How do oral contraceptives affect fertility?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Oral contraceptives are a form of birth control, which means they prevent pregnancy. This means that oral contraceptives cause kind of a temporary infertility. If used correctly, they prevent a woman from becoming pregnant by stopping ovulation and making it more difficult for sperm to enter and for an egg to implant in the uterus. Once a woman stops taking her birth control pills, though, she may become pregnant. It may take up to three months for normal fertility to return.

When discontinuing oral contraceptives such as the Pill, it often takes several months to a year for your ovulatory cycle to return to normal. That being said, there is no known increased risk for long-term infertility with oral contraceptives. Aging itself may increase your risk of infertility, but not your oral contraceptive.

It is not unusual for a woman to start the pill at 16 and continue until her late 30s, only to find she is unable to conceive after years of preventing pregnancy. It is age, not the exposure to hormones for 20 years, that has resulted in decreased fertility. In many cases, the pill preserves fertility. Taking the pill suppresses endometriosis, prevents abnormal cysts and decreases ovarian cancer. It’s waiting until 40, not the pill, that’s the problem.

Patricia Geraghty, NP
Women's Health

While it may take 1 to 2 months for return of ovulatory function and periods, the 12 month fertility data, how many couples will have a baby in the next year, is the same for former pill, IUD, progestin only, condom and natural family planning methods. Several months waiting for return of menstrual cycles is neither the typical or normal situation and warrants further investigation.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.