Period Regulation After the Pill

Back in August, I wrote about my difficult transition going off birth control pills (BCPs). Many readers responded and shared their own experiences of leaving the Pill behind. There were stories of acne, weight gain, resurgence of libidos (yaaaaay!), and emotional rollercoaster rides. But the most shared experience by commenters focused on menstrual cycle regulation. Given the overwhelming number of responses to this effect, we thought it would be a good idea to tackle this issue in more depth.

First and foremost, I want to emphasize that every single woman is different. Some women will have zero problems coming off BCPs, while others, like myself, have a rougher road. So while this post addresses post-BCP menstrual regulation, it does so in terms of “typical” cases (as defined by the medical community). But please keep in mind that menstruation and hormones don’t always fit into nice, neat categories, so if your story fits outside the “typical” parameters, don’t freak out. (Although, if you do have cause for concern, please seek out the advice and expertise of your health care provider, as we are not doctors).

The good news is that a delay in periods post-pill appears to be common. According to a study published in in the journal Gynecological Endocrinology in 2002, which compared the cycle characteristics of women who had recently stopped taking BCPs with those who had never taken them, cycle length in the post-pill group as a whole was prolonged (up to the ninth cycle). In other words, you are not alone!

But why does this happen? According to a BabyZone article by Dr. Gerard M. DiLeo, a board certified obstetrician-gynecologist,

The Pill works by suppressing the pituitary gland’s cyclic stimulations of the ovaries. In essence, the Pill makes the pituitary gland think you’re pregnant, so the ovary is not stimulated to ovulate every month. When you get off of the Pill, the pituitary takes some time to snap back into its cyclic relationship with the ovaries.

Annoying, for sure, but not hopeless.*  Experts at the Mayo Clinic explain that most women’s periods will resume soon after stopping the pill:

Typically, your period should start again within three months after you stop taking the pill. But some women, especially those who took the pill to regulate their menstrual cycles, may not have a period for many months.

So, if you started taking birth control pillss because of irregular cycles, it is likely that you’ll continue to have cycle irregularity after discontinuing the Pill. In these cases, the irregularity is not caused by the Pill, but was rather masked by it. Furthermore, menstrual cycles are very delicate and can be easily affected by a number of factors, such as stress, fluctuations in weight, excessive exercise and medication (other than the Pill), so you may want to take a step back and evaluate those aspects of your life. Could they be influencing your cycle?

While I know from personal experience how frustrating it can be to wait for your cycle to regulate post-pill, it’s important to remember that your body is adjusting to a big change. Try to be patient – and take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in this transition. If you still haven’t gotten your period after three months, take a pregnancy test to be sure, and follow up with your doctor.

* I’m proof that there is hope following post-BCP cycle irregularity.  Despite my struggles, my cycle righted itself, and I’ve since swapped out the acne, night sweats and cramps for nausea, fatigue and food cravings. That’s right, I’m knocked up!

Comments

  1. My 23 y/o daughter who cannot tolerate Yaz or any other pill and cannot take SSRI’s is suffering from PMDD every month and went back to her original GYN (I mean middle school) in search of an alternative. It has been 18 months since Yaz and she is reluctant to try another synthetic hormone. This doctor who is well respected in the medical community dis not know what PMDD meant??? but gave her Nuva -ring to try. Birth control is not the issue – it is 10-12 days of hell each month before her period. Anyone have any words od wisdom r/t to this method of controlling a hormonal hurricane??? Thanks

  2. Bethany says:

    Thank you for the update, Maureen! I’m thrilled to hear that you’re knocked up. That gives me (and I’m sure many others) hope.

    I just finished a 70+ day cycle (quit counting at 55 days) and am gearing up to head to the doctor for an evaluation. I’m 5 months post quitting the pill and seriously disheartened that my body is having such a difficult time regulating itself.

    I’ve got to ask…was it just a matter of time/a waiting game until your cycles regulated?

  3. I was only on the pill for a month and I’m waiting for my period to regulate. I’m not sure how long it should take…. I bled about a week after I started the pill & continued to bleed until about a week after stopping the pill. I just started counting 28 days from the last day I bled after quitting the pills….

  4. good day ! i jut wanna ask is there a side effect after taking a pill that which my periods stop? i start taking it after i got an abortion for about 4months for the past 2years and i stopped it. and took it again after 5months for about a year. and when i decided to stop it immediately and have a baby one more time, it didn’t worked because may period stopped for 10 months i did not go to see a doctor coz im afraid of what’s the reasult ,so i decided again to took a pill so that i can have my period and it last for about 8months only and eventually stopped when were having sex with my husband and until now i stilll dont have my periods its been 7months of this year, i really appreciate you can help me with my problem i want my period back and i want to get pregnant, im really desperate coz i dont have enough money to go to a clinic for check up . can i be pregnant again??

    • You really need to go to a clinic to find out for sure. Some of them, like Planned Parenthood, offer financial discounts if you explain your financial situation. You just have to ask.

  5. I was on bc and it really mess I cycle up. I decided to stop taking the pills and now I have a period every other week. It’s really heavy to where I have to change tampons every ten mins or less. What can I do to fix this problem. Please help!!!!

    • Jasmine, the same thing happened to me a few years ago when I was on the patch. The doctor had to put me back on it to stop the bleeding for another month or so. Apparently, since I stopped using the patch in the middle of my cycle something just went wrong. Go see your doctor and make sure you take some iron pills.

