When you're considering a change to your birth control method, then it's natural to have questions. For instance, how long does it take birth control to get out of your system? The answer depends on what type of birth control you're currently using, because there's one type of BC that can stay around for much longer than the others.
In general, most birth control methods don't hang out in the body for very long after you discontinue use. In the case of hormonal birth control methods such as the pill or an IUD, it takes about 24 to 48 hours after discontinuation for the hormones to leave the body, as Tiffany Woodus M.D., F.A.C.O.G., tells Romper. Another type of hormonal birth control, Depo-Provera, is a different story. "Depo-Provera however works by continuously sending hormones into your body," Amos Grunebaum M.D., medical director of the WebMD Fertility Center, told MedicineNet. "One injection usually works for at least three months and sometimes longer. That's why after the last shot of Depo-Provera it can take up to nine to 12 months for all the hormones to get out of the body. Only when the Depo-Provera stops sending the hormones can your body regain control and start ovulating again on its own."
Once those hormones are finally gone for good, is it safe to start TTC? "There is no danger in falling pregnant immediately after ceasing birth control preparations, and this applies to both the pill and IUDs, as the hormones get metabolized and leave the body within 24 to 48 hours," Alex Polyakov M.D., Senior OB/GYN Consultant and Clinical Director at the Royal Women’s Hospital, tells Romper. However, each birth control method is a little different, so here's a more in-depth breakdown of how long they typically stay in the body.
The Pill, Patch, & Ring
In general, it takes about 24 to 48 hours after discontinuation for these hormonal types of birth control to leave the body, says Dr. Woodus. However, it may be a little while before your regular period makes an appearance. "The combined pill works by suppressing ovulation and therefore it might take a while for ovulation to resume once the pill is stopped. In some women it can take up to six months for periods to resume," says Dr. Polyakov. "On the other hand, ovulation may restart immediately and it is not uncommon for women to get pregnant without having a period after stopping the pill." If you aren't trying to conceive at the moment, then consider using another type of birth control such as an external or internal condom, or a cervical cap.
For intrauterine devices (IUDs), it takes almost no time at all. "The effects of these medications essentially stop immediately upon removal," says Dr. Woodus. "In fact, I counsel patients to abstain from intercourse for 72 hours prior to removal, especially for the IUDs." It's basically instant.
As noted above, the Depo shot is one form of birth control that can take a while to exit the system, sometimes months after the last injection. Keep this longer return time in mind if you're thinking about becoming pregnant in the near future. There are a few things to know about getting pregnant after Depo-Provera, and tricks such as charting your ovulation can help, as explained in Romper. That said, it is a reversible form of birth control, so a little time (and advice from a doctor) may be all you need.
In addition to the methods of birth control themselves, each individual's body can react differently to quitting. Age is one factor. "Metabolism (our bodies' ability to breakdown & process what we put in it) typically slows with age, so as we get older it can take our bodies longer to process any medications (including hormones), meaning the effects can last longer," says Dr. Woodus. Even other meds you're taking can have an effect. "There are also certain medications, such as some antibiotics, that interfere with the metabolism of hormonal contraceptives when taken at the same time," says Dr. Woodus. So although there's a general time frame for how long it takes birth control to leave your system, the exact time will vary a little from person to person. With this in mind, it's a great idea to address any of these concerns with your doctor, while also explaining your plans for the future (such as whether you're trying to conceive or switch to a different method of BC altogether).