Birth control may have a bigger impact on your body than you thought: Taking oral contraceptives may “age” your reproductive system, according to a new study presented at the ESHRE Annual Meeting.
When researchers measured anti-Mullerian hormones (AMH) and antral follicles (AFC)—which are both key indicators of female fertility—in 833 women, they found that those who used the Pill had 19 percent lower levels of AMH, and 16 percent fewer early-stage follicles. Simply put: Young women (ages 19 to 29) surprisingly had hormone levels that are typically associated with menopausal women.
What’s more, their ovaries were considerably smaller than those who were not taking birth control. And they were not as conducive to making mature, healthy eggs.
“I have seen significant hormone changes in women on the Pill before, namely reduced testosterone and reduced progesterone,” says Jennifer Landa, M.D., chief medical officer of BodyLogicMD, who was not involved with the study. Therefore it’s certainly plausible that the Pill may cause drastic changes to the size and functionality of a woman's ovaries, she notes.
But don’t cancel your BC prescription just yet. Birth control does not make women less fertile once they’re off the Pill, in fact most women are quickly fertile after stopping their BC, says Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., research scientist at Indiana University and author of Sex Made Easy. “The one exception is Depo-Provera—which is the clinical term for the shot—some women on Depo may take longer to become pregnant after they stop,” says Herbenick.
But the researchers indicate that there shouldn’t be permanent changes to the ovaries due to the Pill.