How long does it take for the hormones to leave my system?
October 24, 2007 6:52 PM   Subscribe

What can I expect from taking a break from hormonal birth control? How long does it take the hormones to clear out of your system? Which hormonal birth control side effects disappear and which stay? Factual and anecdotal advice welcome!

I am currently on NuvaRing and have decided to take a break from hormonal birth control for at least a few months. I would like to let it all clear from my system and see how my body and mood changes when everything is "normal", then possibly start again-- though probably with the Mirena IUD. I'm wondering what to expect from this "off" period. How long does it take for the cravings and moodiness to stop? Will my boobs shrink immediately? When will my period go back to pre-BC flow? Is this a gradual process or abrupt? Will these BC side effects disappear at all? Does it depend entirely on my individual chemistry?

I would love to hear your experiences on going off, and whether or not you went back on and why.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (23 answers total)
After only a month off the pill, I got incredibly uncontrollably horny. That was pretty abrupt. My cycle stayed the same. I did feel a little more clear-headed. This all happened after about a month or two. I was off for only about three months.
I went back on because I wanted to have lots of sex. But I felt great when I was off of it. I was more productive and energetic. I didn't really notice any outer physical changes though. No shrinking boobs or waistline or anything.
Good luck.
posted by greta simone at 7:06 PM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

When I went off NuvaRing I noticed a gradual reduction in my breast size. It was preferable for me, since I'd gotten to a pretty substantial C (and being petite, it's more than I wanted)... I'm back to the B-C range (so it wasn't a huge drop, but I noticed the difference and prefer it this way). It took a few months for me to notice, though.

My period still hasn't regulated and it's been over 5 months, but I never had a very reliable/predictable cycle to begin with -- that was one of the nice things about being on HBC.

As for mood and horniness, I can't say that I noticed a huge change when I went on NuvaRing... except there was a much flatter grade of horniness - i.e. I didn't have phases of "meh" and phases of "OMG WILL JUMP YOU NOW PLZ THX" like I do now. But I didn't notice that change for a few months, either.

Caveat: I can be pretty non-observant about myself, despite being an introvert.
posted by dorothy humbird at 7:21 PM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I went off my birth control for 6 months, about a year ago, on the advice of my gynecologist. Main effects were significantly more acne, especially under the jawline, within two weeks (and I'm 30, so that was a bummer .. ) and more painful cramps / heavier and longer bleeding.

When going back on, I simply had a reversal of these effects. Nothing else of note happened.

I recently (two months ago) went off again because I'm horrible about taking it on a timely basis and it's expensive, and have found that my acne/cramping/bleeding isn't as bad as it was last time I was off. Not sure why, perhaps because I'm a bit older?

Otherwise, for me, it's a non-event. I don't feel any different than when I'm taking it, just those few things, which are pretty expected.
posted by FortyT-wo at 7:25 PM on October 24, 2007

I don't have a tonne of obvious side effects from being on the pill but the times I've stopped I notice my period goes back to its regular schedule and volume/consistency almost completely by the next period. By two periods after stopping it's pretty much back to normal. I feel better being off the pill but it's a toss-up because I spot a LOT on the pill (if I am late by even two hours I will breakthrough for days) but when I'm off my cycle is 21 days long... I think the IUD is next up for me if I ever have sex again... sigh...
posted by loiseau at 7:26 PM on October 24, 2007

Steven C. Den Beste writes "Many women notice that their breasts grow when they're on the pill, and conversely that they shrink again when they stop taking it."

I was on the pill two totally different times and on NuvaRing once. My boobs grew every time, and never shrank. For me, this was Not Good.
posted by peep at 7:30 PM on October 24, 2007

I had the 21-day cycle, and it seemed that going on/off of nuvaring (I was on for less than a year) actually helped drag my cycle to a more normal 27- to 29-day cycle, which was much preferable to me.

I just went back on a couple of months ago after being off for a long time, and there's definitely a change in mood/whatnot. If you noticed any mood changes when you went on, they'll probably change back.
posted by that girl at 7:32 PM on October 24, 2007

For me, the mood change when I went off was wonderful. It was like becoming myself again.
posted by beandip at 7:54 PM on October 24, 2007

The pill made me gain about 15 pounds, and when I went off it, I gradually lost the weight within a couple of months without trying. My periods went back to their normal schedule (35-day cycle) almost immediately, but from what I understand, it takes a few months for moth women.

Awesome thing: My flow was super heavy before I started taking birth control, and after I went off, it has stayed relatively light. It has been about a year since I stopped taking it, and I have yet to experience heavy bleeding or serious cramps like I used to get (knock on wood).
posted by arianell at 8:21 PM on October 24, 2007

My two cents: going from the nuvaring to the Mirena IUD was about the same as when I had gone off the nuvaring in the past. My sex drive came back full strength, losing weight became slightly easier, my moodiness disappeared within a month. The IUD has been the best thing ever for me. If you have issues with the pill or the ring I can't reccommend it enough. I really don't have any of the hormone side effects I had with anything else. It's great.
posted by evilbeck at 9:24 PM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I went off for about three months a year ago, then back on. I was and am taking Seasonale, so I only have a period every three months. I went off because I figured I didn't need to be on it (no boyfriend, see below), and back on when I started another relationship.

