Can Birth Control Affect Fertility?

Last updated on November 14th, 2023 at 01:43 pm

Does hormonal birth control affect your fertility? That’s a question a lot of us wonder if we know we want to get pregnant one day. The answer we usually are told is no, hormonal birth control does not have any affect on fertility and you can get pregnant right away when stopping it. However, I believe that answer is a disservice to many. While hormonal birth control does not cause infertility, it does have side effects that can linger, affecting how long it can take you to conceive and overall hormonal health.

Close-up of a hand holding a round birth control pill pack with labeled days of the week

Hormonal Birth Control and Women’s Rights

I cannot begin to share the side effects of birth control without acknowledging the positive impact it has had on women’s rights. Hormonal birth control has been revolutionary for women, providing the freedom to choose when to start a family while pursuing personal and career goals. For over a decade, I relied on this very freedom, appreciating the control it gave me over my life. But there’s another side to this story that often goes untold. While we’re well-versed in the benefits, we don’t hear as much about the potential drawbacks, particularly when it comes to fertility.

Birth control provides women independence that is undisputed and I benefiting from that independence am thankful but I also want to be candid about the risks. Knowledge about how birth control can impact fertility timelines and health is not just helpful, it’s necessary for anyone who may want to have children in the future. By sharing the whole picture, you can make choices that align with your long-term health and family planning goals.

How Hormonal Birth Control Works

Birth control pill strip partially out of a pink pouch on a pastel-colored background

To really grasp the full picture, it’s important to know what hormonal birth control is doing. These contraceptives are made with synthetic hormones that act like our own estrogen and progesterone. Their job? To put a halt to ovulation, make the cervical mucus thick and unwelcoming to sperm, and change the uterine lining so it’s not exactly a cozy bed for a potential egg. What isn’t often shared before starting birth control is that the regular bleeding experienced while on the pill isn’t a true period at all; it’s a manufactured withdrawal bleed that happens during the placebo week, without the natural monthly cycle of fertility. It’s these alterations in the body’s hormonal rhythms that raise some eyebrows and warrant a closer look at the potential impacts on reproductive health.

Hormonal Birth Control Side Effects on Fertility Health

Let’s explore some of the side effects of hormonal birth control. It can impact things from your body’s nutrient stores to hormonal imbalances that aren’t always easy to notice.

Nutrient Depletion and Fertility: The Overlooked Side Effect of Birth Control Pills

Hormonal birth control can interfere with the absorption and utilization of key nutrients such as folate, vitamins B2, B6, B12, vitamin C and E, and essential minerals like zinc and selenium. These nutrients are crucial for fertility and overall health. Replenishing these depleted reserves is vital for those looking to conceive post-birth control since these nutrients are also crucial for a healthy pregnancy. 

Hormonal Contraceptives and Gut Health: Understanding the Connection

The gut microbiome is a complex and important ecosystem within our body that plays a major role in digestion, immune response, and even mental health. When birth control pills enter the picture, they may disturb the beneficial bacteria balance, potentially leading to issues such as leaky gut—a condition where the intestinal barrier becomes compromised, allowing substances to enter the bloodstream abnormally. This disruption can also foster yeast overgrowth and diminish the diversity of beneficial bacteria, necessary for a well functioning digestive process and a strong immune system.

An imbalanced gut microbiome has been linked to mood disturbances, a side effect that’s often overlooked in discussions about birth control and mental health. 

These side effects not only impact you but they can have intergenerational impacts (epigenetics). For instance, an imbalanced microbiome can be transmitted to babies during birth, predisposing them to allergies, asthma, and potentially affecting their own immune health.

Close-up view of a contraceptive pill pack with various colored pills against a blue background

The Body’s Natural Detox Process and Hormonal Birth Control

The liver is our body’s main detox organ, especially for hormones. When you’re on hormonal birth control, your liver is tasked with breaking down these synthetic hormones. If it can’t keep up, you might experience a hormone build up. This can lead to a surplus of estrogen in your system, known as estrogen dominance, which can cause a wide range of issues: think irregular periods, intense PMS, unexpected weight changes, fibroids, endometriosis and even a higher risk of certain health problems. 

