After you stop taking birth control pills, your body and your menstrual cycle take some time to readjust. Here’s how to understand the signs of ovulation after stopping the pill.
There are lots of different forms of birth control, and lots of reasons why someone might choose to stop using it. For example, maybe you’re starting to
try to conceive; maybe you’re stopping because of side effects. Regardless of what situation you’re in, it’s crucial to recognize the signs of ovulation after stopping the pill (or intrauterine device, or ring, or implant, etc.)
Some birth controls work by blocking sperm from reaching the cervix. These are called barrier methods: think condoms, spermicide, or diaphragms. Other types of birth control, however, work by completely or partially suppressing ovulation. This includes forms of hormonal birth control, like the pill, the patch, the ring, the implant, the shot, or IUDs.
But what is ovulation? What’s its connection with your menstrual cycle? What are the signs of ovulation after stopping the pill? And how does any of this relate to whether or not you get pregnant? Here’s a quick rundown.
What is ovulation and how does birth control affect it?
To understand ovulation — and learn the signs of ovulation after stopping the pill — we first have to look at the menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle refers to the series of changes that your body goes through monthly in preparation for a potential pregnancy. The length of your menstrual cycle is counted from day one of your period one month to day one of your period the next month.
>>RELATED: Why You Should Track Your Cycle Beyond Your Period
Ovulation is a phase in your menstrual cycle when a mature egg is released from one of the ovaries. The timing of ovulation can vary for different people, but it generally happens around the midpoint of your cycle. After the egg gets released, it travels down the fallopian tube where it can be fertilized by sperm. An egg can hang out in the fallopian tube
for 12 to 24 hours.
This is the time when you can get pregnant, sometimes referred to as your “
fertile window.” If the egg is fertilized in the hours after it’s released, the resulting embryo then implants in the lining of your uterus. If the egg isn’t fertilized, your body sheds the thickened uterine lining. This “shedding” is your period, and it generally happens about two weeks after ovulation.
If you’re taking birth control that suppresses ovulation, you either don’t ovulate, or the functions around ovulation are impeded to keep you from getting pregnant. Once you stop taking birth control, your body may need some time to readjust and begin regularly ovulating again. This is normal! The length of time depends on the type of birth control you were using, among other factors unique to you.
Certain signs can indicate when your body has started ovulating again. Whether you’re trying to achieve pregnancy or avoid it, identifying the signs of ovulation after stopping the pill will help you keep track of what’s happening in your body and determine what you want to do next.
Signs of ovulation after stopping the pill
Ovulation is accompanied by hormonal changes as your body prepares for a potential pregnancy, and then returns to a normal state if you don’t become pregnant. These hormonal changes come with detectable physical signs that occur both before and after you ovulate. Some people may also experience physical symptoms during ovulation.
These signs are not only present prior to birth control use – they will also return after. Here are some of the most common signs of ovulation after stopping the pill.
Your cervical mucus changes prior to ovulation. Before the egg is released, developing follicles in your ovaries cause a spike in estradiol, a type of estrogen. This hormone causes your body to produce cervical secretions that are clear and stretchy. Often referred to as “egg white mucus,” this cervical mucus is intended to help sperm travel through the vaginal canal. You will generally notice egg white mucus beginning about
three to four days before ovulation.
If you’ve recently stopped using hormonal birth control, you may also notice changes in vaginal discharge at other moments throughout your cycle. In most cases, this is not cause for concern. Your body is adjusting to changes in hormone levels, and this can be observed in many different ways, including in your discharge.
Basal body temperature (BBT)
basal body temperature (BBT) also changes with ovulation. Elevated BBT can be a sign of ovulation for people who aren’t using birth control and people who have stopped birth control, alike.
Following ovulation, your body releases progesterone to prepare for a potential pregnancy. This hormone in turn causes your hypothalamus to increase your body temperature. For many people,
BBT increases around 0.5°F following ovulation, but for others, a significant change in BBT may not occur.
You can track your BBT daily using a thermometer that measures temperature to one-tenth of a degree (two decimal places). For accurate readings, take your temperature first thing in the morning, before doing anything else. If you record a BBT higher than the previous six days for three days in a row, it may be an indication that you ovulated.
Pelvic or abdominal pain
You may experience mild pelvic or abdominal pain during ovulation. Ovulation pain is known as “mittelschmerz,” German for “middle pain,” as it occurs mid-cycle. Mittelschmerz pain usually lasts anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, though it can last for as long as one or two days. You can try keeping track of when in your menstrual cycle you feel abdominal pain: if the pain occurs mid-cycle and goes away without treatment, it’s likely mittelschmerz.
You may notice that mittelschmerz pain occurs on one side of your abdomen at a time. The side where you experience pain is the side of your ovaries that’s ovulating. For some people, pain may feel dull and achy, like menstrual cramps, but it can also be sharp and sudden at times.
In most cases, ovulation pain is not a sign of anything serious and doesn’t require medical treatment. You may find relief from minor mittelschmerz pain with home remedies, like over-the-counter painkillers, or taking a hot bath. If you experience severe pain, however, consider consulting a doctor as it could be a sign of different health problems.
