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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Getting Pregnant After Birth Control – Part 1

Women use different types of birth control methods (e.g., Pills, IUDs, NuvaRing, Depo, etc), to delay pregnancy or space out having children. You might think the frequent query we get on our Gynecology Exchange is: “How can I prevent pregnancy?” But the more popular question is: “How long will it take me to get pregnant after I stop using a method of birth control?

Once again, our Nancy Drew Girl Detective character has set out to gather clues to help us solve this pressing mystery of pregnancy rates after using various types of birth control.

Before we get started, it is important to recognize that women who have been pregnant before have an advantage. That is, we know that they can conceive. Many young women will start a birth control method (BCM) without knowing if they are fertile, or not. Some examples would be teens who are prescribed birth control pills for very irregular periods, or women given hormonal birth control to control the symptoms of endometriosis. In both these examples, the woman may have underlying medical conditions which can decrease fertility.

Another important component is the age of the woman when she decides to conceive. One of the most interesting studies of the impact of age was published in 1957. Within a religious community where contraception was prohibited, and there were no sexually transmitted infections, 209 women were studied. Only five women had no births. About 11% bore no further children after age 34. By age 40, 33% of the women were infertile. At age 45, there was an 87% rate of infertility. Thus a woman stopping a BCM in her twenties is more likely overall to have a better return to fertility based upon age alone.

The Takeaway
If you are planning to seek pregnancy at a specific time, such as after job training, college, military service, you might want to re-think your current birth control method. Even with everything being equal (age, duration of use, prior pregnancy history) the use of an injectable method still has the longest time to pregnancy. And for those seeking the shortest time to pregnancy, the studies show that most other methods will have a time to pregnancy of one to four months – and possibly up to eight months – depending upon your personal characteristics.

Over the next few weeks, we will look at the factors you should keep in mind about fertility and different birth control methods. So check back for details on the time it takes to get pregnant after stopping birth control pills, IUDs, Depo, Implanon, Ortho Evra Patch or Nuva Ring.

Read the series:

Comment on this blog post and ask Jane your questions on the Gynecology Exchange.

Posted by: Jane Harrison-Hohner, RN, RNP at 8:00 am

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