What you need to know about giving up birth control?
You've spent most of your adult life trying to make sure that you don't get pregnant. Now that you're ready to start trying, there may be a few things you need to know about giving up your chosen method of birth control. (Keep in mind that you need to start taking a folic acid supplement at least a month before you start trying. Click here for more information on what you should do before you start trying.) Here's what we've found out about getting pregnant after going off of various popular types of contraception.
Barrier methods, such as condoms, female condoms, the diaphragm, and the cervical cap, don't alter your fertility — so if you want to start trying to conceive, just stop using them. And don't worry: Spermicides used with condoms or other barrier methods cannot harm your pregnancy. Even if you accidentally conceive while using a spermicide, your baby should be fine.
Natural birth control
Natural birth control methods, such as withdrawal or the calendar method, are among the easiest contraceptives to stop using and require no recovery time. Just stop not trying and go for it. If you've been charting your basal body temperature and cervical mucus, you're in even better shape to start trying, since you know how to tell when you're fertile. But if you've been using the Lactational Amenorrhea Method — that is, counting on breastfeeding to keep you from ovulating — it may take a while after you stop nursing for ovulation to return. Of course, many women still do ovulate while they're breastfeeding, and others start ovulating again as soon as they begin to wean their babies.
The Pill, patch, and ring
All you have to do to reverse the effects of the Pill, the patch, or the ring is to stop using them. (You might want to just finish out your cycle to avoid annoying mid-cycle bleeding.) While some women are fertile the day they stop using these methods, for others, it may take a few months to start ovulating again. You'll know ovulation is back to normal if you're getting your period regularly. (Some practitioners recommend using a barrier method and waiting until you have a couple of normal periods before trying to conceive because this can help you establish a more accurate due date. However, if you do get pregnant before your periods become regular again, don't worry — you can have an early sonogram instead to date your pregnancy.)
Intrauterine device (IUD)
Typically, your fertility will be the same as it was before you starting using the IUD. The device can increase your risk for pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection of the upper genital tract that may make it harder to get pregnant. But if you haven't had such problems while using it, your fertility should return to normal as soon as you have the device removed. You can have it taken out at any time during your cycle and may feel some cramping afterward for a short time, but then you should be good to go.
It can take up to a year or more after you go off Depo-Provera — a shot of synthetic progesterone you get every 12 weeks to prevent pregnancy — to start ovulating again, although some women are fertile again just 13 weeks after their last shot. (It doesn't matter how long you were getting the shots.) Studies have shown that the average amount of time it takes a woman to get pregnant after her last shot is nine months. If you still don't have a period a year after your last injection, see your practitioner.
Healthcare providers and Norplant manufacturers say the contraceptive's effects wear off about three days after the plastic sticks — shaped like matchsticks and surgically implanted under the skin of your upper arm — are removed from your body. The sticks contain minute amounts of levonorgestrel (a synthetic hormone similar to progesterone) that the body absorbs over time. It works by influencing hormone production, keeping most women from ovulating, and thickening the cervical mucus, making it hard for sperm to reach the egg. There are generally no residual effects on your fertility once the sticks are removed.
Of all forms of contraception, sterilization is the hardest to reverse. Couples who are even thinking about changing their minds later on should not choose this method. Your chances of getting pregnant after a reversal of the surgery vary from 43 to 88 percent depending on how it was done, but you'll be at higher risk for an ectopic pregnancy if you do. A reversal is considered major surgery and will require a stay in the hospital. And if the sterilization damaged much of the fallopian tubes, a reversal (an expensive procedure, by the way, and one that your insurance most likely does not cover) may not be possible at all.
Of all forms of contraception, sterilization is the hardest to reverse. Couples who are even thinking about changing their minds later on should not choose this method. Between 30 and 75 percent of men who reverse a vasectomy go on to be successful at getting a woman pregnant, but the longer it's been since the surgery, the lower your chances. Vasectomy reversal is a serious procedure — you'll be out of commission for a week and barred from any heavy physical activity for a month. It's also expensive and many insurance carriers won't cover it.
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