Many of us spend years trying not to get pregnant, but what about when you do want to conceive? How does the pill affect your fertility?
If there's one piece of advice we wish we could give women who plan to have a baby one day, it would be to come off hormonal birth control two or more years before starting a family. We're big fans of ditching the pill in general, but for women who plan to come off it and try to conceive, hormonal birth control has a whole set of additional problems. The pill can delay time to conception, which can be be incredibly emotionally distressing. It may also have implications for the health of your child (new research is exploring the possible connection between hormonal contraception and autism). And in some cases, the health issues the pill causes or masks can take months or even years to reverse. This may be particularly concerning for women who are nearing the end of their reproductive years.
To minimize the chances that your birth control will delay or prevent you from conceiving when the time comes, consider coming off the birth control pill early. Here are five reasons why this is a good idea:
1. The problems that existed before you went on the pill still exist now, even if you can’t see them. Many women are put on hormonal birth control to “manage” reproductive health issues – the same issues that will eventually cause problems for getting pregnant, such as PCOS, endometriosis, and irregular cycles. Unfortunately, rather than treating the problem, the pill simply represses many of the symptoms. By coming off hormonal birth control you can work on addressing the root causes of these issues, which will maximize your chances of conceiving and sustaining a pregnancy when you're ready.
2. You may have developed health issues while on the pill that are being masked. Women who have healthy cycles when they go on the pill may have health or hormonal issues that develop while they are on it that are masked by hormonal contraception. Chronic stress can cause adrenal burnout and thyroid dysfunction, both of which affect fertility. By coming off the pill, you will have a chance to ascertain your body’s current state of health (as reflected by your menstrual cycle – a powerful barometer) and to address any issues that might have been overlooked due to symptom suppression. Our Fertility Management Secrets and Baby-Making Kick-Start package are both designed to help women assess and optimize their health.
3. You should give yourself time to detox from the pill before conceiving. Hormone dosages from the pill are higher than what your body naturally makes, and the synthetic hormones from birth control are also not identical in molecular structure to our own natural hormones. Both these issues can contribute to a higher toxic load on the body. There is little to no research on the impacts of residual synthetic hormones on a growing fetus (that’s not exactly the kind of study that a pharmaceutical company wants to fund!) so we’d recommend airing on the side of caution and giving yourself several months or even years to fully detoxify from the pill, depending on how long you were on it.
4. You need time to replenish essential nutrients that were depleted by the pill. The pill depletes many essential nutrients from the body, especially folate (folic acid) which is essential to preventing neural tube defects in babies. You’ll want to give your body time to replenish these micronutrients prior to conception in order to optimize your own health and support healthy development of your baby.
5. If you went on the pill at a young age, your reproductive system may not have fully matured. Did you know it takes about four years for a young woman’s reproductive system to fully mature? Taking hormonal contraception can prevent that maturation if a girl goes on it in adolescence, prior to her body reaching fully maturity. Since many girls go on the pill in their teenage years - sometimes due to sexual activity, sometimes to manage the challenges of that transition into reproductive maturity (acne, irregular cycles, etc.), it is important to allow a buffer of time for your body to finish sorting itself out.
We want every woman to enjoy an empowered fertility journey and in our experience, this is much easier for those who’ve had the opportunity to cycle naturally before trying to conceive. It’s a chance to gather important health information, heal the effects of hormonal contraception, and increase the likelihood of being able to conceive during the desired timeline. Perhaps most importantly, this time fosters a sense of connection with your body so that you can feel confident in your choices and trust the deep wisdom that lies within.
Hassan, M.a.m. "Is Previous Use of Hormonal Contraception Associated with a Detrimental Effect on Subsequent Fecundity?" Human Reproduction 19.2 (2004): 344-51. Web.
Matus, Geraldine, Dr., and Megan Lalonde. Coming off the Pill, the Patch, the Shot and Other Hormonal Contraceptives. CreateSpace, 28 Nov. 2014. Web.
Vaiserman, Alexander. "Early-life Exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and Later-life Health Outcomes: An Epigenetic Bridge?" Aging and Reproduction 5.6 (2014): 419-29. Print.
Yen, Samuel S. C, Jerome F Strauss, and Robert L Barbieri. Yen And Jaffe's Reproductive Endocrinology. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier/Saunders, 2014. Print.
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Kim & Amy Sedgwick love to discuss sex, periods, and all the other things we’re not supposed to talk about. The co-founders of Red Tent Sisters and ecosex.ca, they’ve been featured in every major Canadian news outlet and have become a trusted resource for women seeking natural (effective!) birth control, a more joyful sex life, and an empowered journey to motherhood.