Coming off the pill - how long will it take to get pregnant?

contraceptive pill packet

You've made your decision: you're going to try for a baby. So, what can you expect when you come off the contraceptive pill?

Is it safe to conceive straight off the pill?

There's no need to wait to try to conceive after you come off the pill. It's safe to get pregnant straight away. Some doctors advise waiting so your body can return to its natural cycle and you'll have a clear idea of when you're ovulating and your due date, but a scan will date the pregnancy anyway and if you're really keen to crack on, it shouldn't adversely affect your pregnancy in any way.

“I came off the pill to TTC, and my GP said there is no problem with trying straight away, it's a bit of a myth about womb linings not being sufficient etc. One thing: if you used the pill to manage period pain (as I did) you might want to get to the bottom of what caused the period pain (in my case it was endometriosis) as those things could have some bearing on conception.”

Do I need to finish my current packet of pills or can I just stop mid-packet?

You might get a withdrawal bleed if you stop mid-packet – this bleed isn't a sign of ovulation and so it can make working out when you're ovulating rather confusing. But, yes, if you're keen to get started, it's fine to stop mid-cycle.

How long does it take to get pregnant after the pill?

On average, it takes one to three months for the body to resume ovulation, although it can take longer. The pill prevents ovulation by artificially regulating your body's hormones. When you stop taking it, your hormone levels return to normal.

Some women ovulate and conceive hours after taking their last pill, particularly if they've been using a progestogen-only type – but of course, things aren't always that speedy.

One of the signs you’re ovulating again is the return of your periods. A period occurs naturally about 14 to 16 days after ovulation. This is different from the bleed that you have while taking the pill, which is simply caused by the sudden decrease in hormones when you have a week off the pill or you take placebos for a week.

It is not unusual for your first couple of post-pill cycles to be irregular, or longer than usual; in fact, about one in 30 women won’t get a period for many months after coming off the pill. If this happens, it doesn't necessarily mean that you aren't ovulating – just that your cycle is not regular and you may need to use other methods to find out when ovulation is taking place. If this continues and you’re concerned about it, though, make an appointment with your GP.

Is it harder to get pregnant after being on the pill?

woman waiting for pregnancy test positive result

Some women report anecdotally that they have problems, but the chances are that any difficulties they have conceiving would have presented themselves regardless of whether they’d taken the pill or not.

It’s been shown that the chances of getting pregnant after being on the pill are broadly similar to those of getting pregnant after stopping using condoms or other non-hormonal forms of contraception. The problem is that the pill can sometimes mask fertility issues such as PCOS, so when you come off it and have difficulty conceiving it appears that the pill was the problem, when the issue is likely to be something else that you didn’t know about because you were on the pill.

Equally, there are no proven positives to pill use where fertility is concerned. Some people talk about a fertility boost directly after coming off the pill, but there's no real evidence to back this up.

“Before I had my son I was on Microgynon for donkey’s years. After the withdrawal bleed (a few days after stopping) my cycles went pretty much back to normal straight away (give or take a few days) and I conceived three months after stopping the pill. After having him, I changed to Cerazette. When I stopped taking it to TTC it took from November until January to get my periods back.”

Is there a higher risk of miscarriage if I get pregnant straight away?

Almost certainly not. Even if you become pregnant while still taking the pill, there should be no increased miscarriage risk. The evidence is not absolutely conclusive, but there have been no studies that suggest a definitive link between the two.

What about other forms of contraception?

Reversible contraceptives will not affect your fertility once you decide to stop using them. If you use an IUD or a contraceptive implant, then you will obviously need to have it removed. Contraceptive injections are effective for up to 12 weeks but it can often take longer for your fertility to return to normal – sometimes up to a year.