Want to Get Pregnant? Reconsider Using The Pill To Prevent It Before

If you are ever thinking of becoming pregnant, you might not want to take the pill.

That's because a new study has found that not only does it shrink your ovaries, it also reduces the number of eggs you will have for the rest of your life.

According to bioscience.com, the birth control pill significantly affects ovarian reserve— or the number of immature eggs in a woman’s ovaries— which can be a predictor of future fertility.

A team in Denmark, who reported this to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting last month, said that two markers for ovarian reserve are markedly suppressed after prolonged birth control pill use, and ovaries are also markedly shrunken after prolonged pill use.

“During the last three years we have counseled 900 women, and 300 men, about their ability to conceive naturally,” team leader Kathrine Birch Petersen told Bioscience Technology via email. “The proportion of oral contraceptive users was 28 percent. We were surprised to find several young women with apparent diminished ovarian reserve parameters (ovarian volume, AFC and AMH). We found out it was due to the pill.”

Birch Peterson’s Fertility Assessment and Counseling Clinic at Copenhagen University Hospital, a public clinic in the Capital Region of Denmark, was founded "due to the increasing number of fertility treatments in Denmark,” says Birch Petersen. “Every tenth child is born after assisted reproduction.”

Her team decided to assess the reliability of preconception lifestyle and biological factors as predictors of fertility. Available evidence, which the new study does not challenge, has indicated that reproductive cycles return after a few months post-pill, with pregnancy likely among younger women within about six months.

But one concern for women taking birth control pills long term has been whether reproductive status is masked by them, according to biosciencetechnology.com.

The phrase “ovarian reserve” refers to the ability of ovaries to churn out oocytes (eggs) that can be fertilized.  The Danish group found that ovarian reserves of women on the pill were much lower than those not on it, and ovarian volume was significantly smaller by between 29 and 52 percent— with the greatest shrinkage occurring in women aged 19 to 29.9 years.

The study looked at 833 women (aged 19 to 46 years) attending the Fertility Assessment and Counseling Clinic from August 2011 to April 2012, both users and non-users of birth control pills. About 30 percent were former pill users.

Birch Petersen’s team does not believe these changes are permanent. But as a result of the study, she said, women who are trying to get pregnant through the clinic who have been on the contraceptive pill are now advised that their ovaries may look older and smaller, and may possess only a few small  follicles, necessary for pregnancy, for a period of time after stopping.  This likely does not reflect future fertility for most women.

But it could matter to women undergoing premature menopause. Naturally diminished ovarian reserves could be masked by the effects of the pill, making it almost impossible to get pregnant. 


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