It took three months for my period to come back. This may not apply to you if you're on a monthly cycle. It was a fairly bad (crampy) period that reminded me why I stay on BC.

My face looked horrible the whole time I was off and for about three months after I went back on. Big, deep, red, painful cystic acne. Ugh. (I was 23 at the time.)

I lost about 10 pounds after going off, but then I had also just broken up with my boyfriend and moved back across the country to take care of my ailing and more than slightly neurotic grandmother. I was not very happy, and when I'm not very happy I tend not to eat. I don't know if the weight loss was more related to the BC or the emotional situation. I gained the weight back after going back on the pill (and starting to eat again) - this still put me squarely in a healthy weight range for height.

Fwiw, my life is better when I'm on the pill. My moods are more stable, my skin looks great, I don't get preggers. I would likely settle about 5-10 pounds lighter if I were *not* on the pill, but it's nowhere near worth it to me. My body changed fairly quickly after going off the pill, but it took about three months after going back on for me to get back to self.
posted by fuzzbean at 9:32 PM on October 24, 2007

Implanon (the stick in your arm) gave me wieght gain and low-grade background depression, and really, really bad periods. I went off it for a month, to switch over to the pill.

And rediscovered precisely why Mum put me on BC when I was still a teenager. Instead of cry-at-spilt-milk PMS, I had "I am made of spiky angry things" PMS. That was ... well, interesting.

A side-effect of implanon, the awful horrid periods, took a while to die down - about a year (on the pill) before I was back to normal - no pain, 1 week long, etc. The low-grade depression was gone in about 2-3 months. PMS is just now a slightly more fragile emotional state - I'm slightly easier to upset, and more prone to being angsty and emo, but nothing compared to previously.

I think it varies pretty widely from woman to woman.
posted by ysabet at 12:13 AM on October 25, 2007

I went straight off NuvaRing and onto the Mirena. I had been using NuvaRing continously, skipping the off-weeks, so I wasn't really getting my period even then. The switch was a bit of a bumpy ride; I started getting all sorts of moodiness/pms issues that I hadn't experienced in years of being on the pill and the ring. Even now, after 10 months on the Mirena, I'm getting all the classic PMS symptoms each month (sore boobs, weight gain, what have you) -- even though my periods have stopped completely.

One of the reasons I chose to go off the hormonal b/c was that I read how it substantially decreased testosterone in your system, and I didn't want to be mucking around with that. When I went off, I found my capacity for getting angry at things/people was substantially enhanced... not exactly the desired effect!

I have lost at least 15 pounds going off NuvaRing, and it's still going down. (I guess I had put that all on while on the pill and whatnot, but I hadn't really noticed at the time.)

Conclusions: It's taken me the better part of a year for everything to feel "settled", emotionally and physically. I did go on a new b/c as I went off the old one, but I'm pretty sure most of the changes were due to stopping the Ring rather than starting the Mirena. I don't think 2 or 3 months will be enough time for you to see what your body settles to.
posted by wyzewoman at 4:48 AM on October 25, 2007

I went off the pill for about four or five months before getting my Mirena. Like the poster above, the IUD is about the best thing I've ever done for myself. I felt better the whole time I was off the pill, and I've felt the same kind of better in the 24 months I've had the IUD. As evilbeck says, I've had off and on some PMS symptoms, but as time goes on these have decreased for me.

Unrelated, but important (I think): I don't know whether you've had children or not, but if not, be sure to find a doctor that is NOT skittish about doing the IUD for women who have not had children. According to what I've been told by my doctor, those who do not want to give IUDs to women w/o children are either old school or suck at putting them in. And believe me, getting it in was not the best thing that I've ever experienced, so I can only assume that having it done by someone who was timid about it or who did it badly would be more not-fun.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:47 AM on October 25, 2007

My mood started improving within a day or so of stopping & was pretty much back-to-normal within about 3 weeks. My period went back to my usual cycle right away. I'd only been on Nuvaring about 3 months & the minipill for 6 weeks.
posted by belladonna at 6:00 AM on October 25, 2007

Going off of Nuvaring... I've always had regular periods, and they were back on their normal schedule within a month. About three months and they were back to being horribly thick and crampy. And it took a year+ for my libido to start to return to normal, and for there to be a more normal (larger) amount of fertile mucus around ovulation.... but both of those still haven't gone back to where they were, which I suspect has nothing to do with birth control and a lot more to do with getting older/gaining weight/maybe mild depression/etc.
posted by anaelith at 6:53 AM on October 25, 2007

I went off the pill for about 18 months because a) I wanted to know what my body was like without the hormones, and b) I wanted to see if it would help my migraines.

