Possible infertility concerns


Q: I have been on birth control off and on for almost 10 years, im afraid that over-taking it a couple of times to try and prevent my period from coming (due to work retreats, prom in highschool, vacations etc.) may have caused me to be infertile. Is this a possibility? My husband are trying to have a baby, and I am just now having my first period in 6 months since I finally stopped taking birth control for good. Should we be concerned?

Symptoms:  Unable to conceive as of yet, lack of menstruation until recently.

A:   You can take birth control pills as long as you need birth control or until you reach menopause, as long as you're generally healthy and don't smoke. This applies to all types of birth control pills, including combination birth control pills and progestin-only birth control pills. Birth control pills aren't recommended for certain women, however, including women age 35 or older who smoke and women who have certain medical conditions, such as blood-clotting disorders or uncontrolled high blood pressure. Some types of birth control pills aren't recommended for women who are breast-feeding.

Years ago it was thought that prolonged use of birth control pills would interfere with a woman's subsequent ability to conceive, but this has been shown to be false. Once you've stopped taking the pill, it may take a while for your body’s natural hormones to take over. It could take a few months for your menstrual cycle to settle. This is the case whether you've been taking the pill cyclically, so that you've had a monthly bleed, or continuously. Most women who've been taking the combined oral contraceptive (COC) pill conceive within a year of stopping the pill. In fact, if you have been taking the pill, your chances of getting pregnant are about the same, or perhaps better than average.

One study found that women who took the pill in the long term got pregnant more quickly than those who hadn't used a hormonal contraceptive. Similarly, doctors used to recommend taking an occasional break from birth control pills, but this offers no benefits and may increase your risk of an unplanned pregnancy. If you're concerned about long-term use of birth control pills, discuss the risks and benefits with your health care provider. He or she can help you weigh the pros and cons of other types of contraception as well.

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