A popular belief is that birth control can have long-term effects on fertility. This is not true. One large study evaluated women who had been using birth control for 7 years. After stopping birth control, 21% of these women were able to get pregnant within the first month, and almost 80% were able to conceive within a year. So why does the myth persist that birth control affects fertility?
While being on birth control does not lead to infertility, there is some confusion on the topic. Here are 4 facts to know about fertility when stopping birth control.
Some women who stop taking birth control may experience a delay in returning to normal ovulation and menstruation. Most women resume a normal menstrual cycle within a month after stopping birth control. Women who take longer than this may want to consult an OB-GYN or fertility specialist to check for any underlying health conditions or problems.
One of the benefits of taking birth control can be a regular, predictable menstrual cycle. However, sometimes this can mask menstrual irregularities. If a woman has amenorrhea, bleeds irregularly, or has heavy periods, these issues can all contribute to infertility. Once a woman stops taking birth control, these irregularities may become apparent, making conception more challenging.
Some women who take birth control may be less likely to use condoms. While condoms, IUDs, and the pill all prevent pregnancy, only condoms protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Many STIs that are left untreated, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, can lead to problems with fertility. Women who are on birth control should still use condoms to protect against STIs in situations where infection may be a risk. Women should also get tested regularly for STIs and treated immediately if an STI is found.
While research has shown that no type of birth control has adverse effects on fertility, there are some types of birth control that can actually improve fertility. One study showed that women who used oral contraceptives for 5 years prior to trying to get pregnant were more likely to conceive within 6 months of going off the pill. Researchers believe this could be due to the reduction of the effects of endometriosis and improvements in iron stores in women. However, other factors such as age, lifestyle, and overall health also have a strong effect on fertility.
Women who want to get pregnant should consult with a healthcare provider regarding the effects of stopping birth control and how long getting pregnant may take. Couples struggling with infertility can speak with a fertility specialist for diagnoses and treatment options.