No, Birth Control Pills Don’t Affect Your Long-Term Fertility

Women try to prevent pregnancy for many years. How does that affect their fertility when they finally want a baby?

Updated
Her Health
5 min read
Do birth control pills affect your fertility and make it difficult to get pregnant once you stop using it?
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Snapshot

Ladies, our baby-making potential is much talked about. Whether you want to have a baby or not, society places the responsibility of procreation squarely on your shoulders. Want to reproduce? Take care of your fertility. Want to prevent it? Take birth control pills.

So, does one affect the other? Do birth control pills affect your fertility and make it difficult to get pregnant once you stop using it? It’s become an oft-asked question and opinions are divided on it. Especially now, when birth control pills aren’t only used as contraception. Doctors widely prescribe it to young women for various problems, including menstrual ones.

Let’s look at what the facts say.

No, Birth Control Pills Don’t Affect Your Long-Term Fertility

  1. 1. Is Popping Pills Harming Your Baby-Making Potential?

    You spend so many years trying not to get pregnant. So when it’s time to turn all that effort around, it’s natural to wonder what effect all those years of popping birth control pills have had on your body.

    Dr Duru Shah, a leading infertility expert at Gynaec World, and Dr Ranjana Sharma, Senior Consultant, Gynaecology, Apollo Hospitals, say a resounding:

    No.

    And there’s no concrete study yet to contradict them. In fact, several studies support their answer.

    There are various factors other than having birth control pills that affect fertility.
    There are various factors other than having birth control pills that affect fertility.
    (Photo: iStock)

    Then why do so many people say otherwise? Why do so many women narrate their stories of having experienced the adverse effects of birth control on their fertility?

    There are so many factors that affect fertility. How do you know which one could have had an effect on you? Somebody who has been on the pill for 2-3 years and never had children before, and they couldn’t conceive after getting off the pill, they’ll say they couldn’t conceive because of the pill. But she hasn’t tested her fertility anyway. Some people don’t conceive even if they don’t use the pill.
    Dr Ranjana Sharma

    She defends the pill further: “If a woman is on the pill for years and in this time she develops some condition or disease and that prevents her from having children, people still blame the pill for it.”

    Too caught up to read? Listen to the story:

    There also comes the age factor. In an article on parenting.com, Paul Blumenthal, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, says:

    With a few notable exceptions, immediately after you stop using birth control, your fertility will go right back to what it was destined to be.

    Here, “destined to be” are the imperative words. He doesn’t say that your fertility will be perfect or exactly what it used to be, but it will be what it’s supposed to be at that age and time.

    Expand
  2. 2. How Long Do You Have to Wait to Get Pregnant After Stopping the Pill?

    The notion that you have to wait for several months before you start ovulating again, is not entirely true. Ovulation starts within weeks of stopping the pill.

    You can get pregnant the next month, or the next year. It’s not absolute.

    Dr Sharma says that, “sometimes, when you stop the pill, you may not have your period for a couple of months, but it is very temporary. That doesn’t mean your fertility is disturbed.”

    Ovulation starts within weeks of stopping the pill.
    Ovulation starts within weeks of stopping the pill.
    (Photo: iStock)

    You should give your body 3-4 months to come out of the effect of the pill.

    When you’re taking the pill, your ovulation is suppressed so ovaries will take a little time to come out of the effect of the pill, so you shouldn’t worry about this recovery time.
    Dr Ranjana Sharma

    The most recent studies show that within a year after going off the pill, 80 percent of women who want to get pregnant will get pregnant – a number identical to that of the general population.

    Expand
  3. 3. Could the Pill Benefit Fertility and Boost It?

    This may sound counterproductive, but some experts and studies say that taking the pill could actually boost your fertility.

    Dr Sharma says that, “in theory, yes, this holds. When you ovulate, lots of eggs get used up, so if you’re suppressing your ovaries maybe you’re benefitting by reserving your eggs. But I’m not very sure of its practical benefits, we don’t have very strong evidence for this.”

