Will Birth Control Mess Up My Fertility in the Future?
This is a question many women have asked and worried over. Most women don’t want to have children as young as they used to, and with this comes the inevitable need to stave off pregnancy if you’re sexually active and not ready to get pregnant. So, let’s explore and see what we can find about the truth of the matter.
Can hormonal birth control methods actually contribute to infertility?
No, But Sort of Yes.
In researching this question, we found that regardless of whatever bias the source had, the answer was always the same. Hormonal birth control on its own does not contribute to infertility but using it might.1-4 Confusing much?
Let Us Explain
There are many factors that can contribute to infertility, including underlying conditions such as PCOS, thyroid disease, environmental pollutants, and age. Using hormonal birth control can often mask gynecological symptoms associated with these issues, since it provides an artificial source of hormones and thus, regularity in the body. When those hormones are taken away though, the body is left to contend with its hormonal state on its own, and it may not be as peachy as you’d hoped.
For example, if a woman uses hormonal birth control from her teens or twenties all the way up through her early thirties, and then decides she’d like to get pregnant and stops the birth control, she really can’t know what to expect. In a case like this there are several factors that could cause infertility or subfertility that the woman would likely be unaware of. These include: hormonal conditions that were masked by the pill, environmental factors such as endocrine-disrupting-chemicals like certain pesticides, structural abnormalities preventing pregnancy, or even age.1-2
Age is actually a very important factor in this discussion. As women age, the quality of their oocytes (eggs) decreases, and hormonal regularity begins to wane. Thirty-five may be the new twenty-five in terms of living your best life, but biologically it’s the same old situation. In fact, regardless of your age, some doctors recommend you stop your hormonal contraception up to two years before you plan to conceive, so that you have time to detect and address any fertility difficulties you may have.1 Naturally this becomes more important the older a woman becomes.
And while we’re talking about time, let’s admit that most women cannot stop hormonal birth control and immediately conceive. It can take some time for your body to get used to not having all those super powerful, extra hormones running the show, and this means you may not be fertile for a few months after you stop taking birth control. This is normal.1,2,4 What’s not normal is if this infertility persists for longer than six to nine months.1,2,4 If you have stopped taking hormonal birth control and it’s only been a few weeks then don’t worry yet. If, on the other hand it’s been about a year, it’s time to talk with your doctor.
And our last tidbit of information concerns micronutrients. Studies show that continuous use of oral contraceptives is associated with nutrient deficiency of some key vitamins and minerals, namely certain B vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium, magnesium, zinc, and folate.5 Not only are these micronutrients important for maintaining your own health, but they are integral to creating new life. Additionally, many of them have antioxidant properties which are key to maintaining cell health, including the health of cells in your reproductive system. So, in this sense, it is theoretically possible that oral contraception could contribute to infertility/subfertility or to fetal development issues if the micronutrient deficiencies are pronounced enough. However, this issue can be easily overcome through diet and supplementation. It’s recommended that all women who use oral contraception should also take supplements of the aforementioned micronutrients, and some health practitioners even suggest using a prenatal vitamin along with oral contraception.1,5 It’s also worth noting that if you consume a healthy, balanced diet, these deficiencies should correct themselves shortly after stopping oral contraception.
Hormonal birth control, most especially the pill, is not associated with lower fertility after stopping, but it can mask conditions that are. Being proactive in taking care of your body and preparing to have a baby before you’re ready to conceive, will go a long way in promoting good fertility. Maintaining a healthy diet, getting good sleep, avoiding toxic chemicals, and supplementing with a prenatal vitamin are all ways to help ensure your birth control won’t affect your fertility after you stop taking it. And, of course, you can always have fertility tests done, even if you’re not ready to conceive right now. That way you’ll have a better understanding of your own body, and any fertility challenges you may have to contend with in future.
In parting, remember that eating healthy, whole foods, and lots of plants foods, is one of the simplest, safest, and most effective things we can do to promote good health in our bodies. As with every preventative/restorative measure though, sometimes these changes alone are not enough to help our bodies function the way we want or need them to. If you are struggling with health problems, please contact your doctor or other healthcare provider such a Naturopathic Doctor, Dietitian, or Mental Health Professional to see if they can offer appropriate guidance and care. We at Wholesome Story believe that healthy communities require community effort, so we advise you to keep your healthcare community aware and involved in your journey as you pursue better health.
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- Brighten J. 4 surprising ways birth control could affect your future fertility. mindbodygreen. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/what-birth-control-might-do-to-your-fertility. Published February 26, 2021. Accessed March 25, 2022.
- University Reproductive Associates. Does birth control affect infertility? 4 facts you need to know. Does Birth Control Affect Infertility? 4 Facts You Need To Know: University Reproductive Associates: Reproductive Endocrinologists. https://www.uranj.com/blog/does-birth-control-affect-infertility-4-facts-you-need-to-know. Published 2022. Accessed March 25, 2022.
- of Health and Human Services. What lifestyle and environmental factors may be involved with infertility in females and males? Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/infertility/conditioninfo/causes/lifestyle#f7. Published January 2017. Accessed March 25, 2022.
- Health and Human Services Dof. What lifestyle and environmental factors may be involved with infertility in females and males? Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/infertility/conditioninfo/causes/lifestyle#f7. Published January 2017. Accessed March 25, 2022.
- Palmery M, Saraceno A, Vaiarelli A, Carlomagno G. Oral contraceptives and changes in nutritional requirements. European Review. https://www.europeanreview.org/article/4579. Published July 15, 2013. Accessed March 25, 2022.