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Myth busting: does long term use of the pill affect your ability to get pregnant?

Myth busting: does long term use of the pill affect your ability to get pregnant?

The beauty of birth control is you can take it when you need to prevent pregnancy, then stop taking it when you’re ready to procreate. But is it really all that easy? It seems that every woman knows a friend of a friend that had trouble getting pregnant after being on the pill for so long. Then on the other hand, there are women who stop taking the pill and get pregnant within months. To get to the bottom of it, we tapped Urogynocologist, Dr. Maria Canter, MD, FPMRS, FACOG, MSC for her best tips for getting pregnant after using birth control.

If you’re ready to get off the pill, it’s important that you remember why you started taking it in the first place. Was it solely to prevent pregnancy, or was it to make your periods more regular? If the latter is true, Dr. Canter says, “some women may have heard the term post-pill amenorrhea, which refers to not having a menstrual period for 6 or more months after discontinuing the pill. As it turns out, a study demonstrated that the rate of post-pill amenorrhea was the same as prior to starting the pill. Most women will begin menses (aka your period) within the first month or so.” If you’ve always had an irregular period, chances are it will still be irregular when you’re off the pill, so don’t panic if your cycle suddenly feels off.

If you’re solely trying to prevent pregnancy with the pill, rather than addressing other symptoms, Dr. Canter says, “There are various types of birth control to consider. These include natural family planning/rhythm method, condoms, IUDs, Diaphragms, oral contraceptive pills, vaginal contraceptive ring, contraceptive patch and surgical procedures.” She also adds, “In the past, IUDs had a bad reputation for causing infection that led to scarring and infertility, however, nowadays, IUDs are safe.” And adding to the good news, she explains, “The various forms of birth control, other than surgical, pose no harm to the reproductive system.” Really the only thing separating one from the other is preference and Dr. Canter says, “when choosing a method of contraception, one must consider the medical history and physical exam of each patient.”

Although Dr. Canter assures that “long term use of the oral contraceptive pill does not harm your reproductive system,” it’s important to take your age into consideration. The length of time you’ve been taking contraception is irrelevant, however, the age of which you decide to stop taking it makes all the difference. She explains, “Women are considered high risk at age 35 or older. Believe it or not, these women are referred to as ‘advanced maternal age.’ Of note, just because you are considered advanced maternal age, doesn’t mean that you can’t have a straightforward normal pregnancy. It just means your risk is higher and you may need additional monitoring or testing.”

If you’re off the pill and still aren’t getting pregnant, getting to know your ovulation schedule is key. Dr. Canter suggests, “When you’re trying to get pregnant, one tip is to monitor your basal body temperature. To do this, take your temperature first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. Once you ovulate, you will see a 0.5 to 1.0 degree increase in your temperature. This usually occurs about 2 weeks prior to menses. It is best to have intercourse during the time around ovulation.”

If you’ve been off of the pill for some time now but you still can’t get pregnant, just remember Dr. Canter says, “Other than a surgical procedure, discontinuing use of the contraceptive method results in the possibility of becoming pregnant.” Try her method for tracking ovulation as a tool to become pregnant, and if that doesn’t work, consult a physician. But even then, remember that it may just take time.