Can contraceptives cause fertility problems?
Updated: Mar 28, 2022
Thanks to effective contraceptives, generations of women can now plan their futures. On the flip side, they still need the reassurance of a seamless conception journey despite their previous contraceptive use.
There is a misconception that contraceptives cause infertility, but quite the contrary. Grace Health's fertility specialist, Dr. Emma Karling reaffirms that contraceptives do not make women infertile, even though some might take a little longer to completely wear out of the body after terminating their use. Below are the various types of contraceptives and the period it takes for the body to transition from pregnancy prevention to conception.
Types of contraceptives
Contraceptives can be defined as the intentional prevention of conception through the use of chemical drugs or surgical procedures. These are divided into two groups:
They consist of: daily pills, hormonal intrauterine devices (IUD), implants, and shots. These are meant to prevent ovulation. They inhibit the release of eggs from the ovaries. Additionally, they cause the lining of the uterus to thicken therefore preventing sperms from passing through.
Although no contraceptives will ruin your fertility, some can delay the possibility of getting pregnant. Let us look at some of the impacts each specific hormonal contraceptive has on your fertility:
Shot contraceptives - also known as Injectables. Depo Provera injection is a good example. It is administered every 3 months and it is one of the hormonal methods that can take up to 12-16 weeks before the body completely returns to its regular cycle. It may take several months for some women.
Implants - they are usually inserted under the skin and released little by little. They can take about 4-18 weeks after removal before the body regains a normal cycle. Implants can be used by women who are still breastfeeding their infants or those who have been recommended not to use daily pills by a qualified medical practitioner.
Daily pills - they are taken orally. Women under the following categories should not use daily pills: those who are overweight, over 35 years, who smoke, have high blood pressure, have had thrombosis, or whose parents have had thrombosis or stroke early in life. A resumption of the regular cycle could be achieved immediately after quitting but for some women, it may take 1 or 2 months to have a regular cycle again.
Talk to a doctor before you start to taking Daily pills!
Hormonal IUDs - they can be used by women who are both breastfeeding and those not allowed/eligible to take daily pills. The regular cycle should return straight after having it taken out. However, for some women, it could take 1 -2 months.
The difference between hormonal and non-hormonal contraceptives is the latter acts as a barrier for preventing conception whereas the former alters the body system internally to prevent conception. For instance,
The copper IUD is a long-term non-hormonal contraceptive method that contains copper. The copper that is released around the uterus makes it impossible for sperms to survive. This is how; copper makes sperms non-viable while the IUD itself hinders the embryo from being implanted. A copper IUD often increases the amount of bleeding. As soon as the IUD is removed the fertility and possibility to get pregnant should return promptly. In some cases, there may be a few weeks of delay. This does not interrupt the hormonal cycle and ovulation. However, It’s important to note that there may be a higher risk of contracting yeast infections.
Condoms are the only method that can protect you from STDs like HIV, Chlamydia, etc. It protects both men and women from STIs if used properly. It's a barrier method which means no sperms, viruses nor bacteria can be transmitted from one person to another. A condom has no impact on the hormonal cycle or fertility. Some people are allergic to latex and should use condoms made of plastic. These are not as elastic as the latex ones and are a bit more expensive. Condoms are also considered a single-use or temporary contraception method.
Emergency contraceptive pills usually known as post pills are a single-use contraceptive method used to delay ovulation right after sex. Although it might cause changes in the period cycle and make it irregular, the emergency pill does not affect your fertility. If the method is used several times a month the cycles might be affected occasionally, but after stopping the pill the cycle will be regular. It's possible to get pregnant right after using it in the same week or month after having unprotected sex.
Spermicides are used to prevent the movement of sperms. Similar to the emergency contraceptive pills, they do not alter the process of pregnancy after using them and one could get pregnant right away after quitting it.
It is divided into female and male sterilization. The two are also known as tubal ligation and vasectomy respectively.
Female sterilization requires a surgical procedure. It involves cutting and ligating ovarian tubes. This stops the eggs from passing through the tubes ultimately denying the sperm's fertilization opportunity. A sterilized woman cannot get pregnant naturally. Pregnancy is only possible via in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The woman still has her period and ovulation although the sterilization makes her infertile from natural conception.
Vasectomy is considered a permanent contraception method involving a surgical procedure of cutting and tying the tubes called the vas deferens. These tubes carry the sperms up from the testicles. The procedure prevents the movement of sperm, therefore, hindering it from mixing mix with semen during sexual intercourse. People with vasectomies still ejaculate but there will be no sperms in the semen hence the eggs cannot be fertilized. Men who have had this procedure would not be able to impregnate a woman unless they have had it reversed in a procedure known as "reverse vasectomy"
The type of contraceptive that is best for you depends on your needs and objectives keeping in mind any medical conditions that you might have. Some reasons that might lead to the use of contraceptives are:
To be in charge of your fertility
To avoid pregnancy
To protect yourself from STIs
To have less period pain
To have control of your period.
If you just had a baby and want to avoid pregnancy
The myth that women cannot get pregnant after long or short-term contraceptive use has been debunked. What could happen is a slight delay but the chances of conception are still intact.
To learn more about which specific contraceptive would be best for you and your lifestyle during and after use, ask grace on the Grace Health app. Stay Informed, Stay in control!