As someone who used birth control for 10 years, which was followed by five years of infertility, how conception could potentially be affected is always at on my mind. In fact, I think I've asked myself, "Can birth control ruin your chances of getting pregnant?" more times than I care to count or admit. When you're trying to get pregnant and it just doesn't seem to be happening as quickly as you'd like, it's normal to question everything you've ever done (normal, but not necessarily kind, so please remember to take care of yourself).
Countless women who have been on hormonal contraceptives for years wonder whether their fertility is being impacted by those hormones coursing through their bodies for an extended period of time. According to WebMD, however, there are also plenty of women who believe birth control actually increases their fertility by regulating their cycles or preventing endometriosis, which can adversely affect fertility. So which is it? Does birth control hurt, or help, your chances of conceiving later in life? According to Parenting, hormonal birth control does not affect your fertility at all.
Paul Blumenthal, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Johns Hopkins University Medical School in Baltimore and a Planned Parenthood advisor, tells Parenting that, “With a few notable exceptions, immediately after you stop using birth control, your fertility will go right back to what it was destined to be.” Blumenthal goes on to explain that your fertility won't necessarily go back to the level it was when you began taking birth control, but instead will go back to the level it would have been if you hadn't taken birth control.
In other words, if you started taking hormonal birth control when you were 15-years-old, and took it for fifteen consecutive years, when you stopped taking it your fertility wouldn't return to the level it was when you were 15, but instead the level it would have naturally been at age 30. Why? Because your fertility doesn't stay the same over time and, actually, decreases as you age.
There are also numerous benefits of hormonal birth control, according to Women's Health. Many women find their cycles regulate better while taking hormonal birth control, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NIH) says many women are prescribed birth control in order to keep endometriosis at bay. BabyCenter reports that taking birth control can help prevent the onset of certain cancers, including uterine and ovarian cancer.
Barrier methods, like a diaphragm or condom, obviously don't impact your hormone levels and Parenting says they can even help increase (or at least protect) your fertility by keeping you from contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
How long do you have to wait to try to conceive after stopping birth control? Well, that's up for debate. BabyCenter says some doctors recommend trying to conceive directly after stopping birth control, but others recommend waiting until you have had your first period in order to know whether or not you're capable of ovulating. BabyCenter also makes a point of letting women who are trying to conceive know that getting pregnant directly after stopping birth control doesn't put your unborn baby in danger in any way, so you can cross "birth control" off your list of fears when you find out you're expecting. Save your worries for other things like, you know, how you're going to sleep once your little one finally arrives.