Some people experience mild breast pain or tenderness during ovulation. This may be felt in the nipples and/or in the breasts. Similar to tender or sensitive breasts during your period, this pain may be felt as a dull ache or heaviness. For some people, breast and/or nipple discomfort can last until the start of their period.
Similar to bloating during periods, some people experience bloating during ovulation. Levels of hormones like
luteinizing hormone (LH) and estrogen surge prior to ovulation. These hormonal changes can trigger bloating in some individuals. Mood changes
Hormones can have a large impact on your mood. Many people experience mood swings during ovulation, which can be linked to changes in hormone levels as your body prepares for a potential pregnancy. Hormonal changes can also affect your energy level and libido.
For individuals who have recently stopped using a form of hormonal birth control, these fluctuations can sometimes be amplified as their body readjusts.
>>MORE: Hormones May Be To Blame for Mood Changes, But Your Emotions Are Still Valid The return of pre-birth control symptoms
Some people take birth control to regulate hormones and manage hormone-related issues. If this is the case for you, you may notice the return of symptoms that were previously suppressed after you stop birth control. The return of pre-birth control symptoms can also be a sign that you’re ovulating again.
Examples of symptoms that may come back after stopping birth control include:
Irregular periods Heavy periods Longer periods Painful cramps Pain related to endometriosis Hair growth related to hirsutism PCOS symptoms Acne Mood swings
Even if you weren’t using birth control to suppress symptoms, you may notice changes like heavier or longer periods after stopping birth control. In general, you may experience irregular periods and
irregular menstrual cycles for some time as your body readjusts. How soon can you get pregnant after stopping birth control?
First, it’s important to note that birth control, regardless of the type and duration of use,
does not affect your fertility in the long term after you stop taking it.
However, you do need to ovulate in order to get pregnant, which is why it’s important to know the signs of ovulation after stopping the pill, whether you’re trying to conceive or avoid it. The amount of time it takes for your body to start ovulating again partly depends on the type of birth control you were using. This means that the timeline for when you can get pregnant after stopping birth control is also determined by your birth control use.
Hormonal birth control
With many types of hormonal birth control, it’s possible to get pregnant soon after stopping use, or even immediately after stopping.
a National Library of Medicine 2018 research review, 83.1% of participants included in the studies reviewed got pregnant within one year of stopping birth control. The research review also found that this statistic was not significantly different across hormonal birth control methods.
Keep in mind that the time it takes your body to readjust after birth control, and for your body to be able to get pregnant, are personal to you. What might be immediate for some people can take a couple of weeks or a couple of months for others.
Here’s a rundown, in very general terms, of what the time to pregnancy can be after stopping hormonal birth control:
Barrier birth control
Barrier birth control methods, like condoms, diaphragms, or spermicide, only work on a case-by-case basis, meaning that you can get pregnant anytime you don’t use them during sex.
The same 2018 research review found that 85.2% to 94% of study participants got pregnant within one year of stopping barrier birth control methods. The researchers suggest that this slightly higher rate as compared to hormonal birth control users may be partly due to the fact that it can take longer for hormones to leave the body, which can delay time to pregnancy.
Your timeline to pregnancy also depends on your menstrual cycle and its return to normalcy. Your cycle can be influenced by lots of factors, including weight,
stress, exercise, and existing diagnoses (like PCOS, PID, or endometriosis). No two bodies are the same, and all of these elements make for different journeys for each person.
It’s important to note that it’s possible to start ovulating before you get your period again, meaning that you can get pregnant before your period comes back. If you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, you should consider immediately using other forms of contraception (such as barrier methods, like condoms) after stopping your previous form of birth control.
>>MORE: How To Get Pregnant Quickly After Birth Control Signs of ovulation after stopping the pill: the takeaway
Regardless of the possible timelines for your version of normalcy, it’s important to know the signs of ovulation after stopping birth control so that you know what’s happening in your body. This is true for people who want to get pregnant and for people who want to avoid it: recognizing when you’re ovulating again tells you that it’s possible for you to get pregnant, and this knowledge gives you the power to act.
If you’re trying to conceive, you can track your new, post-birth control cycle and your ovulation to determine your fertile window and figure out the days when you should have sex. If you don’t want to get pregnant, you can use the same information to avoid sex when you’re most fertile, and/or use different methods of protection.
Getting “back to normal” after stopping birth control can be a difficult and complex process. Your normal doesn’t look like anyone else’s: things happen differently for each body, and there isn’t one, single timeline for readjusting. Remember that you’re not alone, and it’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling.
If you’re trying to conceive and it’s been taking some time, you may want to consider seeing a fertility specialist.
Reproductive endocrinologists (REI) and reproductive urologists can help figure out what’s going on and determine what you can do next. In general, it’s recommended that you see a specialist after one year of trying if you’re under 35 years old, or after six months of trying if you’re over 35. You may want to consider seeing a specialist sooner if you have a history of certain diagnoses, including PCOS, PID, or endometriosis.