Birth Control and Fertility

Before you began trying to conceive, chances are extremely high that you used some form of birth control. In fact, 99% of American women have used some form of birth control at some point in their lives, and 88% have used a reversible method like the pill or an implant. It’s reasonable to wonder what effects birth control might have on your ability to conceive now that you’re trying for a baby. Let’s take a look at the normal effects of quitting birth control and possible problems it may cause for your fertility.

Quitting Birth Control

One of the most common forms of birth control—tubal ligation, also known as tubal sterilization or “having your tubes tied”—can’t be undone if you change your mind. But all others are reversible, either simply by stopping the treatments or by having a device removed.

In 2012, about 16.8 million women used some form of reversible birth control. By far the most popular form is the pill, but intrauterine devices (IUDs) and injections also top the list. Most reversible methods use hormones to alter the menstrual cycle.

Because fertility and ovulation are tied to hormones, changing hormone levels by quitting birth control may affect your cycle. In most cases, your period should return to its normal cycle right away, but for some women, it may take a few months. If it takes longer, it may be a sign of an underlying condition.

Longer-Term Effects

Can using birth control, especially for many years, impact your ability to become pregnant once you’ve quit? Possibly, though the science is far from certain. What we do know is that hormonal birth control can cause some longer-lasting changes, including:

  • Injection birth control can disrupt ovulation for 6-12 months, or even 18 months in rare cases.
  • Using the birth control pill for 5 years or longer may cause thinning of the endometrium, possibly making implantation less likely.
  • Hormonal birth control can also change the consistency of the cervical mucus, slowing or even stopping sperm from reaching the egg. The longer a woman is on birth control, the more her cervical mucus “ages,” becoming less receptive to sperm.

While these effects sound scary, it’s important to remember that major studies have shown no concrete links between long-term birth control use and infertility. In the end, most women conceive within a year of quitting birth control. If you have been trying for that long without getting pregnant – no matter what your history of birth control use is – you should consult with a doctor. If you want more information about improving fertility or tips for trying to conceive, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for our newsletter below.