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?
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.
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.