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Can Prolonged Use of Birth Control Pills Cause Infertility?
February 26, 2013
Many women diagnosed with infertility reflect back on the number of years spent preventing pregnancy with birth control and wonder if they somehow caused their infertility with prolonged contraception use. What they may not understand, however, is that contraceptives are a synthetic version of the hormones already produced in their bodies, and ovulation resumes within a few months of discontinuing use of birth control pills in the absence of an underlying infertility condition.
Can Birth Control Pills Cause Infertility?
Birth control pills have been available by prescription for more than 60 years and have extensive scientific data to support the safety and efficacy of oral contraceptives. Fernando Gomez, M.D. of the Reproductive Medicine Institute in Orlando, Florida, says there is no scientific evidence that birth control pills cause infertility. “This idea is a common misconception of patients using birth control pills for prolonged periods of time. Birth control pills are the most effective reversible therapy to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. In fact, since birth control pills inhibit ovulation, some studies have suggested that the use of birth control pills may have a positive effect on preserving women’s ovarian reserve, the number of eggs available for ovulation,” Gomez advises.
Birth control pills contain the hormones estrogen and progesterone which send signals to the brain to stop producing follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) which would cause eggs to mature and ovulate in a natural cycle. The effects of these hormones cause the uterine lining to remain thin (not receptive to embryo implantation), and cause cervical mucus to be too hostile of an environment for sperm to swim toward the cervix.
When Should I Stop Taking Birth Control to Conceive?
Many women will experience normal cycles within one to three months after stopping birth control pills, though it could take six months to one year for a woman to conceive with well-timed intercourse. “In about 10% of patients the resumption of normal ovulatory cycles may take up to 6-12 months. Therefore, the suppression of ovulation by the birth control pills is completely reversible, without long standing difficulties in achieving a pregnancy after discontinuing birth control therapy. About 80% of couples do conceive after 12 months of unprotected intercourse”, states Gomez.
If a woman under the age of 35 has been trying to conceive for one year after discontinued use of birth control and has not gotten pregnant, or a woman over the age of 35 has been trying to conceive for one year without getting pregnant, it may be time to consult a fertility doctor. Dr. Gomez recommends that women over the age of 35 seek the assistance of a fertility doctor sooner, and pursue a more aggressive fertility treatment approach due to the effects of age on fertility like diminished ovarian reserve, high FSH, and low Anti-mullerian Hormone (AMH).