Our fertility is such a crucial part of our lives, one that dictates the decisions we make in our youth, for better or worse, and even the outcome of our futures.
While our fertility is much more than just the ability to have children, birth control and its implications impact so much more than not being able to conceive for a controlled period of time.
As young women continue to look for alternatives to hormonal birth control and we discover more about how it individually affects our bodies, women who do eventually try to conceive will have to confront the question: How long will it take?
What Fans of Birth Control Have To Say
The overwhelming consensus on hormonal birth control is that it’s harmless, and more so, that it in no way affects fertility or conception. Many medical professionals and birth control advocates say that it's even possible to get pregnant “right away” after quitting. But, it’s also estimated that 85% of couples only conceive after a year of trying. That’s not exactly “right away.”
85% of couples only conceive after a year of trying.
In addition to that statistic, a Boston University study from the School of Public Health found that it took women around two to six months after stopping to conceive. The general consensus from medical professionals is that it should take around one to three months for signs of fertility, such as cervical mucus, to return.
For most couples, infertility can be assessed if the couple has been trying for a year or more without a successful pregnancy. While there’s no known link between birth control use directly causing infertility, it may take considerable time for a woman’s body to return to a normal state of actual menstruation before she’s able to conceive. As such, it’s natural to expect not to conceive immediately after quitting hormonal birth control.
What’s Happening to Your Body after the Pill?
After stopping hormonal birth control, a woman’s reproductive system has to more or less return to a functioning state of homeostasis, or what we would consider to be an authentic menstrual cycle.
Women in fact do not have true menstrual cycles while on the pill. The injection of artificial hormones contributed by the pill, for example, suppresses the pituitary gland and prevents ovulation. The bleeding we experience while on the pill is not a period at all, but withdrawal bleeding, and shouldn’t be compared or used interchangeably with a regular menstrual cycle.
It should take one to three months for signs of fertility, such as cervical mucus, to return.
It should also be noted that a woman’s choice of contraception does matter. While it may take a handful of months for women on the pill to notice a return of fertile signs, for women who took the birth control shot, it can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years.
How To Plan Ahead for Trying To Get Pregnant
Prepare for the Unexpected
Staring down the barrel of anywhere from a few months to a few years to be able to conceive can be a sobering thought. But so is the realization that we might be putting things in our bodies without any real grasp of how they’ll affect us in the long run.
We take it as a given that we’ll be able to get pregnant straight away once we quit birth control. But anywhere from a few months to possibly years isn’t straight away, and we don’t seem to be hearing that among the litany of side effects and symptoms we may experience while taking birth control.
10% of women will be diagnosed with PCOS, yet 33% of teenaged girls are on the pill.
Plus, we might find we have reproductive issues that have been masked by hormonal birth control. It’s not uncommon for women who begin taking birth control in their teenage years to come off it in adulthood to start trying to conceive, only to find out they’re affected with PCOS or endometriosis which was previously hidden by birth control. This means that a successful pregnancy could take longer to achieve. It’s estimated that 1 in 10 women will be diagnosed with PCOS in her lifetime, yet 33% of teenaged girls are on the pill. Unfortunately, it looks as though many women won’t even know about the condition of their own bodies, off the pill, until they start trying to get pregnant, without being aware that there could be complications to conceiving.
Use a Hormone-Free Method of Birth Control
Planning and logistics in this instance is of the utmost importance, as is the choice of what we put in our bodies. As many of us know firsthand, our bodies don’t always fall into place with the best laid plans.
Better yet, taking control of our bodies and being able to plan for conception or even to avoid conception without the use of hormones is an available option that really isn’t given enough credit in the mainstream conversations we have about family planning.
For a variety of reasons, we really don’t hear enough about it — but the fertility awareness method (FAM) is a natural, holistic approach to getting in touch with our bodies and taking control of the most vulnerable (and often the most misunderstood) aspect of ourselves. It’s hormone-free, and when the time does come for you to start trying, there’ll be less guesswork involved than there would be in trying to figure out when signs of fertility will return. Yet another benefit to fertility awareness is that it doesn’t mask potential fertility issues like hormonal birth control does, thus allowing you to have all the information about your body even before you’re ready to start trying, which can only help in the long run.
Fertility awareness doesn’t mask potential fertility issues like hormonal birth control does.
With FAM, the fertile signs are essentially the birth control, and learning about them as well as recognizing them empowers you to take control of your hormones and your ability to conceive.
As with anything having to do with fertility and reproductive health, there’s so much information out there it’s hard to know where to start. From pharmaceutical companies pushing agendas, to out of touch women’s magazines encouraging hormonal birth control (and nothing else), as well as the myriad of advice our friends and family have to give, there’s an influx of information that’s not always helpful.
Deciding to conceive for any couple can be a joyous and important time, but also an uncertain one. Whether we’ve had a difficult time with fertility or no trouble at all, things can be individualized according to the woman in question. Regardless, it’s just as crucial to have as much information as possible, especially when it comes to starting or stopping birth control.
Birth control wasn’t created for the purposes of encouraging fertility or conception (obviously), and its proponents aren’t exactly warm to the idea of fertility awareness or having kids in general. We shouldn’t expect an easy time of it when it comes to quitting and trying to conceive. When we’re knowledgeable about our bodies though, and comfortable in knowing the purpose and power behind our fertility, we might have a better grasp of our situation than we would’ve had otherwise.