Are you concerned that using birth control could cause infertility? This is a common concern among women, but the answer is no. Using birth control does not affect a woman's ability to get pregnant once she stops using it.
So why does the myth persist that birth control causes infertility?Continue reading to explore the facts and myths surrounding this topic and clear up any confusion you may have.
Types of birth control
There are various types of birth control available that work in different ways to prevent pregnancy, and the appropriate type depends on the individual’s overall health and personal circumstances.
Some types of birth control include:
Short-acting hormonal birth control
It works by releasing hormones (usually estrogen or progestin) that prevent ovulation. This method includes the pill, a patch, the ring, and an injection.
Long-acting reversible contraception
An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small, T-shaped, device inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy.
It works by blocking sperm from entering the uterus. It includes condoms, diaphragms, and cervical caps.
It is a surgical procedure to prevent a woman from getting pregnant or prevent a man from releasing sperm.
It refers to the methods of contraception that are used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure.
Causes of infertility
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive a child after a year or more of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse. Many factors can contribute to infertility in both men and women. Some of these factors include:
The woman's fertility declines gradually after age 35 due to a natural decrease in the number and quality of her eggs.2
The fluctuation in the hormonal levels can interfere with ovulation and fertility in women, which leads to disorders like polycystic ovary syndrome (a condition in which high levels of androgens are produced and many small cysts develop on the ovaries).3 Men can also experience hormonal disorders that affect their fertility, such as low testosterone levels.4
Problems in the reproductive system can interfere with fertility. For example, the blocked fallopian tubes in women or varicoceles in men prevent the egg and sperm from meeting.5 Other structural issues like uterine fibroids or adhesions can also affect fertility in women.
A condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus, causing problems like blocking the fallopian tubes, inflammation, and scarring that affects fertility.5
Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and obesity have a negative impact on fertility.7
Exposure to environmental pollutants and toxins affect the quality and quantity of eggs and sperm, leading to reduced fertility or infertility.8
Certain chemotherapy medications can damage the ovaries or testes, increasing the risk of infertility and menopause in women.9
What are the negative effects of birth control?
Birth control can have positive and negative effects on the body. These effects can vary depending on the type of birth control, the individual's health history, and other factors. Some of the potential negative effects of birth control include:
It is a common side effect of hormonal birth control, especially when starting a new method. It typically goes away after the body adjusts to the hormonal changes. Taking the pill with food or before bedtime can help alleviate nausea for some women.
Headaches and migraine
Hormonal birth control can cause headaches or increase the frequency of migraines, which may be mild or severe.
Some women may experience irregular bleeding or spotting while using hormonal birth control, especially in the first few months. It happens because the body is adjusting to changing levels of hormones, and the uterus is adjusting to having a thinner lining.
Some women experience changes in mood, such as depression or anxiety, when using hormonal birth control.
Hormonal birth control can cause breast tenderness or swelling.
It is often listed as a possible side effect of birth control pills, although research has not definitively confirmed this link. Some women may experience mild fluid retention in certain areas of their body, such as the breasts and hips when starting hormonal birth control. However, any weight gain associated with birth control pills is typically minimal and does not cause health problems.
What are the long term effects of birth control?
While most people can use birth control for a long time without significant problems, there is a potential for certain complications to occur. One common concern about the long-term use of birth control is the increased risk of blood clots which can lead to serious health complications such as stroke or heart attack. Oral contraceptives containing both progesterone and estrogen (combined oral contraceptive) are associated with an increased risk of blood clots. Although the risk of blood clots is small, it increases in women who smoke or have a history of blood clots or cardiovascular diseases.11,12
In addition, the long-term use of birth control can also raise concerns about an increased risk of certain cancers. For instance, combined oral contraceptive has been linked to an elevated risk of breast and cervical cancers.13,14 Nevertheless, it has also been shown to decrease the risk of other types of cancer, such as ovarian, endometrial, and colorectal cancers.11,13
How long does birth control stays in your body?
When women stop taking hormonal birth control, it usually takes a few days to a week for the hormone levels in their bodies to return to normal. However, it's important to note that even after stopping birth control, it may take some time for a menstrual cycle to return to its regular pattern. Additionally, some types of hormonal birth control, such as the hormonal IUD, may continue to affect the body for a while after removal.