    Representational image of a sperm and an egg.
    Representational image of a sperm and an egg.
    (Photo: iStock)

    Studies say that oral contraceptives can actually give you a boost in preserving your fertility by lowering your chances of getting uterine and ovarian cancer. It can also suppress the symptoms of endometriosis, in which the uterine lining grows outside the uterus, causing fertility problems.

    As a matter of fact, in women with PCOS, fertility improves and pregnancy is achieved faster once the pills are stopped. Oral contraceptive pills are the biggest boon to women in this world. They control irregular periods, painful periods, heavy periods, acne, pregnancy and allow a woman to pursue her career.
    Dr Duru Shah

    But can the pill actually help you get pregnant? Not exactly.

    It should also be stressed that certain regulations in the body that the pill causes are artificial. Your menstrual cycle and hormones will go back to what they were when you stop the pill.

    Expand
  4. 4. Yes, The Pill Does Have Side Effects

    Some women as well as alternative medicine doctors argue that all this theoretical knowledge is fine, but if you’re manually meddling with your hormones and ovaries, it’s got to do some harm.

    While there aren’t any studies to prove if birth control pills could adversely impact fertility, there are several recorded side effects of the pill.

    Dr Duru Shah says some women could experience the following side effects:

    • Nausea and giddiness
    • Mild water retention
    • Mildly increased cholesterol levels
    • Development of small blood clots (very rarely)
    • Reduced sex drive
    • Premenstrual painful breasts
    • Irritability
    Expand
  5. 5. What Does The Pill Actually Do?

    Most birth control pills contain low doses of synthetic forms of two female hormones: estrogen and progesterone.

    These synthetic hormones stabilise a woman’s natural hormone levels and prevent estrogen from peaking mid-cycle. When estrogen peaks, it triggers the release of other hormones and you ovulate.

    Therefore, it stops ovulation by giving a fixed low dose of the hormones everyday.

     Know all these pros and cons and the decide whether you want to take the pill or not.
    Know all these pros and cons and the decide whether you want to take the pill or not.
    (Photo: iStock)

    The other hormone, progesterone, builds the uterine lining. An excess of the hormone could abnormally increase the lining.

    But because you’re taking a very low dose of the hormone when you take the pill, it doesn’t let the lining grow and thins it, preventing uterine cancer.

    At the end of the day, the choice is yours. Know all these pros and cons and the decide whether you want to take the pill or not.

    (We at FIT are running a campaign to increase awareness about fertility. Get your queries on fertility answered by top specialists. Write to us at Fit@thequint.com or click here.)

    (Subscribe to FIT on Telegram)

    Expand

Is Popping Pills Harming Your Baby-Making Potential?

You spend so many years trying not to get pregnant. So when it’s time to turn all that effort around, it’s natural to wonder what effect all those years of popping birth control pills have had on your body.

Dr Duru Shah, a leading infertility expert at Gynaec World, and Dr Ranjana Sharma, Senior Consultant, Gynaecology, Apollo Hospitals, say a resounding:

No.

And there’s no concrete study yet to contradict them. In fact, several studies support their answer.

There are various factors other than having birth control pills that affect fertility.
There are various factors other than having birth control pills that affect fertility.
(Photo: iStock)

Then why do so many people say otherwise? Why do so many women narrate their stories of having experienced the adverse effects of birth control on their fertility?

There are so many factors that affect fertility. How do you know which one could have had an effect on you? Somebody who has been on the pill for 2-3 years and never had children before, and they couldn’t conceive after getting off the pill, they’ll say they couldn’t conceive because of the pill. But she hasn’t tested her fertility anyway. Some people don’t conceive even if they don’t use the pill.
Dr Ranjana Sharma

She defends the pill further: “If a woman is on the pill for years and in this time she develops some condition or disease and that prevents her from having children, people still blame the pill for it.”

Too caught up to read? Listen to the story:

There also comes the age factor. In an article on parenting.com, Paul Blumenthal, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, says:

With a few notable exceptions, immediately after you stop using birth control, your fertility will go right back to what it was destined to be.

