Up until now, you and your birth control were like BFFs. It was always there for you when you need it (including a few times when you might have forgotten to pop a pill), giving you constant coverage to circumvent conception. But now that you’ve decided to either start a family (or give your child a baby brother or sister), you’re finding that you’re not as fertile as you figured you would be. So can birth control cause infertility? It’s only a temporary pause until you’re ready to have a baby.
What Types Of Birth Control Are Available?
As far as female contraception is concerned, there are so many ways to prevent your sweetie’s swimmers from reaching your egg. You’ve got your pick of birth control, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC): hormonal methods (i.e. an implant, a shot, the pill, the patch, and a vaginal ring), or intrauterine contraception (like the IUD). And then, there are the good ol’ barrier methods, like a diaphragm, sponge, condoms, and spermicides. Each one has their own success and failure rate, and can depend on your medical history or efficacy of usage (meaning how consistent you are with using your own form of BC).
But Can Birth Control Cause Infertility?
If you thought that you could conceive right away after stopping your birth control, think again. Although your ability to get pregnant after stopping birth control depends on the type of contraception you were using, it also hinges on other things as well. After all, fertility is based on a bunch of factors, such as your overall health, your age, weight, consumption of caffeine, and other lifestyle choices.
Still, if you’ve been on birth control since, like, forever and now want to get pregnant, you don’t have to worry, because birth control doesn’t cause infertility. “Contraception does not cause infertility no matter how long it’s used or which method is used,” Dr. Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG, double board-certified in OB/GYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine, Director of Perinatal Services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln tells Romper. “They are specifically modulated to delay fertility temporarily, thus preventing pregnancy.”
That said, there are some things to know about how specific forms of birth control can affect fertility. Here’s a breakdown:
Does An IUD Cause Infertility?
Shaped like the letter T, the IUD (intrauterine device) comes in two varieties: copper IUDs and hormonal IUDs. They work by affecting the sperm cell motility. Think of it this way; if a sperm can’t swim, it can’t get to the egg. IUDs are inserted by your OB/GYN, and can last for several years, depending on the ones you get. That said, while an IUD can’t directly cause infertility, it is possible for it to play a role in it. “You can’t get infertility from an IUD, but if you get an STD and get PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease), infertility can then happen,” Dr. Nichole Butler, MD, a board-certified OB/GYN, FACOG tells Romper. “It’s not necessarily from the IUD, but from the STD, but if you have an IUD, then it can happen.” Just another reason to remember that birth control is just that: birth control, and not a barrier to blocking STD transmission.
Does The Pill Cause Infertility?
You may have been taking birth control pills since you were a teenager. And it makes sense, since birth control pills have a lot of benefits apart from preventing pregnancy, like helping with acne and decreasing menstrual cramp pain. Birth control pills can even help prevent or lessen iron deficiency and cysts in your boobs and ovaries, according to Planned Parenthood. But can the pill make you infertile? Nope, according to Dr. Kim Langdon, MD, an OB/GYN. “Daily hormones, like those from birth control pills, are out of your system quickly and that’s why you should not miss more than one pill per month,” says Dr. Langdon. It doesn’t mean that you’ll be fertile tomorrow, but stopping birth control pills means that your fertility should return within a few months, per a PubMed study.
Does The Vaginal Ring Cause Infertility?
A hormonal form of birth control, the vaginal ring is inserted into the vagina, where it stays for three weeks, giving you a ring-free week to allow for menstruation, the Mayo Clinic reported. Still, it shouldn’t be a freeze on your fertility, Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, MD, an OB/GYN tells Romper. “There are non-pill methods of combined hormonal contraception, such as the long-lasting vaginal ring called Annovera, which has similar low dose estrogen and progestins in it to the pill,” says Dr. Minkin. “Again, they are out of your system within a few days of stopping them, and ovulation resumes to its normal level.”
Does The Shot Cause Infertility?
While none of the birth control methods causes infertility, there is one that might slow it down more than others, and that’s the Depo-Provera shot. “The one method that can delay your return to fertility (but not to make you infertile) is the Depo Provera injection,” says Dr. Minkin. “Although the typical usage is one shot every three months, it can hang around the body for a while beyond those three months — even for a few extra months.” So if you’re looking to conceive quickly after stopping your BC, (and you’re using the Depo Provera shot), you might have to wait a big longer for your cycle to start up again and become pregnant. “Depo-Provera is reversible, but it takes 9-18 months to recover fertility after the last injection,” agrees Dr. Cynthia Flynn, MD, a board-certified OB/GYN with JustAnswer. “This is normal and to be expected.”
Overall, there is no one method of female contraception that is going to cause problems with future conception sans tubal ligation, according to Dr. Flynn. Although some might delay getting pregnant a little more than others, you shouldn’t worry that your birth control will block your chances of having a beautiful and healthy baby in the future.
Barnhart, K., Schreiber, C. “Return to fertility following discontinuation of oral contraceptives” 2009.
Dr. Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG, double board-certified in OB/GYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine, Director of Perinatal Services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln
Dr. Nichole Butler, MD, a board-certified OB/GYN, FACOG
Dr. Kim Langdon, MD, an OB/GYN
Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, MD, an OB/GYN
Dr. Cynthia Flynn, MD, a board-certified OB/GYN with JustAnswer