Hormonal Birth Control Can Cover Up Hormonal Imbalances 

Hormonal contraceptives have the ability to conceal signs of hormonal imbalances, such as acne, irregular spotting, or PCOS. Many turn to birth control not for preventing pregnancy but to manage symptoms of underlying hormonal issues, like heavy periods, severe cramps, or to manage PCOS. However, it’s important to recognize that while birth control can temporarily alleviate symptoms, it doesn’t address the actual cause. The real hormonal imbalance often remains hidden, returning once the contraceptive is stopped. This makes it even more important to support hormonal health actively, both while on birth control and especially in preparation for conception.

Post Birth Control Syndrome – Amenorrhea 

Hormonal birth control works by overriding the body’s natural hormonal communication system between the brain and the ovaries, essentially putting ovarian function on hold. When you stop taking it, this communication has to restart, but it isn’t like flipping a switch. For some, this process can be relatively quick, while for others, it might take longer for the brain to begin signaling the ovaries to resume their normal cycle. This delay can contribute to post-pill amenorrhea, which is when your period doesn’t return immediately after stopping birth control. While it’s a temporary condition, medical guidance may be needed, if it takes longer than three months to return if you’re trying to get pregnant or six months if you’re not trying to conceive just yet. 

Is Hormonal Birth Control Bad or Good?

It’s necessary to step away from the simplistic labels of ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Every woman’s body responds differently to contraceptives, and individual health needs and life choices will significantly influence this decision. The key is informed choice. Being fully aware of the potential benefits and acknowledging the risks associated with hormonal birth control empowers women to make decisions that align with their health goals and lifestyle preferences. 

I personally, knowing what I know now so many years later, would have never started taking hormonal birth control. I went to my OBGYN complaining of severe cramps. So severe I missed multiple classes during college. The recommendation was to go on birth control right away and my cramps would get better. They did for a bit but then came back along with acne, migraines and stomach issues. I never went on birth control for pregnancy prevention and I wasn’t given all the information before making a decision. 

Knowledge is power when it comes to reproductive health. Whether you choose to continue using hormonal birth control or to explore alternatives, the most most important aspect is that the decision is made with a full understanding of the potential implications on fertility and overall health. 

Various packs of birth control pills in multiple colors indicating different hormone combinations

Preparing for Fertility Post-Birth Control

Stepping away from hormonal birth control requires a plan to support hormonal health. Strategies might include nutritional supplementation, lifestyle changes to enhance natural detoxification, and monitoring menstrual cycles for returning regularity.

As a Holistic Certified Health Coach specializing in women’s health during the maternity care years, preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum, my role is to provide you with comprehensive information so that you can make the choice that’s right for you. My goal is to shed light on both the advantages and the overlooked risks, helping you to weigh these against your personal health goals and lifestyle.

I offer one-on-one coaching to help you understand how to support your body’s natural hormonal balance through nutrition, lifestyle choices, and mindset shifts away from diet culture to embrace nutrient-dense, whole foods and low-toxic living. If you are considering transitioning off hormonal birth control, I can guide you through supporting the restoration of nutrient levels, and explore natural family planning methods if that aligns with your goals.

My approach as a Certified Holistic Health Coach is to support you not only in making informed choices about birth control but also in implementing holistic practices that promote overall health and well-being. This ensures that whatever your choice, you’re taking proactive steps to maintain your reproductive health and prepare your body for the future, whether that includes pregnancy or simply achieving a balanced state of health.

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Remember: this post is for informational purposes only and may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. Always check with your own physician or medical professional before trying or implementing any information read here.

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Welcome! It is so great to have you here. As a Certified Health Coach and Nutrition Consultant, my mission is to support you in achieving a healthy pregnancy. Whether you are ready to prepare your body for pregnancy, aiming for a smooth and healthy nine months, or seeking support in your postpartum recovery. I also help parents and their young children embrace nutritious eating and a healthy lifestyle. I provide practical advice and support to help you meet your goals: from getting your body ready for pregnancy, to enjoying a healthy pregnancy journey, and nurturing your children’s well-being. As a mom myself, I’ve gone through it and I understand your aspirations and the hurdles you might face. Let’s partner together to create a healthy journey into parenthood.