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Trying To Conceive

Can The Pill Harm Your Long-term Fertility?

Photo: Photo: Thinkstock/The Bumo

You've been reassured that it's fine, but a new study raises the issue once again: can the birth control pill mess with your long-term fertility? The answer is still probably not, but it might look like it.

The study, presented by Dr. Katherine Birch Petersen from Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, shows that the Pill can cause your ovaries to appear older and smaller, and change the secretion of hormones. But surprisingly, there is no actual link between those changes and decreased fertility.

"We do not believe the Pill changes the ovaries in any permanent way," says Dr. Birch Petersen.

What the Pill does do is create a suppressive effect on two well-established markers of ovarian reserve — the predictor of future reproductive lifespan. Those two markers include anti-Mullerian hormone ( AMH ) in the blood, and the counted number of antral follicles in the ovary ( AFC ).

The study examined 833 women between the ages of 19 and 46, and found the measurements of AMH were 19 percent lower in Pill users than non-users, and 16 percent lower for AFC. These women also displayed smaller ovarian volumes. This held true even after accounting for factors like smoking and BMI.

According to Dr. Birch Petersen, these results aren't reason to panic, and are probably temporary. They indicate we need to change the way we measure AMH and AFC in Pill and former Pill users. And these measurements should be taken more than once after stopping the Pill to make sure it was not masking a diminished ovarian reserve.

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By Anisa Arsenault