We’re guessing if you’ve been on contraception, avoiding pregnancy is most likely the first thing on your mind. Making the decision to come off contraception is a big one. And if you’re looking to start a family right away, it can bring the topic of fertility to the forefront of your mind. But how exactly does contraception impact a woman’s fertility? Let’s learn!

There is no way of predicting how long it will take, and unfortunately, 1 in 6 couples will experience difficulties.

Most women will usually begin to ovulate normally and a period within a month or two after they stop using the pill or most forms of birth control. However, for others it may take longer. In most instances this is just the normal delays in the process of conception. There is a common misconception that there are problems conceiving post contraception, or even possible negative side effects. The truth of the matter is that your body needs a bit of time to adjust and in most cases, pregnancy will happen when your body is ready to conceive.

Does being on the pill affect fertility?

Whether you’re taking the combined pill back-to-back or taking a monthly break, there is no evidence to suggest the use of combined hormonal contraceptives have any long-term impact on fertility. Some may be concerned about the length of time they’ve been on the pill, but this, too, has no impact.

It is possible to get pregnant as soon as you stop taking the combined pill, as you start to ovulate again (any time from 7 days after your last packet has finished). Studies show the majority of women will ovulate within a month of stopping the pill. However, it is important to remember when you stop using the pill, your fertility will return to whatever is normal for you, i.e. whether you are able to get pregnant will be the same for you whether or not you have used contraception, bearing in mind any increase in age and the effect this will have.

What about other forms of contraception?

Here is a general guide to some of the most common contraceptive methods, and how they can affect a woman’s fertility levels once stopped:

  • The Pill: In most instances, your fertility will return to your usual level within two months when your menstrual cycle resumes.
  • IUD e.g. Mirena: After removal you should immediately return to your usual level of fertility.
  • Contraception Implant: When the implant is removed, most women returning to their previous menstrual cycle within a month.
  • Contraception Injection: It may take between 8 – 12 months to return to your normal cycle and fertility after your last injection, although in some individuals this may be longer. If you are considering falling pregnant in the next 12 to 18 months we advise you not to use this method of contraception.
  • Vaginal Ring: The vaginal ring provides a relatively low dose of hormones compared to most combined contraceptive pills. When you stop using the vaginal ring your fertility goes back to its normal level very quickly.

My periods haven’t yet returned. Can I still get pregnant?

Actually, yes! This is all down to the ovulation. Occurring around 2 weeks before your period, it is possible for you to become pregnant on that first ovulation before your periods have returned. So, in theory, you could become pregnant after stopping your contraception without having had a period.

The same can be said for irregular cycles. Ovulation may still occur, just not in a particularly regular fashion. This means you are still able to get pregnant even if your cycle hasn’t yet returned to normal. But remember, irregular periods can be a sign of an underlying issue, one which may have been masked by the use of contraceptives. So, it’s important to discuss any concerns you have with your doctor.

Do know that regular periods are not necessarily an indicator of fertility either. It is possible for a woman to have periods but for her not to ovulate. This is called anovulation. There are also other causes of fertility problems including blocked or damaged fallopian tubes and endometriosis.

To summarise…

  • The combined pill and most other contraceptive methods work to prevent pregnancy in the short term but have no long-term impact on fertility
  • The majority of women discontinuing hormonal contraception return to their normal menstrual cycles within a couple of months
  • Evidence suggests it can take a while for fertility to return to those who have been using the contraceptive injection
  • Contraception can mask underlying causes of fertility problems
  • Periods do not equal fertility, but irregular or problematic periods may indicate an underlying medical problem that could affect your ability to conceive – if this is the case, speak to your GP.

When to speak to a professional?

It is very important that you keep ‘time’ in mind. As a woman gets older, she produces fewer healthy eggs. This decrease in egg production gets faster with each year. That’s why the major cause of fertility problems in women is their age. Once you turn 36, your chance of conceiving naturally is about half of what it was when you were 20.

If you are over 35 and you haven’t fallen pregnant after six months of trying, talk to your GP and ask for a referral fertility specialist. If you are under the age of 35, speak to your GP if you haven’t fallen pregnant within a year of trying to conceive.

This blog is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your medical practitioner.