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Dear Dr. Kate: Does Long-Term Pill Usage Make It Hard to Get Pregnant Later?

Thu, Apr 16, 2009

Advice, What's Up Doc?

birth_control_pillphoto by Gnarls_Monkey

Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City and she answers your medical questions here once a week. To ask her your own question, click here.

Dear Dr. Kate,

Right now I am absolutely not interested in having children. But in time, all things change. I have been taking birth control pills since I was 18. There hasn’t been any period between then and now where I haven’t taken a pill. Somewhere down the line (4 to 6 years from now) I may want to have kids and by then I will have been on the pill for 10+ years straight. So my question is, will this affect my chances of getting pregnant? I’ve heard of women taking a few months to a few years to get pregnant after getting off the pill. Will the time it takes for me to get pregnant be longer than most since I will have been on the pill for so long?

–CB

Dear CB,

First, congratulations on being such a successful birth control pill user! Happily, there’s no downside of long-term use of hormonal birth control. In fact, if you use the pill for over 10 years, you’ll reduce your chances of ovarian cancer by 50 percent, and your chances of endometrial cancer by almost 80 percent. So not only have you avoided an unplanned pregnancy, but you’ve actually reduced your risk of cancer.

The pill is very effective at turning off your ovaries, but it doesn’t put them in a deep-freeze. As soon as you stop the pill, your ovaries will wake up and begin to prepare for ovulation again. Yes, some women have trouble conceiving after they stop their birth control. But be assured: your fertility off the pill is the same as it would have been if you had never taken it in the first place. So if you were always able to get pregnant at age 28, you’ll have no difficulty once you start trying. But if you were destined to have fertility trouble at the same age, you’ll still have it anyway.

When you’re ready to start trying for pregnancy, your ovaries will be there for you. So enjoy your baby-free existence (and happier periods) as long as you want to.

Best,

Dr. Kate
Gyotalk

Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City. She also lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health. Check out more of her advice and ask her a question at Gynotalk.com.

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14 Responses to “Dear Dr. Kate: Does Long-Term Pill Usage Make It Hard to Get Pregnant Later?”

  1. Eve Says:

    I’ve been wondering about the exact same thing! Thanks for answering my question. I feel a lot more comfortable about continuing to use the pill now. :)

  2. Flo Says:

    Oh yay! Some girl I knew told me the exact opposite….I’m quite happy to be having painless periods….and one less doubt in the back of my head also :) You should put this on a bilboard…..It’s quite a relief….. :)

  3. Janelle Says:

    What about other types of birth control?

    Nuvaring for example? Or Depo?

  4. peachy Says:

    I took the pill for nearly 10 years. After reading a bunch of articles that warned conception might be difficult for long-time pill users, I got worried, decided to “clean up” about a year before we planned to have a baby… and got pregnant about ten minutes later. Needless to say, I didn’t need to worry!

    19 years later, that child is in college and — oh the irony! — I gently remind HIM to be careful…

  5. Dr. Kate Says:

    Janelle, it IS the same for other combined methods of birth control (the patch and the ring), as well as the IUD. But Depo-Provera CAN delay your fertility (the average time to conception is about 10 months after the last injection). Of course, if you don’t want to get pregnant, you will find that your fertility comes back immediately (Murphy’s law of contraception)!

  6. Dr. Kate Says:

    Peachy, thank you for sharing your story! Believe me, you’re not the only one this has happened to. I can’t tell you how many of my patients have had mistimed/unplanned pregnancies because they’re letting the pill “wash out of their system” or are “on a break” from birth control.

  7. Rox. Says:

    I wondered about that same thing too. But, I’m taking the pill because I have a couple of ovarian cysts, and I would like to have kids in the future. I hope I’ll be fine.

  8. Vicky Says:

    aww i am so glad u read this. I’m 18 years old an just started taking the pill not that long ago and my mum thought it can affect your fertility in later life and i was a bit wary cause i want to have kids later in life. ahwell thankz xxx

  9. dani Says:

    i’m just like rox-i’m takin it because of polycystic ovaries..will i be able to have children when i come off the pill?

  10. D4PREZ Says:

    I have to disagree with the statement ‘there‚Äôs no downside of long-term use of hormonal birth control.’ My friend used the pill for 8 years and threw a clot. Thank God it wasn’t life threatening but now she can’t use any hormones- ever, for life. And clots can be very serious in the heart or lungs and can kill you.

  11. Selena Says:

    Hi i’m 29yrs old now come of the pill 12weeks ago after taking it for 8yrs, so i have a 8yr old son. Found out i have a tilted womb will this make it hard to get pregnant? Aswell as being on the pill for yrs? Any advice? pls. Thankz xx

  12. Maria Says:

    Im 30 and I have an 11yr old son and have been on the pill since his birth…. I have stop taken the pill over two years ago… And for the last six months began trying to conceive again and have had no luck… : ( my partner is 57yrs old… And wondering if his age has anything to do with the situation?? Please any help… Would really love a new blessing….

  13. Cal Says:

    We’ve been trying to concieve since i came off the pill nearly 3 years ago after taking it for 6 years, i didnt have a period for nearly a year after coming off the pill, i have done a 6 month course of clomid but have still been unsuccessful :-(
    Im finding it hard to understand why as me and my partner already have a son together and itdidnt take us long to concieve back then so why now? Hopefully further tests will find out what the problem is!

  14. Kris Says:

    Does this include taking it for period suppression as well (continuously, with no placebo pills)? Or would this take longer to get pregnant afterward?


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