Does the pill affect long-term fertility?

Many misconceptions surround the pill. For example, it is sometimes suggested that taking this oral contraceptive can affect women’s long-term fertility. It’s true that when taking properly, the pill is over 99 per cent effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies. However, the impact on fertility is short-term. If you’re currently using this form of contraception, there is no need to worry about the effect it will have on your ability to conceive in the future.


The facts

There is no known connection between how long women take the pill and how likely they are to experience fertility problems. Indeed, it’s possible to conceive immediately after coming off the pill, even if you have been on it for years.

However, it can take a little while for your periods to come back after you stop taking the pill. In most cases, women have a period between a fortnight and a month after they come off these contraceptives. However, this varies depending on a range of factors, including weight, health, exercise and the existence of medical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome.

It’s also important to bear in mind that your periods might be irregular when you first come off the pill. As a general rule, allow around six months for your menstrual cycle to get back to normal.


Advanced planning

If you intend to start trying for a baby in the near future, it may be wise to come off the pill in advance and start using condoms instead. By waiting until you’ve had at least one natural period before you conceive, you can help ensure you’re in the best possible health for pregnancy.

Bear in mind that certain lifestyle changes can also be beneficial. For example, healthcare professionals recommend taking folic acid supplements when you’re trying to conceive and, if you smoke, now could be a good time to quit the habit.


Masking problems

While the pill does not affect long-term fertility, it’s important to realise that it can mask problems that already exist, such as irregular periods.


When to seek help

It can be impossible to predict how long it will take to get pregnant. Couples and individuals differ markedly in this respect, and a host of factors are involved. However, nine in ten couples in which the woman is under 35 conceive naturally within around a year of having regular, unprotected sex. If you’ve been trying for more than a year and still aren’t pregnant, you may want to see your GP.

Your doctor will help you to identify any fertility problems and give you advice on the next steps to take.

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