For years (and maybe years) a woman may have diligently taken a pill every evening to make certain that she never became pregnant. She probably had a routine that worked like clockwork. Brush teeth, take the pill, go to bed. It became like second nature and after awhile she didn't think much of it.
Until that little pill became the one thing that stood between her and what she wanted most: a child. All of a sudden the middle step in her pre-bed routine feels as though it no longer matches with her desires for her life- and so she thinks of removing that step altogether.
This is the same story for so many women- and it naturally, before embarking on the journey to motherhood- they wonder what in the world their true fertility even looks like anymore. What signs should they be seeking to know that their body after birth control is once again ovulating? How will they know when they are most fertile? Has the pill done damage to their chances of conceiving a baby?
Other forms of birth control such as condoms and sponges are not impactful on a woman's actual menstrual cycle and so these will not be discussed in this article. We will focus mainly on the birth control pill when birth control is mentioned as this is the type of birth control method that can impact a woman's body the most.
The decision to have a child is perhaps the biggest decision a woman can make in her life. It is one that will affect her for the rest of her life, and give her the title that perhaps she's always dreamed of possessing: Mom.
Here are 15 things to know about trying to conceive after the pills have been tossed and a woman has chosen to grow her family:
15 Your Fertility Might Be Different Now
Depending on how long a woman has been taking the pill for, her fertility after discontinuing its use might be different. This is not due to the pill itself, but other factors such as her age and lifestyle. If she's been taking the pill for 15 years for example, her fertility at age 20 will look different from her fertility at 35.
This does not mean all is lost or that she will be unable to conceive. It simply means that her fertility and her body might have changed during this time period and she might need to get to know her cycle better than before in order to get pregnant.
There are certain signs ( that will be discussed later in the article) that can alert a woman to her impending fertile days (the days she is most likely to conceive). These signs can also be used to prevent pregnancy as well, if a chemical form of birth control is no longer desired.
The female body has a distinct natural rhythm that becomes predictable for each woman (provided she is healthy and has no reproductive disorders) and allows her to know her own bodily functions intimately.
14 Your Fertility Will Probably Return Right Away
According to Parents.com, the birth control pill will be out of your system pretty much as soon as you stop it. Some doctors recommend that a woman wait a month after quitting the pill to allow her body to readjust to the full menstrual cycle again of releasing an egg and shedding uterine lining (an egg is not released while on the pill).
It is up to each woman to decide when to begin trying to conceive after she stops taking the pill, but she should be aware that she will be able to get pregnant as soon as its use been discontinued.
This is great news for those women that want to get started on trying to conceive immediately. There is no real reason to hold off on the conception process, but it is also good for a woman to be aware that it might take her body a month or two to figure out its natural process of fertility once again.
Knowledge of how long her cycles are on average can provide her with vital information regarding her fertility. Too short of a cycle can make getting pregnant nearly impossible, and and too long of a cycle can be a tricky thing to deal with as well. This is why knowledge of how her body works is so important.
13 Injectable Methods May Prolong Return of Fertility
Injectable birth controls such as Depo-Provera can have long lasting effects on the return of fertility. The method will stop being a reliable form of birth control after three months, but will remain in the muscle for much longer. According to Parents.com, the median return to fertility after discontinuing its use is 10 months, and a woman's fertility will be completely restored in 18 months.
This is something to consider if planning to conceive and a woman has already had an injection of Depo-Provera. Though it is certainly possible to get pregnant after the three months the injection is reliable for, a woman's fertility cycle is likely to be unpredictable for some time after.
Prior to dispensing this long lasting treatment, most physicians will ask about a woman's reproductive plans and give her information that will help her decide whether an injectable form of birth control is really the right choice for her. If a woman has questions about her fertility after this type of birth control she should ask them prior to receiving it and of course do enough research on the method to confirm her decision.
12 Many Women Can Feel Ovulation
While it might seem impossible to feel the moment an egg is released, many women report being able to feel ovulation. It might feel like a sharp pinch in the side, or a dull ache in the woman's lower pelvis. It is called "Mittelschmerz," which refers to the pain a woman might feel when an egg is released.