  6. I was on the pill (Aviane) for over a year and went off in July 2011 but have not had a a period since. been back and forth to doctor and was told to wait till after summer to see a specialist cause apparently its normal not to have a period up to a year after coming off the pill.so was about to make apt. to get checked again but last Monday (sept 17 2012) finally got my period soo yeah me lol ..now my problem is that its still here GRRR normally my periods last about 5 days im now going on 11 days. all iam wondering is this normal because i have not had my period in over a year ? and how long will it last .. plz any insight would be appreciated

    • I can relate to your concern. I haven’t had a period for 7 months. I started taking the pill when I was 13 due to debilitating cramps/heavy bleeding. I’m now almost 32. Yikes! I’ve decided to see an acupuncturist/herbalist to try to rebalance my body. My treatments will begin after the holidays. It’s pretty affordable since there is a oriental medicine school in my city. I feel like it’s my best bet. Perhaps you should look into this. Just a thought.

  7. How do you figure out when you ovulate if your period is irregular? It seems like after being on the pill I am worse than before and my boyfriend and I are ttc.

  8. I got off my Bc because i was on Antibotics & Than i got my sex drive back so let me explain that i was on bc for almost a year in a half & i had no desire for sex thats been going on while on the pill & im only 22 so i thought it was from being pregnant with my first kid anyways so like i was saying i had to stop taken the pill & had to get off a couple days from being off of bc my sex drive came back & while off the pill i didnt get my period until about 3 in a half weeks i finally got my first period at first i was.spotting than i got a heavy period same day it was heavy for 2 days cramping and everything than it suddenly stopped on the 3rd day as i remember from before it last 4 or 5 days buy i guess my body trying to go bavk to noal am i even going to ovulate me & my husband eants anotjer bsby

  9. I was on the pill for 2 years I have been off it for 4 months I got my period but have had it for 14 days is that just my hormones adjusting?

  10. Hi everyone,
    I have a 17 month old son who I am still nursing, and I honestly do not want to have another child anytime soon, so on October started taking birth control without estrogen but after 4 pills i felt guilty that I was giving my son hormones, so i stopped. On November i had bloody discharge for a few days and I cannot remember if i actually had my peroodperperiod. Thing is that its already the 26 of December an and im late

  11. so i was on the pill for 10 years and am now off it…. the thing is-im getting my period like im 13 again! the flow is heavvy’ it lasts a week and for the first 2 days im crippled to my bed because the cramps are so bad. any suggestions?

    • I would talk to your gyno to get some advice. But another option is acupuncture. It has worked wonders for me in regulating my period and reducing cramping. This is just my own experience, though – not official medical advice.

  12. MacKenzie says:

    Congrats on the Pregnancy! Quick Question…
    So I was on the pill (Lo Loestrin FE) for 2 months, went off of it and its been about 2 weeks since i’ve stopped. I have also been sexually active with my boyfriend. I am kind of concerned because I dont know when I should be getting my period. Also we’ve used protection every time. I know theres still a chance you can get pregnant, but I wanted some reassurance that I’m just freaking out over nothing.

    Thoughts/comments appreciated!

    • This is a really good question for your gyno. I recommend making an appointment to see how long before you get back on track with your cycle. It depends on the type of BC you were taking.

  13. Had my baby in february n at the hospital got a 3months injection was suppose 2go back in may and decided not 2since then i havent had my periods its been over 8months help!.

    • You really ought to go back to your doctor – I hate to say it – but we’re not official medical folks. One thing I can recommend from personal experience is that acupuncture can make a huge difference in helping you get your cycle back on track. Acupuncture doesn’t have to be expensive. Check out the community acupuncture network to see if there’s a reduced fee clinic in your area.

      https://www.pocacoop.com/

  14. Came of the pill didn’t have period for 9 months, had scans and blood test done all come back fine. 2nd period came 5 weeks later then 3 now every 2months with cramps . Me any my partner are trying for baby which I’m feeling is impossible at the moment.

  15. Hi! I went off the pill around Christmas holidays 2012 and I missed my period the month of January… Took pregnancy test and I wasn’t pregnant and I finally got my period February 17 and it ended on the 26th. I got my period again on March 7th which is way to early!! It was light and spotting so I thought it could have been implantation bleeding but now it’s getting heavier going on day 5 now. My fiancé and I are ttc how long do you think it will take for my period to regulate?? Also is there anything I can take to help speed up the process??

  16. Maria galvan says:

    I was taking birthcontrol pills for 2 months I had sex one day after my period and 1 week later I stop the birthcontrol pills I spotted for 2 days on February but march I haven’t got my period can it be possible to be pregnant or is the pill that has me delay my period

  17. Hi
    I’m very nervous. I’ve taking the pill for 2 years and decided to stop taking it. But I haven’t gotten my period an it’s been 5 months. I noticed a slight weight loss, but then a weight gain! And I’ve taken close to ten tests and all negative. I’m not sure if its my body just readjusting or what?
    Help please

    • Hi Audrey. Your best bet is to make an appointment to speak to a trained person. Planned Parenthood is always a good option, but private providers are a good option, too.

  18. Been on pill for almost 5 yrs….Decided to come off pill the week of my period, was on period for 7 days, 11 days later i’ve started again. Is this normal after coming off ortho tri cyclen?

    • Your best bet is to call your doctor. If you don’t have a regular primary care doctor, you might try making an appointment with Planned Parenthood.

  19. Hiya,
    I came off the pill in mid november 2013, I didn’t get my first real period until 1st january 2014, since then I’ve had 5 period cycles which have progressively gotten shorter. My last 2 cycles have only been 15/16 days apart, and I know i haven’t been ovulating as have been doing the home ovulation tests. Should I go to the doctor, or just wait it out?

    • Saima, thanks for you’re question. We are not medical professionals. You should speak to a clinician. Good luck!

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