Can the pill affect long term fertility?
The contraceptive pill was designed to help prevent pregnancy – but does that have any lasting impact on your body in the long term? The question you may want the answer to is ‘can the pill make you infertile?’
Hana® is a progestogen-only contraceptive pill that is now available to buy over the counter after a pharmacist consultation, or online via hanadirect.co.uk following the completion of a pharmacist-reviewed checklist.
When used properly, Hana® is over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. Proper use, in this case, means taking the pill at the same time every day, without a break between packs.
You know you don’t want to get pregnant now, but what about the future? Are you concerned that the contraceptive pill may affect your long-term fertility or make you infertile?
Does the pill have any affect on your fertility in the long term?
Deborah Evans, a pharmacist with over 30 years of experience, says “there is no evidence to suggest that the pill has any lasting effect on fertility”.
So how easy is it to come off the pill? “Very straightforward,” says Deborah. “You simply stop taking the pill. In fact, a lot of people get caught out with just how quickly their fertility returns to normal. Some women will get pregnant immediately after stopping the pill. For some it might take a bit longer.” If you are coming off the pill but do not wish to get pregnant, we recommend using a barrier method of contraception, like condoms.
The great thing about the contraceptive pill is that it’s completely in your hands when you start or stop taking it. There is no need for an appointment or procedure. If you’re ready to come off your pill for any reason, you can just stop taking it.
Your fertility in the long term
We want to reiterate the fact that every body is completely different, and all will react to the pill differently. You may have heard that the contraceptive pill can have lasting effects on your fertility, but this isn’t the case. Most people will recognise their body and menstrual cycle going back to normal within the first few months. If you have any concerns – or if it is taking any longer for your period to return – you should chat to a GP or pharmacist.
So what happens to our periods when we are taking the pill?
The contraceptive pill (regardless of which you are taking) contains synthetic versions of the naturally occurring hormones found in our bodies. As a result of this, some women experience a change in their menstrual cycle.
“Any hormonal pill – whether it’s a combined oral contraceptive or progestogen-only pill – affects your natural hormone cycle and could potentially affect your periods,” says Deborah. “One of the most commonly cited side effects of the progestogen-only pill is changes in your bleeding patterns. For some women, their bleeding might stop altogether. For others, bleeding might slightly increase. And for some others, they might just have some spotting. It tends to all settle down after three or four months of taking the pill. If bleeding gets particularly heavy, is associated with pain, or particularly if bleeding occurs after sex, those are warning signs that somebody should go and see their doctor.
“This advice applies at any stage of your reproductive cycle, whatever contraception you’re using. If you have any concerns that you might be pregnant, then just do a pregnancy test. They’re so easy and simple. If you are pregnant, then you can stop taking any contraception that you might be on and go and see your doctor.”
Are there any other side effects?
Like all medications, the contraceptive pill can sometimes induce side effects. These might include hormonal skin spots, breast tenderness, decreased libido, altered mood, irregular menstruation, nausea and headaches – but any side effects usually subside within a few months. As with menstrual changes, some women and people with uteruses may experience one or more of these, and some may not.
When can I get pregnant?
In theory, you should be able to get pregnant immediately after coming off the pill, depending on when you ovulate. That’s why if you’re coming off the pill but do not wish to get pregnant, it is recommended that you use a method of barrier contraception (like condoms).
When asked whether taking the pill might have an effect on your risk of miscarriage, Deborah’s response is a resounding “no”.
Going back on the pill after a break
Each contraceptive pill comes with different advice, so talk to your pharmacist or doctor for advice on your specific contraceptive pill. If you start taking Hana® on day one of your period, there’s no need for any additional protection against pregnancy. If you start using Hana® at a different point, you’ll need to use a barrier method for 7 days.
Going back on the pill after giving birth
You might want to go back to taking the pill after giving birth. “If you’ve had a baby, you can start Hana® between day one and 21 after childbirth,” says Deborah. “If you start after day 21, then you should use another barrier method for the first seven days of tablet taking. Similarly with miscarriage or termination, you can start taking Hana® again immediately or within five days afterwards, without any additional method of contraception.”
So, in summary, you’re free to start (or carry on) using the pill without having to worry about your future fertility! A progestogen-only pill like Hana® can be used for as little or as long as you want, as no contraceptive pill should have any long term effect on your fertility – but your body’s ‘timeline of events’ (how long it will take for your menstrual cycle to return to its normal rhythm) is completely unique. If you have any questions, or anything is concerning you, we advise that you speak to your GP or a medical professional.
Hana® 75µg film-coated tablets contains desogestrel and is an oral contraception for women of child bearing age to prevent pregnancy. Always read the instructions on the package leaflet carefully.