Here, “destined to be” are the imperative words. He doesn’t say that your fertility will be perfect or exactly what it used to be, but it will be what it’s supposed to be at that age and time.

How Long Do You Have to Wait to Get Pregnant After Stopping the Pill?

The notion that you have to wait for several months before you start ovulating again, is not entirely true. Ovulation starts within weeks of stopping the pill.

You can get pregnant the next month, or the next year. It’s not absolute.

Dr Sharma says that, “sometimes, when you stop the pill, you may not have your period for a couple of months, but it is very temporary. That doesn’t mean your fertility is disturbed.”

Ovulation starts within weeks of stopping the pill.
Ovulation starts within weeks of stopping the pill.
(Photo: iStock)

You should give your body 3-4 months to come out of the effect of the pill.

When you’re taking the pill, your ovulation is suppressed so ovaries will take a little time to come out of the effect of the pill, so you shouldn’t worry about this recovery time.
Dr Ranjana Sharma

The most recent studies show that within a year after going off the pill, 80 percent of women who want to get pregnant will get pregnant – a number identical to that of the general population.

Could the Pill Benefit Fertility and Boost It?

This may sound counterproductive, but some experts and studies say that taking the pill could actually boost your fertility.

Dr Sharma says that, “in theory, yes, this holds. When you ovulate, lots of eggs get used up, so if you’re suppressing your ovaries maybe you’re benefitting by reserving your eggs. But I’m not very sure of its practical benefits, we don’t have very strong evidence for this.”

Representational image of a sperm and an egg.
Representational image of a sperm and an egg.
(Photo: iStock)

Studies say that oral contraceptives can actually give you a boost in preserving your fertility by lowering your chances of getting uterine and ovarian cancer. It can also suppress the symptoms of endometriosis, in which the uterine lining grows outside the uterus, causing fertility problems.

As a matter of fact, in women with PCOS, fertility improves and pregnancy is achieved faster once the pills are stopped. Oral contraceptive pills are the biggest boon to women in this world. They control irregular periods, painful periods, heavy periods, acne, pregnancy and allow a woman to pursue her career.
Dr Duru Shah

But can the pill actually help you get pregnant? Not exactly.

It should also be stressed that certain regulations in the body that the pill causes are artificial. Your menstrual cycle and hormones will go back to what they were when you stop the pill.

Yes, The Pill Does Have Side Effects

Some women as well as alternative medicine doctors argue that all this theoretical knowledge is fine, but if you’re manually meddling with your hormones and ovaries, it’s got to do some harm.

While there aren’t any studies to prove if birth control pills could adversely impact fertility, there are several recorded side effects of the pill.

Dr Duru Shah says some women could experience the following side effects:

  • Nausea and giddiness
  • Mild water retention
  • Mildly increased cholesterol levels
  • Development of small blood clots (very rarely)
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Premenstrual painful breasts
  • Irritability

What Does The Pill Actually Do?

Most birth control pills contain low doses of synthetic forms of two female hormones: estrogen and progesterone.

These synthetic hormones stabilise a woman’s natural hormone levels and prevent estrogen from peaking mid-cycle. When estrogen peaks, it triggers the release of other hormones and you ovulate.

Therefore, it stops ovulation by giving a fixed low dose of the hormones everyday.

 Know all these pros and cons and the decide whether you want to take the pill or not.
Know all these pros and cons and the decide whether you want to take the pill or not.
(Photo: iStock)

The other hormone, progesterone, builds the uterine lining. An excess of the hormone could abnormally increase the lining.

But because you’re taking a very low dose of the hormone when you take the pill, it doesn’t let the lining grow and thins it, preventing uterine cancer.

At the end of the day, the choice is yours. Know all these pros and cons and the decide whether you want to take the pill or not.

(We at FIT are running a campaign to increase awareness about fertility. Get your queries on fertility answered by top specialists. Write to us at Fit@thequint.com or click here.)

(Subscribe to FIT on Telegram)

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