Using certain contraceptives to prevent pregnancy in some women might temporarily delay fertility once discontinued, a study has revealed.
The study, carried out by researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health in the United States and Aarhus University, Denmark, suggested that such women would have to wait up to eight months before their fertility returns.
According to the study published in the BMJ, an international peer-reviewed medical journal, women would experience short-term delays in return to fertility if they had recently stopped using oral contraceptives, contraceptive ring, and some long-acting reversible contraceptive methods.
The researchers revealed that they measured the delay in return of fertility in women after using a variety of contraceptive methods, and found that the time until fertility returned varied, depending on which method was used.
They, however, said return to fertility didn’t depend on how long a woman had been using contraceptives.
The researchers say male condoms and oral contraceptives are the most commonly used methods in North America and Europe, but long-acting reversible contraceptive methods such as intrauterine devices, implants, patches and injectable contraceptives have become increasingly popular globally.
Earlier research, the researchers pointed out, focused mainly on the effects of oral contraceptives, with most studies showing short delays of approximately three months in the return of fertility after women stopped taking them.
Jennifer Yland, the lead author, explained that they set out to evaluate the association between pre-pregnancy use of a variety of contraceptive methods and the subsequent probability of becoming pregnant (fecundability).
Yland said the most commonly reported method of contraception was oral contraceptives (38 percent), followed by barrier methods such as condoms, diaphragm and sponge (31 percent), and natural methods such as withdrawal, and avoiding sex when fertile (15 percent).
“Women experienced short-term delays in a return to fertility if they had recently stopped using oral contraceptives, the contraceptive ring, and some long-acting reversible contraceptive methods, compared with users of barrier methods.
“Women who used injectable contraceptives had the longest delay in return of normal fertility (five to eight cycles), followed by users of patch contraceptives (four cycles), users of oral contraceptives and vaginal rings (three cycles), and users of hormonal and copper intrauterine devices and implant contraceptives (two cycles),” stated Yland.
The researchers, however, noted that the study had important limitations that include not having data on the date of the last injection for women who used injectable contraceptives, adding that they, instead, relied upon self-reported time since discontinuation of contraception for all methods studied.
“These findings might inform clinical recommendations on contraceptive decision making,” Yland said.
Reacting to the study, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Dr. Tunde Oyeyinka, said the three-monthly injection was more of the culprit of delay in return to fertility.
He explained that the oral tablets last for only 19 hours in a woman’s body, but that if dosages are missed, the efficacy would drop from the usual 94 per cent very rapidly to 80 or 70 per cent.
“When you take the three-monthly injection, where you might not be seeing menses for up to six months, it is believed that the injection will last three months in the body, but we know it lasts more than that,” he said.
Oyeyinka, a Fellow of the West African College of Surgeons, noted that for the coil method, return to fertility, most of the time, is immediate, excerpt if there has been pelvic inflammatory disease.
“And when there is pelvic infection, there will be symptoms like heavy vaginal discharge and painful urination.
“And most pelvic inflammatory disease occurs when a woman has multiple sexual partners,” he added.
He advised women to be aware of their body function and be well guided by advice from an expert before deciding to use any contraceptive.
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