Will quitting the pill disrupt your cycle?

I get a lot of concerned questions from women who are coming off the pill, or other hormonal contraception, and starting to use NaturalCycles as a birth control. How much will the hormones affect my cycle? Will NaturalCycles be safe and take the pill into account? How many green days (no need for condom) will I get? For those who are not familiar with NaturalCycles, it is a natural contraception, which analyses your body temperature, and optionally ovulation test data, to determine when you are fertile (red days) and when you most definitely are not fertile (green days).

Contraceptive pill

How much will the hormones affect my cycle?

The cycles of many women, although they had been many years on hormones, just directly go back to normal. Some women are only mildly affected, like for instance myself. I had the Implanon (the hormonal implant in the arm) for 10 years and after taking it out, my first 2 cycles were 5 weeks long, then a few cycles were 4 weeks and then back to 3.5 weeks, which is normal for me. Some women are unfortunately highly affected. The worst case I saw was a woman who quit the pill last summer and started measuring for NaturalCycles. Her first cycle was 108 days and since the time between ovulation and the next menstruation usually stays the same for one woman, she ovulated on day 97. Her next cycle was a bit shorter; about two months, and the one after that about 6 weeks. Basically it took almost a year until her cycle was back to normal.

The research that has been carried out on the subject has different conclusions, much depending on who was financing and/or performing the studies (one should not forget that the pharmaceutical industry has a very strong lobbying business). One interesting fact that I read is that the hormonal treatment that affects the cycle the most is the combined oral pill, which contains both progesterone and estrogen. For women using the combined pill, 50% got severely affected for the following year after stopping the pill. This was clear from a study performed on women quitting the pill in order to get pregnant and the majority of women who had been taken the combined pill had more difficulties to get pregnant. The good news is that after a year of being free of hormones more than 90% of the women had gone back to having regular cycles.

One conclusion to draw from this is that it is important to quit the pill quite some time before one plans to get pregnant. Not only due to the decreased chances of falling pregnant, but also to give the body a break for a while. It’s clear that being on a constant dose of hormones, is very disruptive and unhealthy for the body. If this is followed directly by pregnancy, which is an even stronger dose with lots of hormones, it might be even more difficult to find a balance again after the pregnancy and breastfeeding is over.

Will NaturalCycles be safe and take the pill into account?

Yes, definitely. When you set up your personal account with NaturalCycles, we ask you if you’ve recently been on the pill, for how long and when you stopped. NaturalCycles will then be extra cautious with your cycle and it knows that it’s very likely that you’ll start off with longer cycles, due to delayed ovulation, which will get shorter and shorter with time. So there is no need to worry, just be patient and confident that your cycle will eventually go back to normal.

How many green days (no need for condom) will I get?

How many green days you will get of course greatly depends on how much your cycle is disruptive by the use of hormones. If your cycle directly goes back to being somewhat regular, then no problem, you will get a nice amount of green days. If your cycle is very disrupted and you almost never ovulate, then the green days will be few. In that case, on the other hand, it is still very useful to monitor your cycle and confirm that it is slowly improving with time. The woman I mentioned above, who had a very disturbed cycle after quitting the pill, only had 25% green days her first year using NaturalCycles. 25% is still better than nothing and it’s nice for a couple to not have to use condoms 100% of the time, which is the other option when quitting the pill.

Overall, it is a big decision to quit the pill and to change birth control, and there is no guarantee that your cycle and body will just continue as nothing happened if you have been taking hormones for years. It’s nevertheless important to give your body a chance and to try to take the healthier path for the future.

Elina on the beach at sunset