Can being on the pill for too long actually mess with your fertility?

Whether you've been on the pill for yonks and you're gearing up to start a family, or you're just curious to know WTF happens to your body when you stop taking the pill (because no one really talks about this stuff for some reason) - welcome!

While you already know that birth control can help us avoid unwanted pregnancy, what you might not know is that your choice of contraception could delay your pregnancy timeline. 

Watch: Need some advice on the different types of contraception? Here's how to compare combination birth control pills. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

In a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers looked at how long it could take to return to fertility after ceasing various birth control methods. 

While results varied for different contraceptives, it was found that the pill delayed fertility for three menstrual cycles (about three months), on average.

Overall, it was found that injectable birth control led to the longest delay, with women waiting between five and eight months to become pregnant.

Listen to this episode of Get Me Pregnant, where we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about fertility - including do previous abortions or the pill cause infertility? Post continues below.

Interesting, right?

Anyone else want to dive a little further into this whole thing? We hit up gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Nicole Stamatopoulos and asked her everything we need to know about what happens to your fertility when you stop taking the pill.

How long does it take for your ovulation levels to go back to normal after going off the pill?

So what exactly happens when we go off the pill? When do things go back to 'normal'? 

"If you had regular periods before you went on the pill, your cycle should regulate, and ovulation should recommence within a month or two," said Dr Stamatopoulos. 

"The problem is that many women go on the pill to regulate their periods, so they have a regular monthly period. This regularity will cease with these women once they stop the pill. That is why fertility becomes an issue for them."


Hmm okay. But what if you've always had regular periods and you're experiencing difficulty getting pregnant after the pill? What does that mean?

"For women who cease the pill in their late 30s to start conceiving, their fertility is already on the decline and it is not the pill that is necessarily the issue, but the age-related ovarian reserve affecting fertility."

Is there such a thing as being on the pill for 'too long'?

If you've ever been on the pill, we guarantee you probably ask yourself this on the reg, then kinda just put it to the back of your mind. 

So, is there such a thing as being on birth control for too long? And can it really mess with your fertility?

According to that new study, results did not show any lasting effect of using contraceptive methods over a long period of time. 

Image: Getty 

Dr Stamatopoulos adds that the length of time a woman has been using the pill has no effect on the speed at which a woman falls pregnant.

"It is more the reasons why women went on the pill and the age they stop the pill that will affect how long it will take to get pregnant. There is no such thing as taking the pill for 'too long'."

Well, that's reassuring. Kinda.

What other factors might affect fertility levels?

As Dr Stamatopoulos mentioned, age is a big factor for fertility in women - so if you're struggling to fall pregnant after the pill, this could be a major factor.  

"The older the woman is, the older her eggs are. This plays a large part in fertility for women. Women's fertility starts to drop after the age of 37. It is important to be aware of this," said Dr Stamatopoulos.


So, what if age isn't the issue? 

"Some women with chronic diseases may have further issues conceiving. Endometriosis can influence falling pregnant. But not all women who have endometriosis struggle to conceive," said Dr Stamatopoulos. 

Anything else?

"Blocked fallopian tubes will cause issues with fertility and for some women it's the shape of the uterus. A low sperm count may also cause issues conceiving."

Okay. That's a lot of stuff.

What should you do if you want to get pregnant after coming off the pill?

If you're one of the folks looking to ditch the pill and start trying for a baby, there are a few things Dr Stamatopoulos recommends doing in order to help increase your chances of falling pregnant.  

Firstly, vaccinations. Make sure you're all up to date, especially for Rubella - as this can cause severe defects in the pregnancy if you get it in the first trimester, said Dr Stamatopoulos. 

"I would also advise starting 500mcg of folate at lease six weeks prior to conception. Lifestyle advice includes: weight management for those who might be overweight, quitting smoking, alcohol in moderation and stopping any recreational drugs," said Dr Stamatopoulos.

Just to be clear, though - all this responsibility doesn't just land on one person.

"All of these points go for the woman and man providing the egg and the sperm, regardless of a heterosexual or same sex relationship."

It's... not happening. 

"The fact is that humans are not very fertile. You have a 20 per cent chance of getting pregnant with each menstrual cycle, so it is important to time intercourse for the middle of your cycle or 14 days before your period."

*Gets out calculator*.

"For a 28-day cycle, that's day 14, for a woman with a 30 day cycle, it's day 16. For a woman with a 35 day cycle, it's day 21," said Dr Stamatopoulos. "It can take 12-18 months to conceive, so be patient."

Of course, if you feel like something isn't right, it's always best to make an appointment with your gyno and check that everything is okay.

"If you have any concerns about fertility or getting pregnant, make an appointment with your gynaecologist. Bring your partner as well, as this is a combined issue, not just yours."

Feature image: Getty

What was your experience after you stopped taking the pill? Share with us in the comment section below.

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