What to Expect When Discontinuing the Pill


I was taking Ortho-Tricyclen to reduce blood flow, cramps, headaches, and anemia.  I quit taking the pill because it was not helping me with any of these things.  I was just wondering if there are any side effects to quitting the pill.  I quit taking it about 4 months ago.  While I was on the pill it made me feel bloated, and I still feel that way.  I have gained weight, although this didn’t happen until after I stopped taking the pill.  Is it possible that my body is still trying to adjust to the hormone changes?  I really appreciate your help; I can’t find much information about people who have stopped taking the pill.  Thanks!


Last Updated: June 11, 2013
The majority of women who quit the pill, who were taking the pill to prevent pregnancy and not for medical problems, return to normal cycles and hormone levels within one or two cycles. The one thing that does not return to normal is cervical mucus, which affects fertility, and this takes many months to normalize if the woman has been on the pill for several months. Other than the cervical mucus, if pill-related side effects have occurred in these women, they disappear when the woman goes off the pill. Other women, however, who have had cycle abnormalities (often undiagnosed) like PCOS and anovulation, can be thrown off track for many months or even years, and not resume ovulating. A small number of women who ovulated before taking the pill will never ovulate again without drugs to stimulate ovulation.

I am not sure which category you fall into. Headaches are not a reason to take birth control pills; rather than helping headaches, the pill can cause them. Birth control pills usually make periods lighter. If your periods were not lighter on the pill, it could be because you have a condition such as fibroids causing heavy periods that is not affected by hormones. Also, the particular pill you were on is less likely than others to help heavy periods – it is more estrogenic to help acne, and this compromises this particular pill’s effect on reducing menstrual volume. I am not sure why you gained weight after quitting the pill if you are not eating more or exercising less, unless being on the pill unmasked an underlying hormonal problem. If you are still having bloating and did not experience this before the pill, it is possible that you are experiencing the pill’s aftereffects on your system. This is more likely if you are not ovulating regularly and do not have regular periods.

Dr. Mary Davenport

Answered By:

Mary Davenport, MD, MS
Mary Davenport, MD, FACOG, an obstetrician/gynecologist from the Oakland Region of California, offers telehealth services over MyCatholicDoctor.com She graduated from Tufts University School of Medicine and completed her residency at UC San Diego. Dr. Davenport is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and serves on the Advisory Board of the California Association of Natural Family Planning.

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