Can contraceptive pills cause infertility?

From fallopian tube disorders to the polycystic ovarian syndrome, there can be many reasons for infertility in women “but not oral contraception”. “It is important to understand that birth control pills just stop ovulation so as to prevent pregnancy, and do not affect fertility in any way,” said Dr Anitha Kunnaiah, Sr Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Infertility Specialist, Citizens Specialty Hospital, Hyderabad.

A 2018 report published in the National Library of Medicine concluded that “contraceptive use, regardless of its duration and type, does not have a negative effect on the ability of women to conceive following the termination of its use and it doesn’t significantly delay fertility.”

Explaining further, Dr Kunnaiah said that the pills contain the hormones progestin and estrogen and help stop ovulation besides thickening the cervical mucus; so sperm can’t travel easily to fertilise the eggs. “The pill doesn’t have an effect on future fertility,” she added.

So, what makes women feel that pills can lead to infertility?

One of the reasons, according to Dr Kunnaiah, is that the hormones released by birth control pills stop ovulation and it can take a while for the menstrual cycle to return to its usual state.

Birth control pills stop ovulation and it can take a while for the menstrual cycle to return to its usual state. (Photo: Pixabay)

Adding, Dr Radhika Badanahatti, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Citizens Specialty Hospital, Hyderabad said, “Regular usage affects the menstrual cycle with either partial or complete suppression of the normal cycle. Hence, when you stop taking the pills it takes time for the menstrual cycle to reset. This results in the misconception of women thinking that taking the pill might make them infertile.”

Responding if the pills can cause menstrual irregularities, she added, “When the hormonal birth control pills are not used regularly they might cause spotting. In some cases, the pills can also cause post-pill amenorrhea. But, it must be known that these pills are also used to regulate menstrual irregularities. ”

What should be done if a woman decides to go off birth control to conceive?

A woman can decide to go off the pills whenever she desires to conceive. However, Dr Badanahatti advised completing the current cycle of birth control pills and then stopping it. “This will help to keep the menstrual cycle running in the usual manner,” she added.

For those who feel that they might take time to conceive after stopping the pills, Dr Kunnaiah said, “Your body doesn’t need time to ‘clear’ birth control hormones. In fact, it’s possible for you to conceive within a month or two of stopping most types.”

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