Does Birth Control Impact Fertility in the Long Term?
Birth control is undeniably a powerful healthcare tool that makes it possible for individuals and couples to take control of their family-building plans; it’s also commonly used to alleviate a wide variety of ailments, such as irregular periods, acne, and cramps. However, when it comes to weighing your future family-building options against your current birth control method, many people wonder if their birth control of choice can have a potentially negative impact on their fertility.
The short answer is, no – in most cases, the vast majority of birth control options do not have a permanent effect on fertility long term. That being said, the longer answer is a bit more complicated. For many people, once they stop using birth control, they should be able to eventually conceive; however, this also depends on several other factors, including the type of birth control, duration of use, age, reproductive disorders, and more.
As the largest network of fertility clinics in North America, The Prelude Network® strongly believes in providing people with all the information they need to make informed, empowered decisions about their fertility and family-building goals, no matter where they are in their journeys. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how various birth control methods impact fertility and what you should consider.
Birth Control Overview
In today's diverse landscape of reproductive choices, individuals have access to an array of birth control methods, each tailored to meet different needs, preferences, and lifestyles. These options include:
- Oral contraceptives: Commonly known as “the pill,” this form of birth control involves taking daily pills that contain a mixture of hormones to prevent ovulation.
- Birth control patches: Birth control patches work by administering hormones through skin absorption. The patches need to be changed once a week.
- Birth control vaginal rings: A small flexible ring is inserted into the vagina, releasing hormones into the body to prevent ovulation. Depending on the type of ring you’re using, you may need to change the ring once a month or follow a cycle of having the ring inserted for three weeks and removing it for one week.
- Intrauterine devices (IUD): IUDs are inserted into the uterus and release small amounts of the hormone progestin into the body over a long period of time, sometimes up to 10 years or more. There are also copper-based non-hormonal IUD options available, which prevent pregnancy by preventing sperm from reaching the egg.
- Birth control implants: This form of birth control involves inserting a hormone-releasing implant into your arm that prevents pregnancy by stopping ovulation and thickening cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to swim through. Birth control implants can last up to five years.
- Birth control shots: Similar to other forms of birth control, birth control shots or injections prevent pregnancy by releasing hormones. A single birth control injection lasts for about three months.
- Barrier methods: This type of contraceptive prevents pregnancy by physically blocking sperm from reaching the egg. Types include condoms, diaphragms, birth control sponges, and spermicides.
- Tubal ligation: Also known as “getting your tubes tied,” tubal ligation is a surgical procedure in which the fallopian tubes are severed and sealed, thus preventing eggs from entering the fallopian tubes where they would normally come into contact with sperm. Although tubal ligations can sometimes be reversed, this form of birth control is considered to be permanent contraception.
Fertility, Birth Control, and Reversibility
Some forms of birth control, like the barrier methods mentioned earlier, do not affect fertility in the short or long term. Similarly, copper-based IUDs also do not impact fertility – once you remove a copper-based IUI, your fertility will return to its normal state almost immediately. However, hormonal birth control methods can temporarily disrupt fertility. Although specific forms of birth control can be used for extended periods, their impact on fertility is usually temporary, lasting only for the duration of use and immediately afterward. In some cases, it takes longer for certain birth control methods to leave the body, causing temporary infertility. In the vast majority of cases, most people are able to conceive within a year of discontinuation of birth control, including those using hormonal IUDs.
Fertility Awareness Methods: An Alternative to Conventional Birth Control
Fertility awareness methods are often used for the natural prevention of pregnancy, but can easily be used when trying to conceive as well. These methods involve tracking menstrual cycles and ovulation patterns to identify fertile days accurately. Monitoring menstrual and ovulation patterns not only enhances fertility planning but also offers insights into overall reproductive health.
Considerations for Birth Control and Fertility
When contemplating birth control and fertility, several crucial considerations come into play. Firstly, understanding the reversibility of birth control methods is paramount. Different methods have varying timelines for fertility restoration after discontinuation, and comprehending these timelines is essential for family planning. Secondly, age and duration of birth control use play significant roles in fertility. As individuals age, fertility naturally declines, and the length of time one has been on birth control can affect how long it takes for their fertility to return to its natural state.
Lastly, transitioning from birth control to trying to conceive requires careful thought. Factors such as overall health, lifestyle changes, and emotional preparedness should be taken into account. Consulting a fertility specialist can provide invaluable guidance, ensuring a smooth and informed transition towards parenthood.
Navigating Fertility and Birth Control Choices
In the complex terrain of reproductive health, understanding the relationship between birth control and long-term fertility is pivotal for making well-informed decisions. As you consider transitioning from contraception to parenthood, you should also consider consulting with a fertility specialist – their expertise can guide you through this transition, ensuring a smooth and well-prepared path toward realizing your family-building dreams.