There is a common misconception that oral contraceptives have a negative impact on fertility and that a woman will
have difficulty conceiving in future once she starts using them.
In fact, once oral contraceptives are stopped, fertility should return to what it should be at that given time. It
will not, however, return to what it was before the contraceptive was started which may have been many years ago. So,
for example, if contraceptives were started in a woman’s 20s and she was now in her late 30s, her chances of pregnancy
would have fallen accordingly. Apart from current age, the level of fertility will be affected by various health and
There is also a misconception amongst many women that when the oral contraceptives are stopped, they have to be
‘washed out’ of their system before they get pregnant. Ovulation and pregnancy can in fact occur safely within weeks
of stopping the contraceptives.
Recent studies show that within a year after going off oral contraceptives, 80 per cent of women who want to get
pregnant will get pregnant — a number similar to that of the general population. There may be some
women in whom the hormonal signals which trigger ovulation are more profoundly depressed than in others, but on
average, the return to fertility is rapid. If periods do not return, a visit to the fertility specialist is required
as this could be due to other underlying conditions.
In fact, oral contraceptives can actually give you a boost in preserving your fertility by lowering your chances of
getting uterine and ovarian cancer. It can also suppress the symptoms of endometriosis, in which the uterine lining
grows outside the uterus, causing painful periods and fertility problems. The normal and regular cycles experienced by
a woman while on the contraceptives is artificial, and once women are off them, their fertility returns to whatever
level it would have been.
This may or may not be the case with other hormonal contraceptives, which include injections like DepoProvera,
hormonal rings and implants.
The hormonal ring releases hormones through a small, flexible ring and is inserted into the vagina for three weeks at
a time. The implant releases hormones through a flexible rod inserted under the skin for three years. Evidence
suggests that fertility returns as soon as these devices are removed from the body.
On the other hand, Depo-Provera, a contraceptive injected into a woman’s thigh or buttocks once every three months to
prevent ovulation, is the one hormonal contraceptive that can have prolonged effects on fertility, persisting in the
body for many months. It is therefore not recommended for women who want to be pregnant any time soon. Studies have
shown that the median time for return to fertility is around nine months after the last shot, though pregnancy can
occur as soon as three months after.