A woman can get to know her fertility signs so well that she is able to predict ovulation and have sex in the days leading up to it (sperm can live in the fallopian tubes for up to five days!). In fact, having sex a few days prior to ovulation more than once can certainly improve a woman's chance of conception.
Most eggs survive 6 to 12 hours after ovulation, though it is wise to assume that they survive for a 24-48 hour period (in the event that multiple eggs are released- hello twins!) to be safe if utilizing this knowledge to prevent conception instead of to conceive. This is why knowing when ovulation is arriving and have sex beforehand is so important to being able to conceive.
A woman must catch the egg, so to speak, in the 6 to 12 hour window that it is alive. If the sperm is already there waiting for the egg to descend, then half the battle is won!
11 Cervical Secretions Say it All
While a woman is taking birth control, she most likely isn't paying much attention to the status of her cervical mucus. Here's the thing- cervical mucus is incredibly important to getting pregnant. Basically, one might think that just because sperm and egg are present, that a pregnancy will occur.
What no one really considers is- how does the sperm reach the egg? If the sperm is placed in a dry vaginal desert-like environment, its ability to reach the egg is severely reduced. Sperm needs a carrier fluid that will help it to do as Dory the fish says and "just keep swimming."
A woman's cervical mucus changes through the month. It ranges from being thick,white, and sticky (infertile days) to thin, clear, and stretchy (fertile days). Cervical mucus that resembles egg whites (thin, clear, and stretchy) is what a woman wants to have if she is hoping to conceive. It will usually appear in the days prior to, and during ovulation.
A woman can usually see it when she uses the restroom, or if she is digitally examining her cervix for signs of ovulation as well. This egg white cervical mucus aides the sperm as it makes its journey to the fallopian tubes. Without a carrier fluid, the sperm are unable to get very far.
Certain lubricants can help with this if there is a lack of fluid, though many of them actually kill sperm. Lubricants such as Pre-Seed are designed to be a replacement for lacking egg white cervical mucus.
10 Cervical Position Matters
During a woman's monthly cycle, things are happening that she is completely unaware of. Her cervix is changing positions within her due to a change in the level of estrogen her body is producing. When a woman is not experiencing her fertile days, her cervix is situated low, is firm, and its opening is closed.
When she is preparing for ovulation, her cervix becomes high, soft, and slightly opened, to allow sperm to pass through. Though a woman is unable to feel these changes from the outside, it is possible to determine cervical position by an internal examination that a woman performs herself with her fingers.
Cervical position, combined with the presence of egg white mucus provide a very promising environment for sperm to thrive in. They are able to freely reach their destination, and hopefully find an egg along the way. The cervix can be found about 3 to 6 inches within the vagina. It is the inner canals of the cervix that produce the mucus which aides in the travel of sperm.
Once a woman is aware of the many changes her body goes through during her fertile days, it is hard to miss the signs. Taking birth control can inhibit all of these signs and symptoms, so it is common for a woman to be unaware of what to look for every month.
9 A Thermometer is a Girl's Best Friend
Another way a woman can be certain she has ovulated is by taking her basal body temperature (BBT) every morning at the same time. It is usually best to get a digital thermometer, and take the temperature before a woman gets out of bed for the day, as too much activity can make the reading inaccurate.
A woman's body temperature will stay pretty much the same throughout her monthly cycle, except when she has ovulated in the past 24- 48 hours. This is why it is important that if she is trying to conceive, she has already had sex before ovulation. By the time her temperature shows an increase, it is too late to then begin having sex in order to conceive.
A woman's BBT will stay elevated for two to three days after ovulation and then will dip a bit right before she begins to menstruate. If her temperature remains elevated, and she is not sick, this is a sign she may have conceived that month. Charting BBT as well as cervical mucus can help a woman to understand her fertility in a new way.
Charting BBT can also be used to avoid conception, but until a woman understands her unique pattern of rising and falling temperatures, it is best to use a backup method of contraception.
This may seem like a lot of work to figure out when a woman has ovulated, but once it has been used regularly and a woman sees the patterning of her cycle, it is much more accurate than the guessing game of ovulation tests.
