Going off the pill — when will period come?

Originally Published: April 19, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: August 14, 2009
Share this
Dear Alice,

You are wonderful! I feel really good having you out there for me and the rest of the Columbia community. My question is short and sweet: having recently broken up with my boyfriend, I decided I wanted to try life without the pill and so I stopped. Now it has been one month and I should have gotten my period on Friday or Saturday (it is Tuesday), but I still don't feel it coming. Is everything okay? How long until my period will be regular again?

Thanks.
—M.

Dear M.,

Going off the pill, or any hormonal contraceptive, is a big switch for your body. Among other changes, it may take several weeks for your period to find its own rhythm and become a regular visitor again. Depending upon the woman, the type of pill, and the length of time you have been taking it, it may take anywhere from several weeks to several months before hormone levels regulate and allow regular menstruation to resume. In addition, if your periods were irregular before taking the pill, your periods may continue to be irregular after stopping the pill.

Generally, your period should start four to six weeks after taking your last birth control pill. If you have not begun menstruating after three months, you may have a condition called post-pill amenorrhea. Birth control pills stop your body from producing hormones that trigger ovulation (egg release) and menstruation. When you go off the pill, it can take a while for your body to re-adjust to its natural hormone production schedule. Eventually though, your regular menstrual cycle will return.

Most women will ovulate about two weeks after going off the pill. Older women, especially women who have been on the pill for a long time, may begin ovulating again more slowly. Although unusual, it is possible for a woman to get pregnant before starting to menstruate again. If you have had unprotected sex since you stopped taking the pill, or if you're worried that there's a chance you could be pregnant, then you may want to take a pregnancy test. For more information, check out Pregnancy test — how soon after sex? in the Go Ask Alice! archive.

If after several months, you are still not getting periods or if you have concerns about being pregnant, you may want to schedule a check-up with a health care provider. Columbia students can make an appointment at Primary Care Medical Services by calling x4-2284 or logging on to Open Communicator. All that being said, chances are everything is okay and your body is simply readjusting to life off the pill. Take care,

Alice