When can I stop using contraception?

When you reach your 40s or 50s and start hearing more about menopause, you might wonder if it means you can stop using contraception. Or maybe you’re wondering if there are any risks related to using contraception as you get older.

So here we explain the basics of contraception in your 40s, 50s and beyond!

Stopping contraception

When you reach menopause, you can stop using contraception. Menopause is defined as having gone 12 months without a period. Or, you can stop using contraception when you’re 55. Even if you’re still having periods, it’s very unlikely you’ll get accidentally pregnant at this stage.

But if you’re not yet at menopause, what should you do? Current national guidelines recommend that at 50 years old, you stop using combined hormonal contraception like the pill, the patch and the ring. And the progestogen only injection is not recommended at this age either.

This is because some of the health risks, like the increased chance of developing blood clots or having a stroke, start to outweigh the benefits. You do not want to put your health at risk for birth control. So we suggest switching your contraception to a progestogen only method, like the progestogen only pill or the implant, or a method without hormones, like the non-hormonal coil.

Using the coil

Because the hormonal and non-hormonal coil can work for many years, the guidelines on when to stop using these are slightly different.

Whichever type of coil you have, you should have it removed when you reach 55. If a coil is left in place for too long, it increases the risk of infection.

The non-hormonal coil, also known as the copper coil or Cu-IUD, can be used until you reach menopause, as long as you had it fitted when you were 40 or over.

The 52mg hormonal coil, also called the LNG-IUD or Mirena coil, can be used up to 55 if you had it fitted when you were 45 or older.

Always check with the clinician who fitted your coil for advice on when you need it removed, because the guidance can change.

Contraception and menopause

If you’re using hormonal contraception through your 40s and 50s, it will not affect the start of menopause symptoms or how long they last. But it can mask some of the signs and make it hard to know when you’re reaching menopause.

For example, if you do not regularly have a period because of your contraception, or it causes a very light bleed, it can be hard to notice changes to your natural period.

Whether or not you’ve stopped contraception or reached menopause, it's important to get any changes to your bleeding - like bleeding after sex, new bleeding outside of your monthly cycle, or bleeding that’s unusual in any way - checked out. You can always speak to your GP or your local sexual health clinic to assess any bleeding or sexual health symptoms.

It’s also important to know that if you start using HRT (hormone replacement therapy) for menopause or perimenopause symptoms, this will not work as contraception.

Don’t forget STIs

If you’re sexually active, no matter your age, you need to look after your sexual health. Even if there’s no risk of pregnancy, you can get an STI at any age. Use condoms to protect yourself and your partner, and test for STIs when appropriate.

Written by Hel Burrough. Senior Content Designer, SH:24 and Fettle
Reviewed by Helen Burkitt. Senior Sexual Health and Contraception Nurse
Published on: 08 May 2024