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I hear it all the time…”Dr. B, I want to get pregnant next year. So I’m gonna stop taking my pills now.”
It’s certainly possible to conceive very shortly after stopping most forms of contraception. I’m not sure where the misconception came from; that birth control leads to a long delay before conception. My guess is that many women start the pill — or some form of birth control — in their late teens or early twenties and continue taking it for years. Once they get to a point in their lives when they want to have a baby, they stop their birth control and find that their periods are abnormal. Many times, abnormal periods are the result of anovulation, or not releasing an egg in a given month.

This scenario is by no means the case for everybody. So let us look into the most popular contraception techniques and the scientific evidence regarding a woman’s return to a more fertile state.

– Combined hormonal contraception (pills, patch, or vaginal ring):   It is true for some woman that a return to ovulatory cycles may be somewhat delayed after using these methods. However, within 12 months after discontinuation, 70% to 95% of those trying do indeed conceive. And most do so in the first 6 months. This is consistent with pregnancy rates for women who were using non-hormonal techniques, like condoms, before trying to conceive.

– Intrauterine Devices (IUD):   There is a rapid return to fertility after the removal of an IUD, even amongst women who have never been pregnant in the past. IUDs are becoming more and more popular because of their effectiveness, ease of use, safety, and reversibility. Some people think that IUDs greatly increase the risk of pelvic infections that can then lead to infertility. But clinically, significant pelvic infection rates are similar in women with and without IUDs.

– Depo-Provera (“the shot”):  Studies show that a return to fertility may be a bit delayed in women receiving the Depo-Provera shot; up to 18 months for some women. This is also due to a delayed return to ovulation. 

These reversible methods are all excellent forms of contraception and mostly lead to little or no delay in conception after they are stopped. As stated, the Depo-Provera shot does seem to delay fertility a bit longer than the rest. So be mindful of this when planning your family.

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