End result:
a 21 day cycle
brutally heavy cramps and bleeding
OMGrabidanimal!!! sex drive for about 1 week a month
ysabet's "I am made of spiky angry things" PMS. hee.
fewer migraines

Given all of the above, I was literally spending one week horny, one week irrationally, homicidally angry, and three days doubled over in pain. That leaves four days of "normal" before you lather/rinse/repeat.

The periods were getting progressively worse the longer I stayed off, to the point that I thought there was something wrong with my chickparts. Thankfully, that was not the case, and I just went back on the pill (seasonale) about two months ago. So. Very. Happy. I never dreamed I would say this, but I will gladly take my chances on an extra migraine every month compared to the Roller Coaster of Hell I was riding while off the pill.

That said, if I had it to do over again, I would, because now I know. And knowing is half the battle... (cue G.I. Joe theme music...)
posted by somanyamys at 7:22 AM on October 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

My periods were back at their normal cycle length (36 days instead of 28 when on the pill) immediately. Actually, I was freaked out by how immediately it changed and was out buying pregnancy tests when the first one came "late."

My skin got a lot worse when coming off, but it was never that great even when on the pill. My libido increased over a much longer period of time.

The other things I was hoping were side effects (weight gain, lethargy, chin hairs) did not go away. I guess I'm just getting older and fatter.
This post makes me sound very very very sexy.
posted by twoporedomain at 7:59 AM on October 25, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you for all the good input! People with bad experiences going off--did you find you were different than before when you were on it? I never suffered any symptoms of PMS before hormonal birth control--no moodiness, no cramps, no excessive horny times, I was stable throughout the month though my periods were longer than normal.

After nine months on Ortho-Tricyclin Lo and three months on NuvaRing, my periods are shorter but I have mood swings, crave chocolate, I'm more depressed overall, occasionally cry at random shit, and I've found the "spiky angry things" appear where none had been previously. To be fair, the frequency and severity of these is really no different than the"normal" PMS I've observed in other women, it's just I went from having no PMS to having some, and I'm hoping that my ultra-stability will return when off the hormones again.
posted by Anonymous at 8:06 AM on October 25, 2007

When I started the pill, I tried a couple different kinds because of the same issue you're describing--it made me feel PMS-y a lot of the time and overall pretty depressed (though I had small PMS symptoms before hand, they were INSANE once I was on the pill). Ever since I went off of it--well, it took about a cycle to feel normal again, but I do! I recommend a trial period (aha) or two before judging the difference.

Hormones are tricky things--good luck!
posted by eralclare at 12:45 PM on October 25, 2007

A lot of things may also depend on how old you are. The younger you are, the more changeable things still are, so some of these things may have happened with or without the birth control.

So if you're college-aged, a lot of the PMS-y things may be just part of your body still getting used to the universe of menstruation. If you're older, then it may be blamed more on the birth control.
posted by that girl at 4:08 PM on October 25, 2007

It took me a littleover six months to get a normal period after stopping a bc pill. Thankfully, knew this was the tail end of normal or I would have been really freaked out...
posted by terrortubby at 2:27 AM on October 26, 2007

Thank you for all the good input! People with bad experiences going off--did you find you were different than before when you were on it?

Definitely, but I was 18 when I first went on the pill, so I don't think my innards were quite done baking yet. Before BC, my cycles were longer, periods were lighter, cramps were moderate, and PMS was barely a notch above normal teen angst. Way different from what I described above (as a 28-29 yo).
posted by somanyamys at 10:28 AM on October 26, 2007

I know with me, at 28 now, my periods have changed from when I was younger. I think it has to do with age and also the changed your body goes through after giving birth. I get PMS and other symptoms now, which I didn't before my son was born at 24.

I have been off the Nuvaring for one month now and unfortunately still have all the side effects. Weight gain, bloating, depression, moodiness, etc. I hope it goes away soon! I was only on it for 2 months but it definately changed my personality. I normally use a Paragard IUD but took it out to get pregnant. This resulted in miscarriage so I have tried some hormonal bc to get me through the 6 months before I can try for another baby.

I should have remembered from when I was younger, hormones do not agree with me! I feel like a completely different person when I am on them. I loved the Paragard IUD because it has NO hormones and can be left in for 10 years if needed. I chose this over the Mirena because I didn't want any hormones even though I didn't need the whole 10 years. I never had heavy periods to begin with so on the IUD, after the first 3 months, I bled a little longer but not heavier. A 5 day bleeding cycle instead of 2-3 completely natural. Nothing beats not ever having to think about birth control and feeling like "me" all month long!

I love my natural rythmn. Even with the mood swings, acne and chocolate cravings before a period, at least I am feeling something instead of a drone of a life with no ups and downs and more importantly, NO SEX DRIVE! Not for me :)

Until my 6 months is up, I am going back to another natural favorite bc, the Lady Comp, taking basal temperature readings every morning and using a diaphragm during fertile days.
posted by deal4life at 11:42 AM on September 10, 2008

« Older Why is my mp3 player running out of battery power?   |   How do I get picked up in New York? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.