Who Needs Birth Control after Infertility:
Non-Hormonal Birth Control Options
Birth control after infertility might sound crazy, but unless either you and/or your partner has been diagnosed with sterility, your doctor will most likely recommend that you go on birth control after conceiving. This is applicable even for couples that took several years and medical intervention to conceive.
Dr. Alice Domar, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School said, “I tell my [IVF] patients, ‘You know, after you have your baby, your OB is going to come to discharge you and tell you to use birth control if you don’t want to get pregnant. And my patients look at me and say, ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me. I’ve had 18 cycles of IVF.’ And then they get pregnant," (source).
So yes, even if you have a small percent chance of conception and you feel that your family is complete, you will need a birth control solution. This is applicable whether you needed medical intervention, had a 'miracle baby' after 8 years of trying, or adopted child(ren).
There is no doubt that if you read about infertility online that you have heard about how someone tried for years, conceived on the 4th IVF attempt or adopted, and then later got pregnant naturally. The truth is that this does not happen often, but it does happen. One report looking at women who received infertility treatments found that 29% conceived naturally within 6 years of the cessation of treatments (source). Here you can read about a chat forum of messages from women who were diagnosed infertile conceived unexpectedly after adopting. Statistically an infertile couple is most likely not to conceive naturally, but since there is a chance, you need to be prepared for that to occur.
If you and your partner feel that another child would be great news, then carry on as is with out any worry. If you feel, however, that your family is complete either for the time being or for good, then there are several options that you can select from for birth control. The two main categories are non-hormonal and hormonal. For the purpose of this blog, we will discuss the pros and cons of the 4 most effective and safe non-hormonal birth control options.
The copper IUD is the most widely used reversible contraceptive method in the world (source). There are two types of IUDs, hormonal and copper. Both are inserted in the uterus by a doctor, can be taken out at any time, and are highly effective. The copper IUD does not use any hormones. Sperm does not like copper, so the copper IUD makes it nearly impossible for sperm to get to the egg. Since there are no hormones, it does not alter your natural cycle.
- Permits natural ovulation and periods
- No hormones
- Easy- once inserted, it lasts 10-12 years
- It’s over 99% effective for preventing pregnancy
- May increase cramps and bleeding during monthly cycle (only the Copper IUD - the hormonal IUD decreases period symptoms)
- May cause spotting between periods (especially first 6 months)
- Need a doctor to insert and remove
Other side effects that are rare but do include: ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease. To see more side effects/concerns click here.
Condoms can be used as effective birth control or if you practice Natural Family Planning during your fertile phase. The key to using condoms as an effective birth control method is using them correctly, including using them consistency.
- No hormones
- Easy and fairly inexpensive
- Doesn’t work if allergic to latex or spermicides
- My break or slip off during intercourse if not used properly
- A new condom must be used each time
- May interfere with spontaneity and sensation
NOTE: If you and your partner like condoms but feel that sensation is compromised try this tip: add a small amount of lubricant into the tip of the condom, before it is rolled on or using condoms to designed to increase pleasure. To read more about condoms, click here.
If you and your partner are certain that your family is complete and you partner is willing, a vasectomy can be a great option. Even though vasectomy's can be reversed, this is considered a a permanent solution. Note: There are female sterility options, however, they are more invasive and have more side effects than a vasectomy.
- Highly Effective
- Short recovery time
- Low probability of any side effects
- Think of as a permanent solution
- Requires surgery
- Short or long term side effects may occur
- Small chance of post vasectomy pain syndrome (PVPS) This pain interferes with quality of life and requires some degree of medical treatment in approximately 1–2% of men who undergo vasectomy (source).
If you and/or your partner are concerned about any short or long term side effects please discuss with your surgeon. There are two main different procedures, the open-ended procedure and the close-ended technique. Many surgeons prefer the open-ended version because it has lower complication and failure rates than the closed-ended method, and it results in fewer cases of chronic pain. To read more about vasectomy's click here.
Natural Family Planning (NFP)
Research studies have a variety of statistics on how effective NFP actually is, however, in general if used correctly, NFP is found to be an effective method of contraception. Specifically, NFP is effective if you use two indicators (ie: cervical mucus and basal body temperature) to identify the fertile phase (source). To learn more about NFP and how to do it click here.