Is birth control bad for you? Can it damage your fertility? This is the question on the hearts of many young women. Some of these women are considering birth control options, while some others are on it already. Let’s face the facts, hormonal contraceptives have risks. It would take an ignorant person to deny that fact. However, infertility does not come up in the list of its risks. Numerous studies tell us that using birth control does not reduce your chances of getting pregnant after you discontinue it. However, if you go for tubal ligation as your birth control option, there may be no way to reverse it.
There is a very large research study that proves birth control doesn’t affect fertility. This study took a look at young women who used birth control for at least 7 years. More than 20 percent of these women got pregnant within their first month of fertility after they discontinued the birth control. Among the remaining that didn’t get pregnant immediately, about 80% conceived within one year. That is not different from the probability of getting pregnant in the general population. But then, we can’t deny that there are also a few studies suggesting that birth control has some long-term risks. We will, therefore, take a look at the different methods of birth control, and see how they may affect fertility.
Is Birth Control Bad For You? Examining Non-Hormonal Methods
1. Fertility Awareness
Methods of fertility awareness are non-medical. They are like natural birth control methods. Examples include monitoring your cycle, checking cervical mucus, taking temperature, etc. to predict ovulation.
While using such methods, you simply avoid sex when you suspect ovulation. That, in turn, prevents pregnancy. Fertility awareness, being natural, poses no risk whatsoever to fertility.
Sterilization is what people commonly refer to as getting your tubes tied. It’s life a once-for-all fix for birth control. You do it once, and that’s all you need to hinder pregnancy.
Clearly, this method is not like other methods of contraception. It is a permanent fix, and there is no way to reverse it. There are 2 common forms of sterilization. They are tubal implantation and tubal ligation.
When you do final implantation, the doctor would implant a coil into each of your fallopian tubes. Scar tissue would turn around the ring and block off the tube. This takes about 3 months.
Tubal ligation, on the other hand, involves the doctor cutting, sealing, or clipping your fallopian tubes. As soon as this is done, it takes immediate effect in preventing pregnancy.
After sterilization, it is highly unlikely that you would ever get pregnant again. The chance is less than a percent.
3. Copper IUD
The common name for copper IUD is “the Paragard”. The FDA approves the use of these T-shaped devices for birth control.
Copper IUDs are made with copper and plastic. To prevent pregnancy, the doctor inserts them into your uterus. They then release copper ions which, in turn, prevent egg fertilization.
A research study in 2015 examined 50 women who use IUDs, as well as 42 who never used IUD. The age range of these women was from 18-35.
After discontinuing their use of IUD, they compared the fertility rates of these women with the 42 who never used IUDs. After a year, they had similar fertility rates.
If anything, the fertility rate of those who used IUDs was higher. 81% of the IUD users got pregnant, while only 70% of the non-IUD users got pregnant.
How About Hormonal Methods?
1. Hormonal IUD
These work like copper IUDs, but they release hormones instead of copper. Let’s see how this affects fertility.
A research study in 2011 tells us that after removing hormonal IUDs, women often regain normal fertility within only a few months. In that particular study, 80% percent of the women got pregnant within one year. Experts say the reversal of effects occurs shortly after you remove the device.
2. Oral Contraceptives
Using pills (oral contraceptives) is quite common for birth control. They rely on estrogen and progesterone to hinder pregnancy.
Experts from Boston University did a research study in 2019 on how oral contraceptives affect fertility. They found that both long-term and short-term users of pills have similar implications. After you discontinue them, it takes a while before fertility returns.
But as soon as fertility returns, the likelihood of getting pregnant is not different from that of the general populace. About 85 percent of these women got pregnant within a year. About 25 percent of these got pregnant in their first fertile month.
3. Injection or Shot
The FDA also approves the use of birth control shots. If you choose to use this method, you will receive a progesterone injection every 3 months.
Progesterone shots are the only form of hormonal control that experts say can delay conception. Most of the clinical studies that discuss the impact of progesterone shots on fertility refer to two studies. One is from 1984, while the other is from 1998.
The study from 1984 shows that after women discontinue the use of hormonal shots, they experienced an average of 5.5 months of delay in conception.
The study from the 1998 study is more commonly cited. Mayo Clinic and Planned Parenthood websites refer to it. The study affirms that fertility would usually resume averagely after 10 months of discontinuation.
But then, although fertility may return, ovulation remains under suppression for about 22 months. So then, hormonal shots may not be the best bet for those who may wish to get pregnant within 2 years.
When you check through all the clinical study reports we cited above, you should have less agitation about using birth control. The reports show that most of these methods are safe and do not have negative impacts on fertility.
Is birth control bad for you? The answer is NO when it comes to fertility. While long-term use of certain methods of birth control has its risks, fertility is not in any way under threat. It is, therefore, not a reason to shy away from using birth control.