Each individual wants to be involved in deciding his or her own fertility. Since the advent of the birth control pill in the 1960’s, the women’s movement worked to create a sense of autonomy of a woman towards her body, including that she should be able to decide when and how to have a child. Since then, women have taken it for granted that they are able to control (to a large extent) their fertile years. Women and men plan on how many children they want, when they want them, and how far apart they are spaced.
It can be exciting and nerve-wracking to decide to stop taking birth control and start “trying.” So how long after stopping birth control should you start trying to conceive?
If you are using the rhythm method or what is called Natural Family Planning (NFP) in order to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, you should be fertile right away. NFP is a birth control method wherein a woman becomes familiar with her ovulation each cycle, and the couple avoids having sex during her fertile time. Once you decide to start trying to conceive, you can use your knowledge of your cycles to time sexual activity for maximum impact.
If you have been using a barrier method (condom or spermicide) in order to prevent a pregnancy, you do not need to wait before starting trying to conceive, since those methods do not have any long-term impact on fertility.
Hormonal birth control pills may require a few months’ wait time between stopping the pills and starting trying to conceive. It is recommended that you use a barrier method of birth control for about three months while you wait for your cycle to regulate itself. Track your periods so that you’ll know when you ovulate.
IUD’s are another popular method of birth control; they are metal pieces that are inserted inside the cervix and prevent sperm from fertilizing the egg. A hormonal IUD is like a hormonal birth control pill sitting inside the woman’s body; once it has been removed from the body, the woman’s cycle will likely return back to normal within 3 to 6 cycles. There is also a copper IUD, which seems to work by changing the pH of the cervix to make it inhospitable to sperm (although scientists are not completely certain about how it works). The copper IUD works similar to a barrier method like a condom; thus, a woman is completely fertile as soon as the IUD is removed. Doctors do recommend, though, that a woman wait for at least one menstrual cycle to be completed before trying to conceive, to ensure that her cycle is back to normal.
Lastly, Depo Provera is a progestin shot that is injected into a woman’s body every three months. This likely has the greatest effect on a woman’s fertility. Once she stops getting the shots, there is a chance that she may be able to conceive within six months, although she may have to wait as long as 18 months before getting pregnant.
As a general rule, hormonal birth control takes longer to leave a woman’s system than non-hormonal methods. With that in mind, a woman may want to stop her hormonal birth control several months before she plans to start trying to conceive.