All forms of birth control share one thing in common. They’re intended to prevent the pitter-patter of little feet in your life — at least until you’re ready for it. It could be a pill, shot, patch, ring, or implant. They all control your hormones to help you ward off the baby bump.
But here’s the question. Are you in a new relationship and want to start birth control for prevention? Or are you planning to stop because you and your partner have decided it’s time to try for a baby? Either way, there are a few things you need to know to protect your health. Keep reading for some valuable details about starting — and stopping — birth control.
1. Protection Isn’t Instantaneous
As nice as it would be, you aren’t automatically protected from pregnancy with your first dose. Effective prevention depends on when you start it during your cycle. You also must remember to use it correctly and consistently. Consider setting up a birth control subscription, so you’ll always have your chosen method on hand.
With combination pills (ones containing progestin and estrogen), protection is immediate if you start within five days of your period. The same is true for shots, patches, and rings. With progestin-only pills, prevention kicks in after 48 hours. In both cases, you’ll need to use a second birth control method while you wait.
2. Side Effects May Happen
You can’t listen to a pharmaceutical commercial on TV without hearing a laundry list of possible side effects. Birth control medications are no different. They’re substances that change and manipulate your hormone levels. So, you should expect that your body may respond as it gets used to the medication.
To be clear, no two people will react to birth control the same way. You could be lucky and see no changes at all. Don’t be surprised if you do, though. It’s normal to experience nausea, breast tenderness, bloating, headaches, mood swings, and weight changes.
3. Period Surprises Can Occur
You may have heard that taking birth control can help you control when you get your period. That’s true. When you’re first starting, though, it’s possible for your period to surprise you a bit. Keep in mind that your body is trying to figure out how to adjust to this new medication.
When you first start, you could see some irregular spotting in your underwear. It could last for a few months, so consider wearing a panty liner. It’s also possible that your period won’t begin when you expect it to for a little while. You may even skip your period completely. Don’t worry — it’s all normal. If you start bleeding excessively, though, contact your doctor.
4. Health Benefits Exist
Sure, pregnancy prevention is the health benefit you’re looking for most when you start birth control. Would you be surprised to know that taking it consistently can also come with several other positives? It may take a few months for these other good things to show up. You’ll likely be happy when they do, though.
Taking birth control correctly and consistently can make dealing with your period easier. It can also lower your risk of other health problems. After a few months, you could experience reduced acne, milder cramps, less bleeding, and fewer mood swings. It could also reduce your risk of ovarian and uterine cancer.
Maybe you’re ready for pregnancy, though, or need to switch birth control methods. Whatever the case, there are a few things to consider if you’re stopping or pausing birth control:
1. Going Off the Pill, Patch, or Ring
Believe it or not, it’s safe to stop the pill, patch, or ring cold turkey. Your biggest concern about going off these birth control methods is when your period will show up. Typically, you can expect your cycle to appear within a few days of your last dose. So, be sure to check your calendar before you stop.
To keep your period as regular as possible, consider finishing your current medication cycle. This way, you’ll know when your cycle will arrive, and you won’t skip a beat. Then, you can either stop altogether or pick up with your new birth control method.
2. Removing an IUD or Hormonal Implant
If you’ve opted for an intrauterine device (IUD) or other hormonal implant, going off birth control requires more steps. You had to make a doctor’s appointment to have it put in, right? You’ll need to do the same thing to remove it. Look at your calendar and schedule a time that’s best for you.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about when your period will kick up after your implant is removed. It all depends on how long it takes for the hormones to work their way out of your body. So, Aunt Flo could appear anywhere between a day to a few weeks. You may experience some spotting and cramping until things get back to normal.
3. Giving Up the Shot
Birth control shots are meant to give you a consistent level of pregnancy-preventing hormones through fewer doses. Typically, you get a shot every three months. It’s a long-lasting medication, so that means it will take longer for the effects to wear off.
That doesn’t mean the process of going off the shot is difficult, though. It’s as easy as not taking the next injection. Just don’t expect your period or fertility to bounce back immediately. That can take up to three months or more.
The decision to start or stop birth control is personal and completely up to you. Before you make the choice, you should consider how the medications affect your body. The more you know, the easier it is to prevent or potentially start trying for pregnancy.