Is it a myth or fact that oral contraceptives (OC) affect fertility? Truth be told, since hormonal birth control continues to evolve, we are still learning about how fertility is impacted. While fertility was found to be delayed in a study performed in 1997, more recent studies show that fertility is not impacted.
A significant number of women in the US use OCs. Recent data from the CDC shows that 99.3% of women aged 15-44 have tried a type of birth control, with 79.3% having tried oral contraceptives (OC). Since a high percentage of women use, or have tried the pill, it is understandable many question any possible side effects that may affect fertility.
Is it normal for your cycle to be irregular?
According to the Mayo Clinic, most women ovulate approximately two weeks after stopping the pill. How long it takes to ovulate, however, depends on the individual. Some women ovulate right away while others take several months. Many women take birth control not only to avoid pregnancy but also to regulate their period. If you had an irregular period or if you know that you had ovulation issues before being on the pill, those issues may still be present. If this is the case, you may not ovulate for up to three months.
If you have questions or concerns about your fertility, you should talk to your healthcare provider.
How does the pill affect fertility?
You can actually conceive as soon as you stop taking the medication, especially if you took the mini-pill. Contrary to popular belief, birth control does not have a measurable impact on fertility. In a 2013 study conducted by Boston University researchers, it was found that long-term oral contraceptive use does not affect fertility.
The study states that “Women who have used [oral contraceptives, or OCs] for four years or more should be reassured because we found no evidence that long-term OC use deleteriously affects fecundability,” The researchers tracked women who were long-time users of the pill, short-term users, and women who used the barrier method. Both long and short-term users of hormonal birth control experienced a small delay in fertility compared to women who discontinued the barrier method, but after that small period, there were virtually no differences between the three groups.
Does Birth Control increase the chances of miscarriage?
Though birth control is largely effective, mistakes happen. Missing a pill or taking a medication that lowers the effectiveness of the pill can lead to a pregnancy. However, missing a pill shouldn’t be linked to an increased risk of miscarriage. A large study conducted in 2008 analyzed 92,719 women and found no relationship between fetal death and exposure to artificial hormones during pregnancy. A 2010 study published in Epidemiology also found supporting evidence that women who used oral contraceptives in pregnancy saw no increased incidences in the vast majority of birth defects.
What if I don’t get my period within 3 months?
If you don’t get your period for three months, it could mean that you have post-pill amenorrhea. The pill functions by preventing your body from making hormones that control ovulation and menstruation, and it can take a while for your body to get back into the swing of things. Post-pill amenorrhea is rare, and only 1% of women who stop the pill fail to begin menstruating within 6 months. A delayed cycle can mean a number of things— if you don’t menstruate within three months, consult your gynecologist. (source)
I’m not getting pregnant, could it be due to the hormones?
There are a lot of factors that contribute to the length of time to conceive. The two biggest reasons are age and having intercourse during your fertile window. The older you are, the longer it may take to conceive.
Click here to learn how to find your fertile window.
Don’t worry if you have only been trying for a couple of months. If you have been trying for 6-12 months, it is completely normal that you are not pregnant yet. Check out this blog on the length of time it takes to ovulate after different types of birth control. You can always talk to your doctor at any point you have questions or concerns. For women under the age of 35, it is recommended to speak with your doctor after 12 months of trying and after 6 months of trying if you are over 35 years of age. It's recommended to seek fertility advice, and perhaps testing, at this point to make certain nothing hindering the process.
Don’t forget to have your partner’s sperm checked as well. Infertility has historicaly been viewed as a woman's issues, however is nearly equally a problem with men as it is with women.