Getting Pregnant After Contraceptives or Birth Control Pills

When Your Fertility Will Return, How Long Will It Take to Conceive

woman sitting on bed holding a container with birth control pills
Your fertility should return quickly after discontinuing most forms of reversible birth control. PhotoAlto / Ale Ventura / Getty Images

In an ideal world, your choice of contraception should prevent pregnancy when you want it to and, when you decide you’re ready to have a baby, have no impact on your ability to conceive once you stop.

Kind of like an on-off switch. Flip your birth control to “on,” and pregnancy should be a far off possibility. Switch to “off,” and pregnancy, here we come!

Is that really how it works? Can you just stop your birth control pills – or remove a contraceptive device – and conceive immediately?

Sort of, yes... but it’s a little more complicated than that.

Allow me to explain...

How Soon Can You Expect Your Fertility to Return After Birth Control?

First, we should discuss when you should expect your fertility to return after discontinuing contraceptive use. In other words, what should happen, assuming everything goes well.  

(This isn’t the same as when you should expect to get pregnant after stopping contraceptives. That’s discussed next.)

Depending on the contraceptive method, return of your fertility may include:

Clearly, if your choice of contraception is a barrier method, your fertility has not physiologically been affected and you just need to stop using whatever you were using. This would include things like condoms (male or female), diaphragms, spermicides, or the sponge.

(Your fertility may have changed with age, however, depending on how long you’ve been using contraception.)

Here’s when you can expect your fertility to return after discontinued use of some popular contraceptive choices:

Birth control pills: Also known as oral contraceptives, birth control pills contain either estrogen and progestin together or only progestin.

They work by preventing ovulation and thickening cervical mucus.

After discontinuing the pill, ovulation and fertility should resume within a month’s time. Sometimes, it takes up to three months for fertility to return.  

Vaginal ring (NuvaRing) and birth control patch (Ortho Evra): Because the vaginal ring and patch are relatively new (compared to oral birth control pills,) there isn’t a lot of long term research available. However, they work similarly to oral contraceptives. The main difference is how the hormones are taken (orally vs. transdermally vs. vaginally.)

As with birth control pills, your fertility should return in one to three months after discontinued use.

Birth control implants (like Implanon and Nexplanon): Birth control implants, like Implanon and Nexplanon, work by releasing the hormone progestin. The implant is a thin, flexible and matchstick size plastic rod that slowly and continuously releases the hormone. Your doctor inserts it into the upper arm.

Once inserted, birth control implants can prevent pregnancy for up to three years, but you can have it removed at any time. In other words, you could theoretically have it removed after just a few months. The long-term aspect to this birth control only applies if you keep it in place.

You must see your doctor to have the implant removed. After its removal, fertility should return within one month’s time.

There is a risk that the implant will be difficult or impossible to remove, if insertion was done improperly or it shifted after insertion. While removal complications occur less than 2% of the time, if this does happen, the effects of the implant will continue until it runs out.

IUD: IUDs, or intrauterine devices, are small T-shaped devices that are placed inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy. There are two basic types, copper IUDs (ParaGuard) and hormonal IUDs (Mirena or Skyla).

Copper IUDs work by repelling sperm away from the fallopian tubes, which in turn prevents pregnancy. Hormonal IUDs work by thickening cervical mucus, thinning the endometrium, and possibly preventing ovulation.

While IUDs are considered long-term contraceptive options – the copper IUD can be in place for up to 10 years, and the hormonal IUDs for three to five years – both kinds of IUDs can be removed at any time by your doctor. (Never attempt to remove one yourself!)

Once removed, your fertility should return within a month.

Birth control shot (Depo-Provera): Depo-Provera is the contraceptive choice that gives all the other birth control options a bad reputation. It is not a good choice for anyone hoping to get pregnant soon.

With the birth control shot, the drug medroxyprogesterone acetate (sometimes abbreviated as DMPA) is injected into the muscle. The drug remains in the muscle and slowly releases, preventing ovulation and thickening cervical mucus.

It may take between 6 and 12 months to have fertility return again after the shot. While 50% of women will conceive within 10 months of the last injection, some women will not have their fertility return for up to 18 months.

How Soon Can You Expect to Get Pregnant After Stopping Birth Control?

This is a different question… just because your fertility has returned doesn’t mean pregnancy will happen right away.

This can be a really odd experience for someone who has spent years preventing pregnancy. You might assume that without birth control, you would have conceived immediately – but that’s not entirely accurate.

Once you stop contraceptives, you may conceive the very first fertile month, or you may need to try for up to a year. This is the same as for those who have not used any birth control.

One of the largest studies on pregnancy rates after birth control was the The European Active Surveillance Study on Oral Contraceptives (EURAS-OC). This study tracked just over 59,000 women who used oral contraceptives and included participants from seven different European countries.

Of the 59,000, about 2,000 decided to discontinue contraceptives and get pregnant after the study was completed. These women had been using contraceptives for seven years.

They found that...

  • 21.1% got pregnant one cycle after discontinuing birth control
  • 79.4% got pregnant within a year of discontinuation
  • Up to age 35, the woman’s age had very little affect on her fertility
  • Pregnancy rates were lower for women over 35 and for smokers

These results are similar to what you would see in women who never used birth control.

In other words, oral contraceptives had no to little effect on their fertility.

A separate study found not only that fertility was not negatively affected by birth control use, but, in fact, slightly improved after long term use.

This study included 8,497 women from South-West England. The study took into account other possible negative affects on fertility (like lifestyle choices, weight, and so on), so they could see better how birth control use affected conception rates. They eliminated infertility due to other causes from their study.

They found that after discontinuing birth control use:

  • 74% of the women conceived in less than 6 months
  • 14% took between 6 and 12 months to conceive
  • 12% conceived only after a year

Another research paper reviewed numerous studies conducted between 1960 and 2007, and looked at the post-contraceptive pregnancy rates.

They looked at conception rates after 12 months of trying. The varying rates represent the low and high study findings.

  • 72 to 94% were pregnant one year after discontinuing birth control pills
  • 71 to 92% after IUD removal
  • 70 to 95% after progesterone-only birth control
  • 91% after condom use
  • 92% after natural family planning

What If You Can’t Get Pregnant After Birth Control?

What if your cycles don’t come back after stopping birth control? Or you don’t get pregnant after a year of trying?

There is a very small risk that your body will need help jump starting its fertility after birth control, especially if your cycles were irregular before you started.

It’s also possible you won’t be able to get pregnant due to other reasons. Remember that up to 12% of couples will experience infertility, for a variety of reasons.

If you struggle to conceive after birth control pills, talk to your doctor. You should see your doctor if:

  • You don’t get your period back within three months.
  • Your cycles are irregular or you have other worrisome symptoms.
  • You’re over 35 and have been trying to conceive for six months.
  • You’re younger than 35 and have been trying to conceive for 12 months unsuccessfully.

Whatever you do, please don’t blame yourself or think that your choice to use birth control is to blame. It’s not your fault, and it’s very, very unlikely to be because of your contraceptive choices.

More on getting pregnant and infertility:


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Birth Control Implant at a Glance. Planned Parenthood. Accessed July 28, 2015.

Birth Control Patch at a Glance. Planned Parenthood. Accessed July 28, 2015.

Birth Control Pills at a Glance. Planned Parenthood. Accessed July 28, 2015.

Birth Control Shot at a Glance. Planned Parenthood. Accessed July 28, 2015.

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IUD at a Glance. Planned Parenthood. Accessed July 28, 2015. 

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