Lots of women take the contraceptive pill for many years. But what happens when you come off the pill, can you get pregnant straight away? Or does the pill affect your fertility? We’re here to answer some of these questions and some of the other questions we get a lot when it comes to contraception and fertility.
How to come off the pill
The pill can be stopped at any time, but the menstrual cycle could take a few months to return to what is normal for you. Also, there is a risk of ovulation happening in the days after you stop taking the pill - if you do not want to get pregnant, it is very important to use another method of contraception. There is more information on this further down the article.
Once you come off the pill, your menstrual cycle should return to releasing hormones at different times throughout the month (rather than getting a regular dose via a pill). This is likely to influence how you feel throughout the month.
Contraceptive pill and fertility
1. Does the pill affect your fertility?
Many women will have a period two to four weeks after coming off the pill. Your first period after coming off the pill is a withdrawal bleed. After this your next period will be a natural one.
Some women find that after coming off the pill their periods are irregular. This is nothing to worry about, it can take up to three months for your natural cycle to return. But don’t forget, if you naturally have irregular periods, taking the pill can hide this. So, once you stop taking the pill your irregular periods may return.
2. Does skipping your period on the pill affect fertility?
If you’re taking the combined contraceptive pill you can skip your period by taking two packs back-to-back. Some women choose to take just two packs back-to-back to delay their period for an important occasion. Other take three packs in a row and then have a four or seven-day break, this is known as tricycling. And some women never take a break from their combined contraceptive.
Taking the pill in any of these ways to miss a period, is safe and should have no impact on your fertility. Taking the contraceptive pill should not affect your fertility in any way.
3. Does the morning after pill affect your fertility?
Taking the morning after pill should not affect fertility or your chances of getting pregnant in the future.
Contraceptive pill and pregnancy
1. How soon can you get pregnant after stopping the pill?
The contraceptive pill stops your body from ovulating, but as soon you stop taking the pill this process kicks back into action. So, it's possible to get pregnant as soon as you come off the pill.
As many as 85% of couples will get pregnant within a year of starting to have regular sex without contraception. These numbers vary depending on your age, but it’s safe to say, if you don’t want to get pregnant and you’re not on the pill, you’ll need to use another form of contraception.
2. Can you get pregnant straight after coming off the pill?
As we’ve already discussed it can take up to three months for your body to get back to its normal cycle. But this doesn’t mean you won’t get pregnant in those first three months if you don’t use another form of contraception.
Don’t forget that clinicians advise you use condoms when having sex if:
- You miss two or more consecutive combined pills
- You miss a mini pill and you’re outside of your window (three hours for most mini pills, 12 hours for Cerazette)
This shows us just how quickly you might be able to get pregnant.
So, if you stop taking your pill and you don’t want to get pregnant, please remember to use condoms or another form of contraception.
3. How long after stopping the pill will I ovulate?
Most women won’t have a period for two to four weeks after stopping, but you could still get pregnant in this time.
It's important to note that you can get pregnant even when not ovulating. This is because sperm lives in the body for a few days.
The first period after stopping the pill is a withdrawal bleed and it’s not until the second that you have a natural period. So it might not be worth trying to get pregnant until your first natural period. This is to allow your body time to get back to its natural cycle. Plus, it gives you time to make lifestyle changes to get your body in the best physical condition for pregnancy. This might include taking folic acid supplements, quitting smoking, eating a more balanced diet, and cutting down on alcohol.
4. What are the chances of getting pregnant first month off birth control pill?
The HSE advises of that couples having regular sex (two to three times a week):
- 85% will get pregnant in the first year
- 95% will get pregnant in the first two years
As soon as you come off the pill there is a chance you will become pregnant. In fact, one study has suggested that as many as 40% of women who come of the pill will have a period or get pregnant in the first month. This goes up to 99% in 3 months.
If you don’t want to get pregnant when you come off the pill, you will need to use another form of contraception such as condoms.
Trying to get pregnant after the pill
If you’re looking to get pregnant, you could always speak to your GP or get some advice from your local family planning clinic.