Stopping contraception and signs of Ovulation

When will I start ovulating after stopping contraception?

Have you recently stopped taking contraception, or are thinking about stopping? Are you preparing your body for conception? If so, you may be curious about how long it takes for ovulation to return. 

The type of contraception you were on will impact this differently, as they work using different methods.

Barrier methods, such as condoms, do not interfere with ovulation as they work by simply blocking the sperm from reaching the uterus. So if that has been your contraception of choice, there will be no impact on your ovulation once you stop this method of contraception.

Natural Family Planning similarly does not affect ovulation, as the method involves tracking the menstrual cycle (as well as cervical mucus changes and use of ovulation tests) to determine the fertile period. 

The Intrauterine contraceptive device (i.e. IUD or copper coil) primarily works by releasing copper ions into the uterine cavity. This creates a toxic environment for sperm and inhibits sperm mobility. Ovulation is not affected, woop.

Hormonal Birth Control (i.e. the pill, patch, and IUS (e.g. Mirena coil)), works by disrupting the normal hormone cycle and, in most cases, work by inhibiting ovulation. Still, they also have other mechanisms of action. Some methods cause thickening of the cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to reach and fertilise the egg, and some can also prevent fertilised eggs from implanting in the uterus. 

When will I next ovulate?

Research shows most women start ovulating after 1 to 3 months of stopping their hormonal birth control. However, it is worth noting that you can get pregnant immediately after stopping contraception. Depending on your method of contraception, you may also become pregnant within the last week of use (e.g. with an IUS).

The use of oral contraceptives does not cause a delay in return to fertility, and it has been shown that the return of fertility in women who have stopped using oral contraceptives for the purpose of conceiving is similar to that seen with other forms of contraception. Winner.

It is worth noting that the average woman does not ovulate on day 14. Studies regularly refer to the average woman’s cycles as being 28 days long, but new research has shown that this is not the case, with the average length actually being 29.3 days. For those suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis, ovulation is likely to return within a few days after discontinuing the use of most hormonal birth control methods. If that is you, then you could experience irregular periods after stopping birth control and assume you haven’t ovulated - yet this won’t necessarily be the case.

So how do I know if I am ovulating? 

Ovulation tests are great if used correctly, and there are also physical symptoms you can track and this can help you learn more about your own body too:

Cervical Mucus 

This fluid secreted from the cervix provides invaluable insights into your menstrual cycle. During ovulation, the cervical mucus becomes wetter, clear, and slippery, resembling the texture of egg whites. You can monitor the changes in your cervical mucus by inserting a clean finger into the vagina. Over time, doing this allows you to spot your own cervical mucus patterns and helps you learn about your own body. 

Basal body temperature (BBT)

There could be a small rise in your basal body temperature as progesterone rises. This can be tracked with a thermometer, but you must track your temperature for some time to notice this small change. This method of tracking is often a secondary indicator of ovulation and is best used alongside other more accurate methods of tracking. Note: this one can also feel like hard work as accuracy and consistency are important - you must record your temperature daily upon waking and before any activity is taken (so while still laying in bed just after waking up). Still, it is a cheap and non-invasive option. 

Other Signs of Ovulation

Some women may also experience bloating, stomach cramps, mild tummy pain, and breast tenderness when ovulating, and up to 40% of women report feeling ovulation pain. Still, these cannot be taken as wholly reliable methods of detecting ovulation. Similarly, some women also experience libido changes during ovulation, with their sex drive increasing, which is mother nature's way of encouraging you to jump on the good foot and do the bad thing. However, a lot of differing factors can affect sex drive, so this, again is not an accurate way to detect ovulation. 

What’s the most accurate way to detect ovulation

One of the most accurate ways to detect an LH surge is by using ovulation tests. Remember that a positive ovulation test does not mean that you have ovulated. It shows that your body is attempting to ovulate, that your LH levels are high, and you should ovulate in the next 24-36 hours. However, this does not mean or guarantee that an egg will be released, and you can experience an LH surge without ovulation occurring. We therefore recommend combining ovulation test results with other tracking methods to help you confirm ovulation, such as BBT tracking. 

Another method of confirming an egg was released is by having a progesterone blood test. These blood tests are available privately or through your GP (if you’re under their care for initial fertility testing).

If you have recently stopped taking a hormonal contraceptive, it is worth noting it might take a while for your cycles to regulate and for you to learn what your new ‘normal cycle’ is. If you’re still experiencing an irregular cycle or haven’t had a menstrual period at all after discontinuing hormonal contraceptives, we recommend visiting your GP to discuss this further.

Key Takeaways

  • There are multiple types of birth control, but only hormonal birth control impacts ovulation and the menstrual cycle. 
  • Ovulation usually begins a few days after stopping birth control but can take 1-3 months to return to your new ‘normal’ cycle.
  • How do you best tell if you’re ovulating? A combination of tracking your own cervical mucus changes, using ovulation tests, and - where feasible - a progesterone blood test. 
  • Other ovulation symptoms include increased basal body temperature, slippery cervical mucus, and ovulation pain. 
  • There are no reports of oral contraceptives negatively impacting fertility. Winner.
  • It may take up to three months for your body to return to a ‘normal’ cycle. If you haven’t had a period or your cycle is irregular after three months, see your GP for further help.

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