One of the most important medical advances from a socio-economic as well as health and safety standpoint has been the advent of accessible, affordable, safe birth control methods. Study after study has shown that women who have access to safe and affordable birth control methods are likewise more likely to be able to focus on their careers and enjoy a greater degree of socio-economic prosperity and freedom. Allowing access to birth control is one of the great health benefits of our time, and is something that affects the lives of everyone from a socio-economic standpoint.
That being said, for as important as it is to consider birth control within a social context, its medical context should not be overlooked either. There are many means of safe birth control that are available to the public. That being said, as with any medical treatment, there can be side effects to using certain means of birth control.
For example, one of the most commonly-asked questions is how birth control can affect fertility later in life. This is a complex, multi-layered question. Everyone’s body is different and will thus react slightly differently to any medical procedure or form of medicine, including birth control. What’s more, different types of birth control can have different effects themselves.
Here, then, is a broad overview of some of the trends we see with respect to birth control and its effect on fertility later in life.
Birth Control Myths
To begin with, let’s dispel one common birth control myth – namely, that birth control “causes” infertility. This is simply not true and is used as an unscientific, unfair, and malicious scare tactic. Proper medical data and advice need to be prominent in any discussion of birth control, and from that vantagepoint, it is worth noting that there is no evidence to support this scare tactic and myth of birth control-induced infertility.
On the flip side of that, one scientifically-demonstrated cause of lower fertility is age, which can naturally overlap with birth control use. As the saying goes, correlation is not necessarily causation. Just because you are older, are taking birth control, and have lower fertility does not mean all of these factors have caused one another, since obviously birth control has not “caused” your becoming older, which may itself be the culprit for lower fertility rates. What’s more, given the fact that risk factors can slightly increase with pregnancies that occur later in your 30s and 40s, as opposed to your 20s, using birth control at those stages of your life can make all the more sense – and doesn’t mean it has “caused” infertility.
Hormonal Means of Birth Control
That being said, this does not mean that birth control doesn’t necessarily impact your fertility at all. Take, for example, the case of hormone-based birth control. These include oral contraceptives which rely on utilizing hormones such as estrogen and progesterone to impede your ability to become pregnant. While your body naturally produces these hormones, if you alter the levels in your body, it can naturally take some time for that to even out again. As such, if you try and become pregnant shortly after taking these pills, you shouldn’t be surprised or worried if their effects are still in full force and your ability to become pregnant is impeded. After all, that’s what these hormone-based pills are meant to do. At the same time, however, while you shouldn’t be surprised, nor should you be too worried. This effect should be temporary. As soon as your hormone levels return to normal (which can be within the span of a few weeks to a month or so, depending on the nature the pill and the duration for which you took it), so too should your ability to become pregnant.
Among the most common birth control methods out there, IUDs can help give those looking for long-term birth control solutions the control over their bodies and future which they desire. Usage of it has increased in recent years, especially with fears of further birth control restrictions in the United States. It should thus come as no surprise that IUDs are now likewise a frequent topic of birth control myths about lowered fertility rates.
The fact of the matter is that, in the vast majority of cases, you can use an IUD over the long haul with little to no problems in this respect. Obviously if you ever do want to become pregnant again, you’ll need to have the device removed, since its whole purpose is to utilize progestin to block sperm cells from reaching the eggs in your uterus. That being said, studies have found that women who use IUDs typically have comparable fertility rates to those who do not.
This is one of the newer options out there, and as such there is less information about it, let alone long-term information. Vaginal rings are soft round items which can be implanted into the vaginal area, releasing hormones such as progesterone in order to thicken the mucus around one’s cervix and thus halt pregnancies. That being said, while there isn’t as much long-term data on the long-term effects of vaginal rings, there are some guidelines as to candidates who are typically unsuitable for a ring – namely, those over 35, smokers, patients taking medication to treat for hepatitis C, as well as those with a history of blood clots or breast, uterine, or liver cancer. If you are subject to any of those conditions, you will likely want to seek another form of birth control.
One birth control treatment for which you can definitely expect long-term effects on fertility is a tubectomy. As the name would imply, this involves the removal, sealing, or clipping of one’s fallopian tubes. This is an irreversible process, and thus will naturally result in your being permanently unable to conceive. Most people undergoing a tubectomy understand this, and so this is not a side effect that should or typically does come as a “shock.” That said, you do want to make sure you know the full and irreversible ramification of this method of birth control before choosing it over other alternatives.
Information is power, and being able to separate the truth from myth about birth control can empower you to live your life with the degree of bodily autonomy and socio-economic prosperity you deserve.