Let’s be honest: being able to control your menstrual cycles and your reproductive future is a big deal! It’s absolutely incredible what birth control can do for women and the decisions that are now in their hands as a result.
Birth control in the form of an intrauterine device (IUD), the pill, a shot, or an implant, may affect your hormone levels, although that is not always the case. With that, there are a lot of questions about whether or not they are truly safe for women desiring to get pregnant in the future and whether or not they affect fertility. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions floating around that we want to address to put you at ease, whether you are on birth control currently or are doing your research because you think you want to be.
Misconceptions about the Effects of Birth Control on a Woman’s Fertility
Many misconceptions around birth control and fertility stem from outdated information. Others may be based on fears that aren’t founded on science. We’ll address some of these, but know that if you ever have questions our team is ready and able to answer them! The answers we lay out here are generic in nature and meant to inform, but our team of medical professionals can help answer specific questions you have relating to your health and history.
The Length of Time on Birth Control Doesn’t Affect the Ability to Get Pregnant
Many women believe that the longer they are on birth control, the less likely they are to get pregnant because it will be more difficult for their body to conceive. The truth is that once you discontinue hormonal contraception, your level of fertility quickly returns to what it would have been without medication. So, if you experience a long wait time before you get pregnant, or you are experiencing infertility after having been on birth control, this means that your body would have naturally experienced these issues even if you hadn’t been on birth control. Most women find that they are able to have a healthy pregnancy within 6 months of trying. Take a look at these medical and lifestyle factors that could be contributing to your fertility woes.
Modern IUDs Don’t Cause Infertility
The Dalkon Shield IUD is to blame for the misconception that IUDs lead to infertility. It was a commonly used IUD in the 70s that was known for causing severe pelvic infections and infertility. However, modern IUDs do not have the same side effects or harmful results as IUDs in the 70s. They have updated designs and have been tested and refined to ensure they don’t harm women or affect their ability to reproduce.
Understanding the Long Term Effects of Birth Control
There are differences in hormonal birth control methods and how they may affect your body over time. For example, some women find that they take much longer to get pregnant after a birth control shot versus prolonged usage of birth control pills. IUDs seem to have less of a long-term effect and women tend to get pregnant more quickly after having them removed. Similarly, contraceptive rings have shown to have a quicker bounceback to normal periods after their use is discontinued.
Effects of the Pill
There are two types of pills that are used as contraception- the combination pill and the ‘mini’ pill.
Combination Pill: The combination pill contains both progesterone and estrogen. When it is taken correctly, it is 99% effective. When you discontinue usage, you should see your natural cycle begin within 1-3 months.
“Mini Pill”: The mini pill functions similarly to the combination pill in that it thins your uterus lining and prevents ovulation. When you discontinue usage, your body will start re-establishing a thick lining that is needed to conceive. Your natural cycle should begin within a few months of discontinued use.
If you are a woman over the age of 35 using the pill as your hormonal birth control method, it is recommended that you discuss this with your doctor. Although the pill can’t cause infertility, it can cause blood clots later in life if it’s taken for an extended period of time.
Effects of IUDs, Vaginal Rings, Contraceptive Patches, and Injections
IUDs are used by approximately 10% of women in the United States. They have a mechanical effect that makes implantation difficult and have hormones that will cause your cervical mucus to thicken and your womb lining to thin out. After it is removed, you should experience menses within the first month and have a healthy return to a normal menstrual cycle within three months.
Vaginal rings and contraceptive patches are newer methods of birth control. There is less research on their long-term effects, but they work similarly to that of the pill. Available data from studies suggest that they are equally safe, and women have found that they have regular menstrual cycles within three months of discontinued use.
Contraceptive injections (shots) are a birth control method that is repeated every three months and is a popular choice among women who don’t want to have to remember to take a pill every day. Unfortunately, these are what lead to many women thinking they are infertile, as it can take a woman’s body up to a year to re-establish a consistent menstrual cycle. This birth control method is only recommended if you don’t want to get pregnant in the near future.
What to Do If You Aren’t Getting Pregnant After Using Birth Control
Studies have shown that:
- 21% of healthy women are able to get pregnant within one cycle of discontinued birth control use
- 79% of healthy women are able to get pregnant within one year of discontinued birth control use
- Women over the age of 35 have a much more difficult time getting pregnant (due to age, not use of birth control)
If you were on birth control and aren’t able to conceive, it’s likely that your body was always going to experience that struggle, even if you hadn’t used birth control. Sometimes, birth control can disguise irregular menstrual cycle patterns and underlying issues that aren’t made apparent until you discontinue the use of birth control.
Keep in mind that most couples are given 12 months as a normal timeframe in which they should expect to be pregnant, so there’s no need to be worried if you aren’t getting pregnant right away. If you’ve gone longer than a year with natural or irregular periods after discontinued birth control use and haven’t gotten pregnant, that’s a good indicator it’s time to talk to a fertility specialist about your options.
Talk with a Fertility Specialist
You aren’t the only woman wondering which birth control to use (if any). Speaking with a fertility specialist can help you narrow down your options and choose the right contraceptive for your present and future needs. Our fertility experts work hard to ensure you are well informed about your options and are always ready to talk! Schedule an appointment with us by contacting the office nearest to you.