Stopping one birth control method without switching to another can affect your menstrual cycle and the return to your previous potential for pregnancy. You may also experience other effects, including mood shifts and physical changes.

Medically speaking, you generally don’t need to consult with a healthcare professional to stop most birth control methods, said Kara McElligott Park, MD, OB-GYN, a medical advisor at hormonal health company Mira.

However, it may be a good idea to do so, added Park.

Although you can stop lifestyle and barrier methods at any time without adverse effects, stopping hormonal or copper birth control use can cause various mental, emotional, and physical changes.

Hormone specialist and integrative nutritionist Alisa Vitti, author of “In the FLO” and “WomanCode,” explained that a healthcare professional can help you plan for what comes next.

This planning may include:

You can stop methods like the pill, patch, and ring immediately, simply by ceasing ingestion or removing them from your body.

The shot can continue to protect against pregnancy until 3 months pass since your last dose. There isn’t a way to interfere with the effects of the shot once your doctor gives it to you. In other words, you’ll have to let the medication run its course.

If you have a copper or hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) and experience a simple, uncomplicated insertion, you can remove your IUD at home.

Your healthcare professional can answer your questions and help you decide whether to make an appointment.

If you have an implant in your arm, it’s important to make an appointment with a healthcare professional for removal. Attempting to remove the implant at home can lead to infection, nerve damage, and other severe complications.

Hormonal birth control works by interfering with ovulation. Ovulation usually occurs halfway through the menstrual cycle when your ovary releases an egg into a fallopian tube in anticipation of fertilization.

If your ovary doesn’t release an egg — or sperm doesn’t fertilize the egg — pregnancy can’t occur. Your uterus lining sheds, resulting in menstruation. Menstruation is the first phase of the menstrual cycle.

In other words, true menstruation can’t occur without ovulation. Menstrual bleeding can return after you stop using hormonal birth control.

The copper IUD doesn’t affect your overall menstrual cycle.

If a healthcare professional prescribes hormonal birth control to treat premenstrual syndrome or menstrual irregularities, these symptoms may return after you stop using it.

That’s because hormonal birth control can only mask — not cure — these symptoms, explained Vitti.

While hormonal contraceptives may improve menstrual symptoms, the copper IUD may do the opposite. Many people experience heavier bleeding and increased cramping while using the copper IUD.

So, while your menstrual symptoms can still return to their previous pre-copper IUD state, this may seem like a net improvement.

Ovulation can return immediately after the removal of a hormonal IUD, copper IUD, or implant, said Michelle Forcier, MD, a gender-affirming clinician with virtual healthcare service FOLX.

If you use the pill, patch, or ring continuously week after week, pregnancy is possible as soon as you stop use.

But if you typically take an “off” week to allow for period-like bleeding between packs, pregnancy isn’t possible until after this 7-day window ends.

It’s difficult to pinpoint a return to fertility after stopping the shot. Some people find that their menstrual period returns within a few weeks, making pregnancy a possibility. Others experience a much longer delay.

In any case, the overall likelihood of pregnancy after you stop using birth control is the same as it was before you started, said Sophia Yen, MD, co-founder and CMO of Pandia Health, an online birth control provider.

A 2018 research review involving more than 20 studies concluded that 83% of people who stopped using birth control became pregnant within 12 months.

If you want to become pregnant or have questions about your potential for pregnancy, Vitti recommends consulting with a fertility specialist to learn more.

Hormone changes are a natural part of life. They often link with transition periods like puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, though they can happen for various reasons.

Some people find that hormonal birth control can help relieve these mood shifts. People with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), for example, often use hormonal contraception for symptom management.

Regardless of your reason for use, hormonal birth control can have a stabilizing effect on your hormone levels. But stopping hormonal birth control can abruptly lower estrogen and progesterone.

This can lead to temporary mood changes or abrupt shifts in demeanor. These effects may be more noticeable and longer lasting in people who have an underlying condition like PMDD.

In some cases, symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions worsen when using hormonal birth control. “These folks will likely feel brighter after going off the method,” said Vitti.

The copper IUD doesn’t affect your hormone levels, so it’s unlikely to cause mood changes during or after use.

Hormonal birth control links with many side effects — from fatigue and nausea to irregular periods and cramping — that can hinder your interest in sexual activity, or your libido.

Hormonal changes can also create less-than-ideal conditions for sexual desire or arousal. Many people experience vaginal dryness, pain during penetration, and decreased sensitivity when using hormonal birth control.

Side effects of the copper IUD, like heavier menstrual bleeding and cramping, may also affect your overall interest in sexual activity.

As a result, many people experience an increase in sexual desire after stopping certain contraceptives. Using condoms and other barrier methods can help prevent stress around unintended pregnancy moving forward.

Although menstrual, mood, and libido changes are the most common, they’re far from the only post-birth control possibilities.

Effects on migraine and headaches

If a doctor prescribes hormonal birth control to help manage menstrual migraine episodes and other headaches, these symptoms may return after you stop using it.

These symptoms may be more severe during the first couple of weeks as your body adjusts to the hormonal change.

Other people, however, experience migraine episodes and headaches as a side effect of hormonal contraception and experience relief upon stopping.

Many experts don’t consider migraine and headaches common side effects of the copper IUD. Removing the copper IUD doesn’t link with a change — positive or negative — in migraine episodes and other headaches.

Effects on weight

Some birth control methods may link with slight weight gain over several years of use. These include:

“These folks will likely see a decrease in weight after going off of it,” said Park.

Others, however, may see a temporary increase in bloating and weight gain after stopping hormonal or copper contraception. More research is necessary to understand why this happens.

Effects on acne

Healthcare professionals may often prescribe hormonal birth control methods to treat acne. Estrogen might reduce testosterone levels, which may lead to decreased sebum (oil) production and, subsequently, fewer breakouts.

When you stop taking hormonal birth control, you may experience a temporary surge in acne as your body adjusts to your changing hormone levels. Your breakouts may settle into a familiar routine similar to your pre-contraceptive experience.

Using or removing the copper IUD usually doesn’t link with changes in acne.

Effects on nutrition

A 2013 research review linked birth control pills to lower levels of several vitamins and minerals.

The vitamins included:

The minerals included:

Deficiencies in these nutrients can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, and low mood, all of which may be relievable post-contraceptive.

A 2016 study linked combination birth control pills to increased levels of vitamin D. Therefore, stopping the combination pill may lead to lower levels of vitamin D, so you may need to increase your dietary intake.

Thanks to the rise of online birth control services and the release of the first over-the-counter oral contraceptive, starting hormonal birth control can be easier than ever before. But stopping birth control use isn’t as straightforward usually.

Your reason for stopping may also influence how you go about it and what to expect during this process. For example, what comes may next look different in each of these scenarios:

  • navigating lifestyle changes that affect whether your current contraceptive works
  • reevaluating your threshold for unwanted side effects
  • exploring a different birth control method
  • trying to become pregnant

If you haven’t already, consider making an appointment with a healthcare professional to discuss your options.

They can help you decide when and how to stop your current method and offer recommendations to reduce unwanted side effects during this transition.

Tess Catlett is a sex and relationships editor at Healthline, covering all things sticky, scary, and sweet. Find her unpacking her inherited trauma and crying over Harry Styles on Twitter.