Can Birth Control Cause Infertility?

Does birth control cause infertility? Women's Health
August 26, 2022
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Does birth control cause infertility? If you’re asking this question, the answer, in short, is no. Hormonal contraceptives don’t prevent a woman from becoming pregnant (no matter how long they’ve been taking them).

However, it’s completely normal to cover all your bases before choosing a contraceptive method. Be sure to talk with your gynecologist or healthcare provider to ask:

  • How does birth control work?
  • How often does it need to be taken?
  • What are the side effects?
  • Can birth control make you infertile?
  • Does birth control affect fertility?
  • Can birth control cause infertility in the future?
  • Can long-term use of birth control pills cause infertility?

These are all normal queries as choosing the right contraceptive is important. Also, since pregnancy takes some consideration in terms of health and timing, it’s worth understanding how birth control can affect you now and later.

What is infertility?

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), infertility means not being able to conceive after 365 days or longer of unprotected sex. Not being able to conceive can result from an issue with either partner or may even occur due to a combination of factors.

Some physicians may diagnose infertility problems after six months of sexual intercourse without contraception if the woman is in her mid-thirties or older.

Furthermore, about 15 percent of couples encounter infertility, so if this is an issue you’re facing, ensure you reach out to a doctor for insight. Support is key when dealing with issues that impact your life and relationships.

What is fertility:

Simply put, fertility is when you’re naturally able to conceive a child. However, if conceiving is your short or long-term goal, you’ll want to know whether birth control makes you infertile, so let’s look at how pregnancy begins in the simplest, most PG form.

To become pregnant: A woman’s ovary must release an egg. Secondly, a man’s sperm must meet the egg to fertilize it. Thirdly, the fertilized egg needs to travel through a fallopian tube to the womb. Lastly, the embryo has to attach to a woman’s uterus successfully.

Infertility can result from an issue with any of the above steps.

But how does contraception come into play (and does birth control affect fertility)? 

When you use a contraceptive, it prevents sperm from reaching the egg. Or it may thin the uterine wall lining, which can stop the sperm from attaching to the womb (among other preventative measures). In short, if someone takes birth control, they’re using a method of contraception to avoid pregnancy.

Therefore, even though they may have sexual intercourse where a penis penetrates the vagina, contraception protects them from becoming pregnant. Therefore, not becoming pregnant while taking birth control doesn’t count as being infertile. 

What are the symptoms of infertility?

The primary sign of infertility is not becoming pregnant.Occasionally, women with infertility may have absent or irregular periods. While some men with infertility may experience hormonal issues, like changes in sexual function or hair growth.

Do you think you’re experiencing infertility? You’ll want to see a doctor if you’ve been consistently trying to get pregnant for some time without success.

Women should speak to a doctor when they:

  • Are mid-thirties and have been attempting to conceive for six months or longer
  • Are over 40
  • Have absent periods
  • Have irregular periods
  • Have extremely painful periods
  • Have experienced fertility issues before
  • Have pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Have endometriosis
  • Have experienced miscarriages
  • Have undergone cancer treatment

Men should talk to a doctor if they have:

  • Issues with sperm
  • A low sperm count
  • A history of prostate problems
  • A history of testicular problems
  • A history of sexual problems
  • Have undergone cancer treatment
  • Small testicles or swelling in the scrotum
  • Infertility problems in the family

Main takeaway: Fertility affects both women and men. The body is highly complicated when it comes to getting pregnant or impregnating someone. Many circumstances can affect our ability to conceive successfully. For women, age, period regularity, and other factors impact fertility. For men, sperm count and health issues (such as prostate and testicular problems) are key. Also, does birth control affect fertility for those looking to procreate? While contraceptives usually stop pregnancy at the time of use, they don’t cause infertility. 

What causes infertility?

All the steps during ovulation and fertilization must happen properly for pregnancy to occur. Sometimes, infertility issues develop at birth and sometimes later. Infertility issues can affect either partner or both. And sometimes, no cause is found.

Causes of male infertility can include issues with the delivery of sperm, abnormal sperm function, environmental factors, cancer-related damage, or cancer-related treatment.