How to choose the right birth control option
Choosing the right birth control is a personal decision that should be made in consultation with your healthcare provider. Here are some factors to consider when choosing birth control:
Your healthcare provider will consider your overall health and any medical conditions you may have when helping you choose birth control.
All birth control methods have potential side effects, so it's important to discuss these with your healthcare provider before making a decision.
Some birth control methods, such as the pill or patch, require daily or weekly use, while others, such as an IUD, can be left in place for several years. It's important to choose a method that fits your lifestyle and is easy for you to use consistently.
Ultimately, the best birth control is one that you feel comfortable using and meet your individual needs and preferences.
No evidence is available to confirm that birth control causes infertility. Using birth control can help prevent unintended pregnancies, manage certain health conditions (like heavy periods or acne), and protect against sexually transmitted infections, which can sometimes cause infertility. Several types of birth control are available, including hormonal and non-hormonal options. Long-term use of birth control is generally safe, although there are potential side effects to consider, such as headaches, nausea, and mood changes. It is important to discuss the potential risks and benefits of different types of birth control with a healthcare provider to determine the best option for your needs.
- Seshadri S, Morris G, Serhal P, Saab W. Assisted conception in women of advanced maternal age. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology [Internet]. 2021 Jan 1 [cited 2023 Mar 28];70:10–20. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1521693420301231
- Bulsara J, Patel P, Soni A, Acharya S. A review: Brief insight into Polycystic Ovarian syndrome. Endocrine and Metabolic Science [Internet]. 2021 Jun 30 [cited 2023 Mar 28];3:100085. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S266639612100008X
- Lateef OM, Akintubosun MO. Sleep and reproductive health. J Circadian Rhythms [Internet]. [cited 2023 Mar 28];18:1. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7101004/
- Kawwass JF, Penzias AS, Adashi EY. Fertility—a human right worthy of mandated insurance coverage: the evolution, limitations, and future of access to care. Fertility and Sterility [Internet]. 2021 Jan 1 [cited 2023 Mar 28];115(1):29–42. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015028220323979
- Emokpae MA, Brown SI. Effects of lifestyle factors on fertility: practical recommendations for modification. Reproduction and Fertility [Internet]. 2021 Jan 8 [cited 2023 Mar 28];2(1):R13–26. Available from: https://raf.bioscientifica.com/view/journals/raf/2/1/RAF-20-0046.xml
- Selvaraju V, Baskaran S, Agarwal A, Henkel R. Environmental contaminants and male infertility: Effects and mechanisms. Andrologia [Internet]. 2021 Feb [cited 2023 Mar 28];53(1). Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/and.13646
- Spears N, Lopes F, Stefansdottir A, Rossi V, De Felici M, Anderson RA, et al. Ovarian damage from chemotherapy and current approaches to its protection. Hum Reprod Update. 2019 Nov 5;25(6):673–93.
- Chang KT, Mukanu M, Bellows B, Hameed W, Kalamar AM, Grépin KA, et al. Evaluating quality of contraceptive counseling: an analysis of the method information index. Studies in Family Planning [Internet]. 2019 Mar [cited 2023 Mar 28];50(1):25–42. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/sifp.12081
- Oguz SH, Yildiz BO. An update on contraception in polycystic ovary syndrome. Endocrinol Metab [Internet]. 2021 Apr 15 [cited 2023 Mar 28];36(2):296–311. Available from: https://synapse.koreamed.org/articles/1516079058
- Bai MF, Wang X. Risk factors associated with coronary heart disease in women: a systematic review. Herz. 2020 Dec;45(Suppl 1):52–7
- Graafland L, Abbott M, Accordino M. Breast cancer risk related to combined oral contraceptive use. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners [Internet]. 2020 Feb 1 [cited 2023 Mar 28];16(2):116–20. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1555415519310529
- Iversen L, Fielding S, Lidegaard Ø, Hannaford PC. Contemporary hormonal contraception and cervical cancer in women of reproductive age. Int J Cancer [Internet]. 2021 Aug 15 [cited 2023 Mar 28];149(4):769–77. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.33585