From Pill to Pregnancy Fast!
If you're like many women, you've been on the Pill for a big chunk of your life because, for some reason or another, it just wasn't the right time to have kids. But now, your maternal instincts have kicked in, and your biological clock is ticking louder than ever.
So you decide now is the time to ditch the Pill and try to conceive. But you wonder: has the temporary and intentional fertility-controlling effect of the birth control pill (BCP) become more permanent?
When it comes to thoughts like these, you're not alone. In fact, the impact the Pill has on future fertility has long been questioned and debated, and answers have been mixed about the issue.
However, a recent study found that the Pill may not have as much of an impact on conceiving a child later in life as people once thought.
The Popular Pill
In order to understand why some people believe BCPs have a huge impact on future fertility, you need to first understand how the Pill works.
The Pill has become a popular form of contraception, with more than 110 million women around the world using it to prevent pregnancy. It was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in May 1960.
BCPs use a combination of synthetic progestin and estrogen hormones to fool the body into thinking that an egg has already been released by the ovaries. Because of this, the ovaries will not release an egg.
The Pill also changes the lining of the uterus and the cervical mucus, making it difficult for an egg to become fertilized by sperm or implant itself on the uterine wall. These effects help prevent unwanted pregnancies from occurring 92 to 99.7 percent of the time for women who are taking BCPs.
An Old Wives' Tale
But do these effects last well after women stop taking the Pill?
In the past, many doctors told women that if they took BCPs for a long period of time and then stopped taking them, they would temporarily be less fertile while their bodies adjusted to the hormonal changes. Women were advised they couldn't— and shouldn't— conceive for 6 to 12 months.
Many studies suggested that women were unable to ovulate during the first few months after they stopped taking the Pill, and that it could take as long as one year for their cycle to return to normal. Other people believed that the Pill could cause permanent infertility.
Contrary to the popular old-wives' tale, new research shows this isn't the case. “Normal” fertility does bounce back, and even quicker than once thought.
The study, called the European Active Surveillance Study on Oral Contraceptives (EURAS-OC) which was funded by Berlin pharmaceutical giant Bayer Schering Pharma, shed some light on the infertility myth. For two years, researchers studied more than 2,000 women who stopped taking the Pill to determine what kind of impact it had on their ability to conceive.
Researchers found that approximately 21 percent of women participating in the study became pregnant in just one cycle after stopping the Pill. This percentage is the same as natural pregnancy rates for women who did not take the Pill (20 to 25 percent).
Also, one year after they stopped taking the Pill, nearly 80 percent of those in the study were pregnant, also corresponding to natural pregnancy rates of non-pill users.
In other words, taking the Pill will not affect a woman's ability to conceive later on in life. There's also no need for a woman's body to recover after she stops taking the Pill. Former pill users who try to conceive have a conception success rate that's pretty much the same as non-users.
In fact, the Pill is actually very short-acting, so it can never make much of an impact on future fertility. This is why it's important for women who want to prevent pregnancy to take the Pill at the same time every day. Once the Pill is out of a woman’s system, she can get pregnant in as little as 24 hours.
So why is it, then, that some women do experience fertility problems after stopping the Pill?
It may be due to previous underlying ovulation issues— like irregular cycles— that were actually being treated by the Pill. Once women stopped taking BCPs, their fertility problems resurfaced. Women with such conditions may need to take fertility medications to force normal ovulation.
“Normal” fertility after the Pill depends on the body's individual natural cycle. Once a woman stops taking the Pill, her cycle will return to whatever was normal for her before she started taking BCPs.
Age is just as important when it comes to the fertility of women who have stopped taking the Pill. Women who continued to take BCPs until their mid-30s may experience some degree of infertility; not because of the Pill, but because of their age. This is because every woman, whether or not they have taken BCPs, experiences a reduction in fertility as they approach their mid-30s. The reduction is more rapid once they reach age 40.
So fertility problems that women experience may be caused by other factors that have nothing to do with BCPs.
The Bottom Line
In the end, BCPs neither delay nor damage your future fertility. So if you want to take the Pill, go ahead and take it. If you've been on the Pill and feel that now is the time to start raising a family, simply stop taking it and try to conceive.
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