There are many different opinions among the medical and scientific communities about the true effects of hormonal contraception. What we do know is that in order for hormonal contraception to work it has to stop your normal daily bodily endocrine system from working in order to prevent a pregnancy. We also know that every woman is different and therefore when a woman has been using hormonal contraception for anything more than a year, we do not know how her body is going to react when she decides to come off the contraception.

Some women will ovulate straight away, their bodies will start functioning normally and they have no problems. Other women will not see a menstruation for months while their body tries to negotiate how to function normally again. The side effects can be awful for some women while others feel no different.

However, there is clinical evidence to show that many women experience a delayed return in fertility and/or normal menstrual cycle patterns following the use of hormonal birth control.

A headline in the Guardian Online from January 31, 2004 reads, “Women who stop pill face some delay in conception”. The article addresses a study that found that women who had been on the birth control pill took more than twice the amount of time to conceive within the first two years off the pill than women discontinuing other forms of contraception. In the field of reproductive health, this is not new information though women are often not told this when being introduced to hormonal contraception.

After discontinuing hormonal contraceptives, it takes a woman’s reproductive system and endocrine system time to re-establish its natural balance and rhythm, as well as counter the effects of synthetic estrogens and progesterone on that system.

A woman may discontinue the use of hormonal contraception at any time, and need not be concerned about any ill effects if she stops her patch or pill pack before its prescribed end date. With injectable forms, a woman is obliged to wait for its effect to wear off.

Different Factors Affecting How Your Body Reacts

There are different factors that influence how a woman will experience the transition of coming off hormonal contraception and the time it takes for her reproductive system to re-establish its natural balance and rhythm following hormonal contraceptive. Such factors depends on:

  • The age at which a woman starts to use hormonal contraceptives
  • The length of time a woman uses hormonal contraceptives
  • The state of her endocrine function at the time of starting hormonal contraceptives
  • A woman’s individual biochemical response to hormonal contraceptives

How Falling Pregnant Can Be Affected

Research has shown that women who start using hormonal contraceptives within the first two to five years following their first period tend to experience more side effects than women who start use later, and have a slower return to normal menstrual cycle parameters.

We also tend to see women who have had irregular menstrual cycles prior to using hormonal contraception generally experience the most difficulty with a return to normal menstrual cycle parameters.

A woman who has used hormonal contraception prior to the age of 25 generally takes 10% longer to fall pregnant than a women who has not used any form of hormonal contraception. Whereas if you are over the age of 35 years and have been using hormonal contraception, falling pregnant can take twice as long compared to women who have not used hormonal contraception.

Women need to understand that it can take up to nine cycles for a woman to re-establish normal menstrual cycle parameters after discontinuing use of hormonal contraceptive.  A woman may experience deviations from normal menstrual cycle parameters during the transition from synthetic hormonal regulation to normal biological hormonal regulation of the female reproductive system.

Deviations from normal menstrual cycle parameters after discontinuing hormonal contraceptives reflect both the effect of hormonal contraceptives on the female reproductive system, and that system’s attempt to re-regulate. As a woman’s body begins to exert itself hormonally, her cycles will reflect patterns that are more normal.