How Long Does Birth Control Stay In Your System? What The Experts Say

Sometimes, when you're not ready or willing to become pregnant, birth control can save the day. You don't have to limit yourself to one form of birth control either, as there are various types to choose from. Hormonal methods include the combined birth control pill, progestin-only pill, injections, patches, vaginal rings, and implants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hormonal methods are the most effective at preventing pregnancy because they have a lower failure rate. A 2017 article published in Annals of Internal Medicine explained that hormonal birth control can also have health benefits beyond preventing pregnancy, including relieving endometriosis symptoms, minimizing heavy menstrual bleeding, and treating acne. 

Barrier methods are also options for birth control, although they're generally less effective than hormonal methods. Diaphragms or cervical caps, sponges, male and female condoms, and spermicides fall under this category. Permanent birth control, or female and male sterilization, are available for those who don't want to have children in the future. 

If you're considering birth control or are currently using it, you'll want to know what experts have to say about how long it stays in the system. It turns out that how long birth control lasts in your body has a lot to do with what method you're using. The hormones in an intrauterine device (IUD), for example, are immediately cleared from your system upon removal, as described by Ro. In contrast, the shot can linger for up to three months after your last injection.

How long birth control pills last

Oral contraceptives are the most prescribed form of birth control, according to a 2022 article published in StatPearls. Women commonly turn to the combined pill because it contains both estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone-only pills are an option for those who want to avoid the effects of estrogen. It may surprise you that neither of these pills lasts very long in the body. 

Obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Ashley Brant explained to Cleveland Clinic that many birth control methods, including the pill, will be cleared from the body after a couple of days. "That's why you take birth control pills every day — they wear off within 36 hours," she said. 

A consultant in contraception, sexual, and reproductive health, Dr. Helen Muntro, told Patient UK that it's possible for ovulation to occur within 48 hours after stopping the pill in some cases, as the pill is designed to prevent ovulation. An unplanned pregnancy could occur if one engages in unprotected sex during this period. 

One expert from the Family Planning Association, Karin O'Sullivan, told Patient UK that it may take a few months for some women to have normal periods after stopping the pill. She points out that your body may have changed from when you first started the pill, which could make your menstrual cycle look a bit different. 

Although the hormones in birth control pills don't stick around for long, Muntro noted that the combined pill can reduce the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer for decades.

How long other forms of birth control last

When it comes to other methods of birth control, how long they last varies on the type. Obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Joya Johnson told Romper that progesterone intrauterine devices (IUDs) stop preventing pregnancy as soon as they're removed. For this reason, she recommends not engaging in sexual intercourse for 72 hours before having the device removed. After it's been taken out, you should use other forms of birth control if you want to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. According to Ro, it may take up to two months for your menstrual cycle to stabilize once you no longer have your IUD. 

The Nexplanon implant also appears to not last very long in the system. Researchers have discovered that some women can become pregnant within 7-14 days after implant removal. Similar to birth control pills, the ring and the patch only provide protection for up to 48 hours after they're removed. 

Unlike the previously discussed forms of birth control, the Depo-Provera injection has a half-life of 200-250 days, so it stays in the system for a longer period of time. According to Johnson, some women may not ovulate for 7-9 months after receiving their final injection. This means that women who hope to become pregnant soon after stopping their injections may have to wait longer to conceive. In some cases, it could take as long as 18 months for menstrual cycles to return to normal, as pointed out by Ro.