Causes of female infertility can include ovulation disorders, uterine abnormalities, cervical abnormalities, fallopian tube blockage, fallopian tube damage, endometriosis, age, early menopause, pelvic adhesions, and cancer-related damage, or cancer-related treatment.

Can birth control cause infertility?

There are four essential facts to know about birth control. Firstly, it takes time for your period to resume back to normal  after birth control. Secondly, birth control can mask period irregularities. Thirdly, STIs can cause issues with fertility. Fourthly, the type of birth control you use matters.

Here’s a deeper look at these issues:

Can birth control cause infertility?

1. It takes time for your period to resume back to normal after birth control.

Some people who discontinue birth control can experience a delay while returning to regular menstruation. However, most women resume their normal period cycle within 30 days after they stop birth control (and their fertility isn’t affected by it).

  1. Birth control can mask period irregularities.

Oral contraceptive pills can regulate your menstrual cycle. But if something is off, this menstrual regularity caused by the pill  can mask issues you’re facing, such as amenorrhea, irregular bleeding, or heavy periods.  Once a female discontinues birth control, these irregularities can become more apparent, making conception difficult.

  1. STIs can cause issues with fertility. 

STIs left untreated, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, can create issues with fertility. Those using birth control pills should still always be careful to test for STIs regularly. Not to mention, using condoms can help protect both partners from sexually transmitted infections.

  1. The type of birth control you use matters.

You’re unique—you need the right contraception for you! While studies show that birth control doesn’t negatively impact your fertility, it’s important to spend time finding the contraception method that responds best to your body.

Main takeaway: If you’re worried and wondering, can long-term use of birth control pills cause infertility,  the answer is no. But hormonal contraceptives do impact your menstruation, so paying close attention to any changes in your cycle can offer great insight.

Speak to a doctor about prioritizing your short and long-term health goals. Your healthcare provider will be able to discuss the best birth control options for you.

Are you looking for a convenient and comfortable way to get birth control? 

If so, try the Ravkoo Health App.

Once you download this app, you gain quick, remote access to doctor’s appointments through Ravkoo MD. Also, your licensed and vetted Ravkoo physician can discuss possible birth control options. If your consultation results in a prescription, you can use Ravkoo RX to order your medication and have it delivered.

Since Ravkoo Health is a mobile application, all you need is a stable internet connection, quiet room, and mobile device to use the healthcare services provided by the streamlined app.

How will my birth control affect my period?

We’ve already looked at the understandable concern of whether birth control makes you infertile. Infertility caused by birth control shouldn’t be an issue at all, but do speak to a trusted physician to learn more as feeling comfortable and confident is crucial.

But how does birth control impact menstruation? When taking hormonal birth control, you may experience several period changes. The changes you experience depend on your contraception method and how your body reacts.

For instance, your period may become heavier, or it may become lighter. And often, your period will regulate, but occasionally, menstruation can become irregular or disappear.

After discontinuing hormonal birth control, individuals may encounter some of the irregularities mentioned above for a few weeks.

This irregularity can occur because hormones discharged by certain birth control methods  prevent ovulation. Therefore, it can take a short while for menstruation to return to normal.

What fertility delays can I expect with birth control?

There are several hormonal birth control options, such as the vaginal ring, birth control pill, and certain IUDs. Although each of these mentioned birth control options are used in their own specific way, they all have a comparable effect: controlling hormone levels and stopping mature eggs from being released during ovulation.

However, some methods can result in more extended fertility delays than others.

A 2020 study found that:

  • Injectable contraceptives had the most extended delay in returning to normal fertility levels.
  • Patch contraceptive users took about four cycles.
  • Copper and hormonal IUDs had the quickest fertility delay of two cycles.

A study done in 2013 found similar results with short-term delays after discontinuing hormonal birth control.

However, the shot can take up to one year for normal fertility levels to resume, so it’s not advised for those who want to conceive soon.

One thing to remember is that your experience with birth control, fertility, and conceiving is highly personal. So if you don’t want to become pregnant after stopping one of the above methods of contraception, look into another one. But if you wish to conceive, learn how birth control affects fertility.

What’s the best way to go off birth control to conceive?

Discontinuing your birth control pill isn’t necessarily going to feel great. Honestly, there’s going to be some time when your body is getting used to different hormone levels.