8 Menstruation Might Be Different
For many women a hormonal birth control will lighten her monthly cycles and lessen her cramps. This might even be one of the main draws for her to take the pills. Once the pill is out of her body however, menstruation will once again be what it was for her prior to birth control. This means that the heavy flow days and painful cramps will most likely return with her fertility.
No woman wants to experience a painful monthly cycle, and for some women it's more serious than pain alone. For women with endometriosis, taking birth control pills that are hormonal in nature helps to reduce the painful symptoms of the disorder. Pills are usually taken continuously for these women, with no inactive pills to simulate a period. When birth control pills are stopped for women with endometriosis, symptoms of the disorder will unfortunately return.
Medications such as Ibuprofen can help to ease the symptoms of cramping, bloating, and pain associated with painful periods. Some women find that warm or hot baths, exercise, and resting more than usual are also helpful to alleviate symptoms of menstruation. It is important for a woman to know what works best for her, and to use this knowledge as a tool to help her get through menstruation each month.
7 PMS Will Return
For some women Premenstrual Syndrome may have never gone away when taking the pill, but for others, it actually helped to soften the mood swings associated with fluctuating monthly hormones. Whether a woman is irritable in the week before her period or not, I think we can all agree that for everything women go through, she has every right to be.
This is where it is extremely important for a woman to be aware of her tendency to be more irritable, so that she can become aware (and make others aware (particularly those living with her) of her triggers. Maybe on those days that feel more overwhelming than others she can take some extra time for herself, and do what brings her joy.
Especially if a woman is trying to conceive and is not successful on the first month (or 7) of trying, the arrival of a period every month might be a reminder of her disappointment. Let's be honest, when we are trying to get pregnant and instead get our period, no one really wants to be around us.
It is important to feel our feelings and allow ourselves to grieve the disappointment each month. Struggling to keep emotions in check when trying to conceive is a difficult battle, but it can be extremely helpful for a woman if she has a supportive partner that shares in her disappointment and can assure her that eventually, she will be holding a positive pregnancy test.
6 Medications Matter
While taking a birth control pill a woman is most likely not considering too heavily the impact of medications on an unborn baby, or her fertility, for that matter. Once the pill is no longer preventing pregnancy however, this is something she will need to seriously consider.
What medications is she taking? Are any of them contraindicated for pregnancy? It is a good idea for a woman to look carefully at medications she is currently taking and toss any that come with a warning about pregnancy or breastfeeding. Running any medications by her doctor is a must-do as well, as some medicines that do not have labels can be dangerous for unborn babies.
Natural remedies can also have hidden dangers for a pregnant woman, especially in the very beginning stages of pregnancy. Some herbs and vitamins can actually induce miscarriage, so it is incredibly important for a woman to not only monitor everything that she takes when she may be trying to conceive, but also research new foods and vitamins to ensure they are safe to take. She should also ALWAYS ask her physician before trying any new natural vitamin or herb routine.
The life of a woman that has decided to have a baby will be forever changed once she conceives and has another life to consider within her. Medication is only a part of the new considerations she will have.
5 Drive Might Be Different
Many hormonal birth controls repress the sex drive for women taking them. A woman's sex drive will likely increase during her most fertile times, a built in guarantee that the human race will continue. For many women this is a positive and not a negative, and for their partners as well! Having sex with the intention to conceive can become a chore and more about timing than romance and spontaneity. It is one of the least talked about things about trying to have a baby.
Many husbands of women who want to conceive can feel annoyed as well at their wife's new rules for when they will have sex and the intricate timing that in her mind (and reality) might make all of the difference. It is important that men educated themselves on the conception process as well so that they can be supportive to their partners. Nothing is more attractive to a woman than a man that knows how to take basal body temperature and knows what days his woman is most fertile!
Luckily for most women, chances are with birth control out of the picture they will be more likely to feel like being intimate, and it will make the entire process of trying during the right time easier. All of the desire that may have seemed elusive before will now be easily accessible.
