Taking the oral contraceptive pill does not affect a woman's ability to fall pregnant after she goes off it, with four in five women falling pregnant within a year, a study has found.
German researchers said neither the length of time the pill was taken nor the type of hormones used had a bearing on pregnancy rates after contraceptive use.
The results, published in the US journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, form part of the European Active Surveillance Study on Oral Contraceptives, which followed almost 60,000 European women for five years, with the starting point between 2001 and 2004. Of these, 2064 women explicitly stated that they stopped using the pill because they wanted to fall pregnant.
Overall, 21 per cent were pregnant one cycle after stopping contraceptive use. After three cycles, the rate of pregnancy had increased to 45.7 per cent, and at one year (13 cycles) 79.4 per cent were pregnant.
Of the one in five women who did not fall pregnant in the first 12 months, 45 per cent did so in the second year (26 cycles) after stopping the pill, giving an overall success rate of 88.3 per cent.
The researchers, who received funding from a pharmaceutical company, said rates of pregnancy were reduced in women older than 35 and in smokers.
These findings suggest that previous oral contraceptive use does not negatively affect the rate of pregnancy.
The researchers, from Bayer Schering Pharma and ZEG-Centre for Epidemiology and Health Research in Berlin, said women who had been using the pill for a long time did have a slightly lower rate of pregnancy than those who had used it for a short period, but this was due to the effect of age, not long-term contraceptive use.
"Because of their high efficacy, there is a perception by some women that the use of oral contraceptives may be associated with an impairment in fertility after their discontinuation," they wrote. "These findings suggest that previous oral contraceptive use does not negatively affect the rate of pregnancy."
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