It’s helpful to remember that this discomfort doesn’t mean you’ve done any harm to your body. It’s absolutely okay that it takes a couple of weeks or so to return to the status quo.

When you stop taking birth control pills, you might experience irregular menstruation, period cramps, changes in weight, and shifts in mood.  It’s useful to take time to let your hormones normalize. This normalization period can be improved by resting as much as needed, eating properly, drinking enough water, and staying as nutritionally balanced as possible.

Of course, this advice should apply to any hormonal birth control you’re discontinuing.

It’s essential to boost your immune system with vitamins like vitamin B, C, E, and folate to keep your body happy and ready for hormonal changes.

In an article for Healthline, Dr. Nauf AlBendar (founder of The Womb Effect) explains that when going off birth control, you should pay close attention to your gut microbiome because it helps regulate estrogen.

To improve gut health, try reducing artificial sweeteners and eat foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics. Simply put, opt for more nutritional choices, such as whole grains or green tea.

After you stop taking birth control, how long should it take to become pregnant?

The time it takes for a female’s fertility to return back to normal after stopping birth control is unique for each person. It also depends on the type of birth control that was used.

But, one year is often the recommended time frame. To offer some perspective, in a review of more than twenty studies, close to 85 percent of people who discontinued contraception use became pregnant within one year.

Along with other research, it was found that the time of contraception use had no substantial impact on conception time. So, if you’ve been using birth control for a long time, you likely don’t have anything to worry about.

Birth Control FAQs

Q. Can birth control cause infertility in the future? Or, can long-term use of birth control pills cause infertility?

A. In other words, if a woman takes birth control, will this reduce her chances of having kids later in life?

In a three-year study of nearly 4,000 participants, oral contraceptives didn’t affect the women’s chances of having children. Furthermore, those who used combination pills (progestin and estrogen) for over three years were more fertile than the research participants who used them for less time.

As with the oral contraceptive pills mentioned above, research has also shown that other forms of hormonal birth control don’t impact future pregnancy.

Whether you opt for an IUD (intrauterine device), vaginal ring, birth control pills, patch, or injection, your ability to become pregnant later in life shouldn’t be impacted by these methods. In conclusion, the answer to “Can birth control cause infertility in the future?” is no.

Q. Can birth control make you infertile?

A. Understanding hormonal birth control is essential because it can impact your body’s menstruation cycle and even cause slight mood changes.

But regardless of how your birth control may affect your mood, it shouldn’t impact your fertility.

Hormonal contraceptives are designed to prevent pregnancy. The pill, for instance, is designed to stop the egg from being released every month.

But your ability to become pregnant should return to normal when you go off birth control (if you and your partner’s reproductive systems are healthy and functioning properly).

If you find your hormonal birth control is affecting you strongly, consult your doctor for an alternative method of contraception. However, rest assured knowing that birth control shouldn’t affect your fertility, even if it’s taken for a short or long period of time. As always, though, consult your physician for more information.

Q. How can you best support your body when going off birth control pills?

A. When stopping the pill, you can choose to finish the pack or stop halfway through (medically, there isn’t a difference).

However, finishing the current pill pack you’ve already started means you’ll know when your next period will begin. If you stop mid-pack, it will be more difficult to know when to expect menstruation.

It helps to know when your period is coming, so often, people choose to finish the pill pack. Also, according to Planned Parenthood, if you’re using the patch or ring, you can discontinue use whenever you wish, but the timing will affect when your next period begins.

After you stop birth control, be patient with yourself and your body. It will take some time for your menstruation cycle to re-establish itself. You might notice some spotting (bleeding) between periods, but this is temporary and will return to how it was (pre-birth control) quite quickly.

Q. How long should it take for your period to return to normal after stopping birth control?

A. According to the NHS, you should allow up to three months for your natural menstruation cycle to fully return and re-establish itself.

Your first period after stopping the pill is known as the withdrawal bleed, and the next one will be your first natural period.

Also, you might even be able to conceive right away after going off birth control. Talk to your doctor to create a plan to go off birth control to help it go as smoothly as possible.

While this blog looked at how birth control affects fertility, do note that once you stop birth control, you’ll need to use another form of contraception to protect you from conceiving (should that be your wish). And if you’re switching birth control methods, ask your doctor about overlapping.

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