4 Everyone Will Have an Opinion
If a woman lets others in on the news that she and her partner have decided to try for a baby, she will most likely be inundated with tips and tricks for having a boy or girl, and advice that while well meaning, might be offensive or shocking. There's always a great aunt that will insist that her niece listen to the story of her own attempts to conceive, or her recommendation of an herb that made her fertile.
Depending on how open she is with her reproductive plans, a woman might end up with advice from anyone and everyone that hears about them. It is bad enough to hear the popular "When will children come into the picture?" question, but once a woman is actively trying it is almost as though there is a smoke signal sent out to the world of nosy neighbors and relatives.
A helpful response for a woman given unwanted advice might be a simple smile, nod, and "Thank you, I had never considered that." This response does a few things, it thanks the adviser, as well as makes them wonder if the woman had never considered the advice because of its actual validity, or if she really had never heard of it to begin with. It is ok to leave nosy people wondering which one it is, and a smile and nod never harmed anyone, right?
3 Indecision is Okay
Sometimes when a woman makes the decision to go off of birth control, it can feel like a big step. Having a child is no small decision, and it is one that will affect the woman and her partner (and the child in question) for the rest of their lives. It is completely normal to feel nervous or indecisive about whether the correct choice was made.
Even in the time it takes to begin the process of trying to conceive and then wait for a pregnancy test to be able to be accurate, a woman can begin to doubt her decision to become a mother.
Is it the right timing? Is there enough financial stability in place to support a child and all it will need? Is the relationship with the father strong enough to handle the extra stress of parenthood? What is driving the decision to become parents? All of these questions are valid questions for possible parents to ask themselves.
Becoming a parent will never feel like an easy decision, or one in which the timing feels perfect. The truth is, the timing to have a baby is never perfect. It can be better than other times, perhaps, but it is never perfect. As a friend once said "When will I EVER be ready to be woken up several times a night and endure the pain of labor? Never." That friend just had her third child. She has learned what all of us mothers have learned- the time is never perfect to have a baby, but it is worth it if motherhood is what you want.
2 Disappointment Can Be Part of it
For a woman who finds herself getting her period month after month of trying to get pregnant- it can be extremely disappointing and even depressing. Every month she stalks her ovulation like a lion stalks a gazelle, and every month the period appears and leaves her wondering if a baby is in the future or not.
Trying to conceive can seem like a fun adventure at first that a woman is embarking on with her partner. Sex with a purpose! Will they or won't they? It all feels very new and exciting and like life could change at any moment for the better.
After a while though, the excitement fades, and worry begins to take root. Is there something wrong? Why is it taking so long? Friends that began trying at the same time have all gotten pregnant, and it can feel as if the whole world (Okay, maybe just Facebook) has gotten a positive pregnancy test.
Trying to get pregnant is not for the faint of heart. It can take awhile. Most doctors recommend that if a woman is not pregnant after actively charting her cycle and trying for six months that she contact a physician for further testing. This can feel like failure for a woman that wants to conceive without any extra assistance, but the truth is, the sooner she finds out if there is an issue, the sooner it can be resolved, and the sooner she can hold her baby.
1 It's Worth It
So after this long list of what a woman should know as she tosses the pill and embarks on a path to parenthood- this is what she should really know. It's worth it. If she's struggling to get pregnant and can't remember why she decided to even try in the first place? It's worth it. If she's gotten pregnant right away and now feels unsure and scared? It's worth it. If she didn't even plan to get pregnant and yet somehow did? It's worth it.
I cannot promise the road to trying to have a baby will be a smooth and painless one, but what I can promise is that once a baby is held in the arms of its mother, there are no regrets about any of it. The pain, the purpose, the wondering- it all feels like preparation that has led to the moment of becoming a mother.
Somehow, as women, we tend to debate ourselves to death- so intent on making the right decision. We make lists upon lists and detail pros and cons about life- as if it can be charted simply and always goes according to plan. The truth is that life is messy and life changing decisions can feel uncertain. The safety net is that where there is love, there is always a way, and somehow it all just works out.
Babies are basically love wrapped in a blanket, and bring with them the overwhelming gift of joy and re-discovered purpose. Babies don't fix every problem, but they certainly are not one to be fixed. Be confident in your decision to have a child. It is always worth it.