Getting Pregnant (Baby Making 101)

When To Stop Using Contraception

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With some forms of contraception, you can get pregnant as soon as you stop using it, but with others it can take a while for your fertility to return. Fertility experts recommend that women wait at least one month after stopping birth control and trying for a baby. This is so that women can learn more about their natural monthly cycle, which can help increase the chances of conceiving (see article on When and How Often Should I Have Sex?), assess their general health, and also help medical staff calculate due dates more accurately. Don't worry if you get pregnant sooner than this though as it won't harm your pregnancy or your baby.

Barrier form of contraception

If you're using barrier forms of contraception, such as condoms, the diaphragm, the cap, and spermicide, you can get pregnant as soon as you stop using them. You don't need to wait for a period of time after stopping using these methods of contraception and trying for a baby as there are no residual effects.

The pill

When you stop taking the pill, you can get pregnant as soon as you start ovulating again. Your monthly cycle might return as soon as you stop taking the pill, or it might take a few months to return to normal. It's quite common for women to experience long or irregular cycles for the first 2 or 3 months after stopping the pill. When you start ovulating, you can get pregnant 10-16 days before the date of your next expected period. Taking the pill doesn't have any long term effect on fertility once you start ovulating, so your normal fertility will return. It's best to finish the packet rather than to stop mid-cycle. This is because it makes dating your pregnancy easier if you get pregnant before your next period. If your periods have not returned after 3 months, see your doctor.

The mini-pill

You can stop taking the mini-pill at any time. Your normal fertility should return as soon as you stop taking it, and there's no medical reason to wait for a certain length of time before trying for a baby, (although it is advisable to wait until your first period has returned to help with dating your pregnancy.)

The contraceptive injection

There are two types of contraceptive injection: Depo-Provera, which protects you for 12 weeks, and Noristerat which protects you for 8 weeks. The injection is intended to be a long-lasting form of birth control, so although it's given every 2 or 3 months, depending on which one you have, it can take a while for your normal fertility to return. It can take up to a year after stopping having the injection for your periods to return, especially if you were taking Depo-Provera, and up to 2 years to get pregnant, although it is possible to get pregnant before your next period. If you are planning to have a family within 2 years of stopping the injection, bear this in mind when deciding when to stop the injection. You might prefer to change to a different method of contraception if you want to have a baby within this time. When you do start trying to get pregnant, don't worry if it doesn't happen straight away. Relax and give your body a chance to get back to normal.

The hormones of the injection can stay in your bloodstream for 200 days, and there have been some concerns over the health of babies who are conceived while Depo-Provera is still in the mother's body. Some reports claim they may lead to low birth weight and birth defects. However, these claims haven't been proved and remain unsubstantiated.

The contraceptive implant

The implant lasts 3 years but it can be taken out sooner. You'll need to see a doctor or nurse to have your implant removed. Once it's removed, your normal fertility will return, which means you can get pregnant before your next period. It's perfectly safe to get pregnant as soon as your implant is removed.

The coil (IUD) and IUS

Your normal fertility will return as soon as you have the coil taken out so you can get pregnant as soon as you ovulate. The coil has been associated with fertility problems. This is because women who have the coil fitted have a higher chance of getting pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in the few weeks following having the coil fitted. Having the coil fitted also increases the risk of developing PID for women who have pre-existing diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, and in women who are at risk of contracting these diseases. Most clinics screen women for infections before inserting the coil, but not all do, so make sure you get tested for pre-existing infections before having the coil fitted in order to protect your fertility.

An IUS is an intrauterine system, and works by releasing a steady stream of hormones. It lasts for 5 years but can be taken out anytime. Once it is taken out, your fertility will return to normal and you can start trying for a baby, although it's recommended you wait until after your first period so that you can date your pregnancy accurately and start pre-pregnancy care.

The patch

When you stop using the contraceptive patch, your monthly cycle may return as soon as you stop wearing it, or it could take several months for your body to ovulate again. If you're giving up your contraceptive patch, it's best to stop at the end of the patch, so you have a better idea of when to expect your period. However it's not harmful to stop mid-patch.

Make sure you take a daily folic acid supplement as soon as you start trying for a baby, as this decreases the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida. It's recommended that you start taking it a month before you start trying for a baby, and you should choose one that contains a minimum of 400 micrograms of folic acid.

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