3 Signs It's Time To Talk To Your Doctor About Going Off Birth Control

From pills, rings, and patches, to IUDs, injections, and implants, women today have a wide variety of birth control options, all with varying side effects and effectiveness. While birth control has transformed women's lives by providing the freedom of choice when it comes to preventing pregnancy, there may be times when going off birth control or switching types could benefit you. If you are experiencing unfavorable side effects since taking a specific type of birth control or would like to embrace natural family planning, you may want to talk to your doctor about stopping birth control or switching types. Adverse side effects from birth control — which can be both physical and mental or emotional — can differ depending on the type of birth control, and varies from person to person.

It's also possible that you aren't experiencing negative side effects but simply want to take a more natural route to your pregnancy prevention. Taking birth control is your choice and an extremely effective one for preventing conception, but if you feel it would suit your overall well-being to go off of hormonal birth control, your doctor can provide you with other options and advice for family planning or pregnancy prevention.

You're considering switching birth control methods (or stopping altogether)

If you're thinking about switching birth control methods or stopping altogether, that's a clear sign it's time to talk to your doctor. Your reason for stopping birth control will help you determine when and how to go off of it. Whether you are experiencing adverse side effects, trying to conceive, want to switch methods, or because you choose to try letting things unfold naturally, it's important to remember that fertility often returns quickly after stopping birth control, says Dr. Ashley Brant via Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials. Dr. Brant explains, "The most common misconception is that you need to go off birth control months in advance of trying to get pregnant, and that's just not true. The last thing you want to do is stop using your birth control before you're ready to get pregnant but then end up getting pregnant right away." This is good news for those trying to conceive immediately, but, if that isn't you, it's wise to open up the birth control conversation with your OB/GYN or primary care physician before making the weighty decision of going off it.

If you are experiencing any of the side effects discussed below and it is disrupting your everyday life, definitely talk to your doctor about switching to a method that works better for you. Just because you have side effects on one type of birth control doesn't mean you will on another. Fortunately, Dr. Brant says that no matter the type of birth control you are on, you can safely switch to another method immediately — no break is needed between different birth control methods.

You're experiencing negative side effects from your birth control

If you aren't trying to conceive and are experiencing negative side effects from your birth control, you may want to talk to your doctor about switching to something else. Birth control pills and long-acting reversible contraceptives or LARCs are among the most popular forms of birth control for women in the U.S. — examples of LARCs include the IUD, the injection (Depo-Provera), and the hormonal implant that goes under your skin (Nexplanon). Birth control pills are widely popular for their ease of use and their 99% effectiveness at preventing pregnancy, if used correctly. But some women have reported negative side effects from contraceptive pills, the NuvaRing, and the patch, including breast tenderness and pain, nausea, headaches, and irregular periods.

The IUD is a LARC that is extremely effective (almost 100%) but can also have side effects such as painful and heavy periods (more common with copper IUDs that don't contain hormones) and irregular bleeding or stopping your period altogether. Nexaplanon, a small rod inserted into your arm that delivers a steady stream of hormones, is also extremely effective at preventing pregnancy but has reported side effects such as irregular bleeding, sore breasts, and headaches. Also, Depo-Provera, an injection that prevents pregnancy for about 12 weeks, can cause weight gain and irregular bleeding. With the wide array of birth control methods and side effects, you may have to experiment with different types before settling on one that is right for you.

You're experiencing psychological side effects from your birth control

If you think you may be experiencing psychological side effects from your birth control, that's another sign that it's time to talk to your doctor. Some women may find that going off birth control is the best choice for their physical health and mental or emotional well-being. While the psychological effects of birth control are not as well documented as the physical side effects, there is evidence that both estrogen and progesterone can affect brain function, cause mood changes, and worsen depression in some women. A 2016 Danish study of over 1 million women found an increased risk for first-time use of antidepressants and initial diagnosis of depression among users of birth control pills. There are various factors at play in the link between mood disorders and birth control — having a family history of depression, for example — therefore, it's crucial to speak with your doctor about your symptoms and options.

Many women have been consistently taking birth control for so long that they don't know what it feels like physically or emotionally to be off of it, or if there is a difference. If you find yourself at the point where you would be happy with whatever unfolds, natural family planning is another option for some women; this involves closely monitoring your menstrual cycle and being aware of your fertile days (i.e. the "rhythm method"). Whatever you decide, be sure to let your doctor know all the negative symptoms you are experiencing or that you are happy with letting nature unfold so that you can make an informed choice.