Fertility Specialist & Director of Harley Street Fertility Clinic, Dr Venkat warns that long-term use of the contraceptive pill could be masking underlying fertility problems in women, leading to issues and complications in later life when women are hoping to start a family.
Dr Venkat comments; “We’ve got to stop accusing the extended use of the contraceptive pill for fertility problems and instead understand that it could be masking underlying health problems. There is a significant amount of misleading information and myths in in the media claiming that extended use of the contraceptive pill can permanently damage your fertility – this is simply not true. Once a woman decides to stop using the pill, it should usually only take a couple of months for her body to readjust to its natural hormonal levels.
Dr Venkat goes on to explain; “However the contraceptive pill does deceive the body by allowing many symptoms associated with hormonal imbalances to be dormant. For example, if you have been using the contraceptive pill since you were, say 16 until 35 years of age you may unknowingly have polycystic ovarian syndrome, but because your body is tricking you into believing that you have a regular cycle, you would not realise that you suffer from the condition. It can also mask a lack and poor quality of egg reserve and hide from women the fact that they are going into early menopause.”
Conditions such as polycystic ovaries vary greatly in severity and although it may make conceiving for some more difficult, it is certainly not impossible. General symptoms of polycystic ovaries include irregular periods, facial hair and weight gain. It can also cause women to experience an extended cycle – as long as 40 days in some cases. Sometimes women suffer so severely that they are restricted to only two or three periods a year. This means that it becomes incredibly difficult for women to assess when they might be ovulating, and in turn planning and frequency of intercourse can be problematic. The medical condition affects a staggering 40% of Middle Eastern and Asian women worldwide, compared to 22% of Caucasian women. Dr Venkat recommends that if women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome are hoping to try and conceive, they should try to come off the pill 6-months earlier than planned, as this will make it easier to track their cycle and ovulation timings.
Dr Venkat adds; “Stress can also have a significant impact on the regularity of a woman’s cycle. This is because stress releases hormones such as cortisol or epinephrine which can stop a cycle and will add pressure on many other aspects of a person’s health. For couples trying to conceive reducing stress may help increase blood flow to the uterus which can help with conception.”
Dr Venkat hopes that by encouraging women to be aware of their bodies and proactive with their ‘fertility’ health, it will be easier to treat problems and allow women to plan ahead properly.