Saying goodbye to contraception or getting ready to start trying to conceive? There will be some strange changes to your body you should know about.
Bidding farewell to hormonal birth control (at least for the time being)? Your body could be in for some changes—both ones you may expect (hello, new menstrual cycle), and ones you may not (a vitamin deficiency?). Here's what could happen—and how you can prepare for it.
1. Your Menstual Cycle Will Change
Abnormal periods may become your new normal for a while, with more cramping and bleeding, says M. Susan Scanlon, M.D., a gynecologist at the Midwest Center for Women's Health Care in Illinois.
"[Women] often will experience breakthrough bleeding as their own hormones return to normal and ovulation resumes," she says. If it hasn't normalized within three months, check in with your doctor.
2. Your Vitamin D Levels May Drop
A recent study in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that women taking a contraceptive containing estrogen are at risk for vitamin D levels to plummet when they go off the medication. While the researchers aren't sure how suddenly levels can decrease, the authors say it's best to take a supplement. The Mayo Clinic recommends that most adults get 600 IU a day.
3. Your Thyroid Levels Can Shift
Are you on thyroid medication and birth control? Talk to your doctor about lowering your dose of your thyroid meds when you quit, as your levels of thyroxine binding globulin (TBG) should go down, says Nanette Santoro, M.D., a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
4. Your Blood Clot Risk Increases
Pay attention if you are on the ring or the patch: Your risk for clots can go up after stopping these medications. If you happen to have a surgery or infection, it's a good idea to tell your doctor when you stopped. About six weeks after you stopped your contraceptive, the risk for clots goes down, Santoro says.
5. Your Sex Drive May Go Into Overdrive—or Stall Out
Oral contraceptives affect testosterone levels, Scanlon says. Some women say their libido is suppressed on birth control, so their sex drive improves when they go off it. "On the other hand, some patients will have a decrease in libido when they stop contraception because they are fearful of getting pregnant," Scanlon adds.
6. You May Be Happier
A small 2005 Australian study found that women on oral contraceptives are nearly twice as likely to be depressed as those who aren't on a pill. A University of Copenhagen study out last month found that being on birth control was linked to experiencing depression and going on an antidepressant. So if you felt depressed while you were on a hormonal birth control, going off of it could help.