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Birth Control: Does contraception affect future fertility?

Does Birth Control Lead to Infertility?

Most couples in Australia believe the misconception that birth control can harm fertility, but this isn’t true. Women who use hormonal birth control are likely to conceive just like those who haven’t used the contraceptives.

A study involving 3727 participants was done over three years and revealed that using oral contraceptives for a long time doesn’t affect one’s capability to conceive in the future. Actually, women who have used a combination of progestin and estrogen birth control pills for over three years were found to be more fertile than those who haven’t used the contraceptives for long.

Like other oral medications, research shows that there isn’t any impact on future fertility with the rest of the hormonal contraceptives. So whether you opt to use an intrauterine device (IUD), patch, vaginal ring, birth control pills, injection, or implant, you can still get pregnant later and will not be affected by any of these birth control methods that have been authorized in Australia.

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Birth control fertility misconceptions

If the authorized hormonal contraceptives do not affect fertility, why do most Australian couples still believe this myth? Here are some possible reasons why.

Fertility delay with hormonal birth control

If you have been using hormonal birth control, your menstrual cycle should return to normal in 90 days after stopping, if not sooner. Factors like the body and contraceptives will determine the actual time your menstruation or fertility returns. If you experience some delays, it may be easy to assume that birth control adversely affects you, even if that’s not the case.

Usually, women experience a short-term fertility delay that may last for 2-6 months after coming off the oral contraceptives. IUDs, patches, implants, and rings may also cause a delay for about 2-4 months before fertility returns.

You may experience a long fertility delay if you have just stopped using the contraceptive shots, also known as Depo-Provera. According to experts in the medical field, it will take about ten months on average for you to conceive after your last injection. But this period can even take up to 31 months or two and a half years, depending on your body. Note that this long wait isn’t an average duration, so you may need to consult with your health care provider about the contraceptive options if you intend to get pregnant soon.

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When it comes to oral contraceptives, you may experience a long delay of your menses that can last up to six months. The lack of ovulation isn’t likely caused by the birth control pills you are taking, but an underlying health condition causes it. For this reason, you should inform your provider that you have not been ovulating after stopping birth control pills or if your cycles are absent or irregular. The chances are that they will run some fertility tests to determine why you are not ovulating normally.

Masked health conditions & Birth Control

When you start taking birth control, the contraceptives will override your body’s natural hormonal cycles and forms a fake menstrual cycle, which may include signs like withdrawal bleeding that most women assume to be periods. The medical hormone cycle that is created can mask underlying issues. This means that even if a woman has a particular health condition causing anovulation, the new birth control cycle will make it look like they have a regular menstrual cycle.

Simply put, if you have had irregular periods before starting birth control, you will most likely experience the same after you stop taking the contraceptives. Once you discontinue birth control, you may discover other reproductive problems that were preventing you from conceiving.

An example of health conditions that may result in irregular ovulation or anovulation include:

  • High levels of stress
  • Obesity
  • Low body weight
  • Premature ovarian failure
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hyperprolactinemia(too much production of prolactin hormone)
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome(PCOS)

If you wait too long to address any of these underlying health conditions, you will also take longer to conceive. Therefore when you experience heavy bleeding, lack of menstruation, or irregular cycles, you should talk to your health care professional.

Endometrial lining & Birth Control

Another reason why women believe that using contraceptives for an extended period can affect fertility involves the endometrium and the lining. This is where the embryo gets implanted after fertilization. Although research shows the relationship between birth control usage and endometrial lining, there aren’t any definitive studies that suggest fertility problems.

A study conducted by obstetrics and gynecology revealed that women who have used birth control pills for more than five years are more likely to have a thinner endometrial lining. If the endometrial lining is thin, it may be difficult for the embryo to be implanted, reducing the chances of pregnancy.

However, it’s vital to remember that the 137 participants of this study were already seeking help from infertility clinics and preparing for frozen embryo transfer. The women were getting in vitro fertilization or IVF, meaning that the results might not apply to people with average fertility.

While the researchers concluded that long-term use of oral birth control pills might increase IVF cycle cancellation risk because of endometrial lining thinning, the pregnancy rates were similar between groups with a thinner and thicker endometrial lining.

Provided you can complete your IVF cycle, the probability of getting pregnant may be around the same as someone who hasn’t used birth control pills.

If you have not conceived

If you have stopped using birth control pills and your cycles have returned to normal, but you are not conceiving as expected, you may find yourself in a difficult position. You will wonder if the contraception pills affected your fertility, but this is not necessarily the case.

There are various reasons why women may struggle to conceive. Infertility issues affect about 12% of couples, and both women and men may experience fertility problems whether they have used hormonal birth control or not.

What are long term effects of birth control?
What are the long term effects of contraceptives?

So if you do not conceive after about a year (or within six months if you are 35 years and older), consider talking to your healthcare provider. When you delay testing or getting the proper treatment, you may minimize your pregnancy odds.

How to prevent pregnancy without using hormonal birth control

While research shows that hormonal birth control does not cause infertility, you may experience other side effects or risks associated with these contraceptives. This is why some women in Australia prefer not to use contraceptives. Will you be able to prevent pregnancy! Of course, yes!

You can consider non-hormonal birth control options such as the barrier method to avoid pregnancy without interfering with your hormones. These options include using contraception like cervical caps, condoms, and diaphragms.

Conclusion

You will likely have many questions, whether you are wondering which kind of contraceptive you should use or have just come off hormonal contraception. Although the return of your menstrual cycle after you stop using hormonal contraception may be delayed, medical experts agree that long-term use of birth control isn’t a primary cause of infertility. Therefore using birth control to prevent pregnancy will not affect your capability to conceive later. Whether you choose to go for a long-term or short-term plan, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider.