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Houston Fertility Journal

Does Birth Control Impact Fertility

[fa icon="calendar"] Dec 8, 2016 12:35:41 PM / by Center of Reproductive Medicine   

Center of Reproductive Medicine

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If you have been having difficulty getting pregnant, it’s possible you are wondering, “maybe my birth control has something to do with it.” It’s not a crazy thought, and many women don’t take birth control because they are afraid it will result in this very issue.

There is a lot of stuff floating around the internet, as well, and you may have come across a fearful rant or two confirming that these concerns you are having are a reality. The fact of the matter is, unless you are part of “a few notable exceptions, immediately after you stop using birth control, your fertility will go right back to where it was destined to be,” says Paul Blumenthal, MD, MPH, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at The Stanford University Medical Center.

There are a few different types of contraceptives these days, and they have their own unique ways of effecting the body. Below is an exploration of the different types and what impact they may have on fertility.

Birth Control Pills & Your Body

The majority of birth control pills use synthetic hormones that closely resemble estrogen and progesterone. They are responsible for stopping ovulation before it starts through their communication with the brain. The brain responds to these ‘hormone’ signals by decreasing the production and release of follicle stimulating hormones and luteinizing hormones.

These are the main instigators in the maturation and ovulation process. The hormones from the birth control pills also affect the lining of the uterus in such a way that embryo implantation is no longer possible and cause the mucus in the cervix to be too hostile for the sperm to pass through.

Birth Control Pills & Fertility

No matter how long you have been taking the pill, most women go back to their normal menstrual cycle within 1 to 2 months once they have stopped. Yet, different women experience different things. Some believe birth control made their periods more regular and was therefore responsible for their ability to conceive, while others will say that have had the complete opposite results.

Yet, recent studies show that “by 3 months post-pill, nearly 99 percent of women got their period or became pregnant”. There have been rare cases of post-pill amenorrhea -- when it takes months to get your period after stopping the pill -- but those have mostly been attributed to separate health issues of the individual.

Additionally, oral contraceptives are actually said to be good for fertility because:

  • they lower your chances of getting uterine and ovarian cancer
  • they suppress the symptoms of endometriosis, which causes fertility problems
  • if you plan on getting in vitro fertilization (IVF), birth control pills provide “necessary synchronization among follicle growth, increasing the number of mature eggs”
  • If you plan to do IVF and have irregular periods, the pill will make them more regular, therefore your doctor will know when to begin the treatment cycle
  • women who are freezing their eggs may use birth control to manipulate their cycle, as well, so they know the best time to retrieve the egg

IUD and Other Hormonal Contraceptives

Intrauterine Devices (IUD) are starting to resurface once more now that science has declared them safe. In the 1980s, many reports claimed IUDs caused pelvic inflammatory disease, which could cause infertility. It has been recently discovered that the issue was not the IUD, but exposure to STDs. Fertility returns to the body after taking out the IUD almost as quick as it does when ceasing to use birth control pills.

Depo-Provera, which is injected every 3 months to prevent ovulation, is meant for women who are not planning on having a family anywhere within the near future. It takes a while to leave the system because it’s deposited into the muscle. It takes up to 10 months after the last shot for the body to return to normal fertility, though some have gotten pregnant as soon as 3 months after.

The patch, which delivers hormones through the skin, and the ring, are both still too new and there isn’t enough data yet to give any conclusive facts on the matter.

While in most cases your body will return to the way it was before, your fertility is still susceptible to things other than contraceptives. Your age has changed, or you may have taken up smoking. If you find that you are experiencing irregularities in your menstrual cycle a few months after you stop birth control, it can’t hurt to visit your gynecologist to explore possible options. If you are considering taking birth control before starting your family, have no fear, it will not take away your ability to have one in the future.

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Topics: Health, Fertility, Birth Control

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