How soon can you get pregnant after you stop using birth control? It depends on what kind of birth control you use. The barrier methods — such as condoms, diaphragms, and spermicides — work only as long as you use them; as soon as you stop, you're fertile. Hormone-based medicines — including the Pill, Depo-Provera, NuvaRing, and the birth control patch (for example, Ortho-Evra) — take longer to get out of your system. You may ovulate very shortly after stopping the Pill (weeks or days, even). Usually, hormones from pills aren't detectable several days after the last active Pill or the last patch. On the other hand, it can take three months to one year to resume regular ovulatory cycles after stopping Depo-Provera.
We know of no hard-and-fast rules about how long you should wait after stopping birth control before you start trying to conceive. In fact, you can start to try to conceive right away. If you're Fertile Myrtle, you may get pregnant on the first try. But keep in mind that if you haven't resumed regular cycles, you may not be ovulating each month, and it may be more difficult to time your intercourse to achieve conception. (At least you can have a good time trying!) If you get pregnant while your cycles are irregular, it also may be harder to tell exactly what day you conceived and, therefore, to know your due date.
If you use a non-hormone intrauterine device (IUD), you can get pregnant as soon as you have it removed. With hormone containing intrauterine devices or with sub-dermal implantable devices, fertility may take 3 to 12 months to resume after removal. Rarely, a woman conceives with her IUD in place. If this happens to you, your practitioner may choose to remove the device, if possible, because getting pregnant with your IUD in place puts you at risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that gets stuck in the fallopian tube), or early delivery. Getting pregnant with an IUD in place more than likely doesn't put the baby at increased risk of birth defects.
Infertility, or sub-fertility, is a problem that is affecting more couples than ever before, as people wait longer and longer to have children. One in ten couples older than 30 has trouble conceiving. After age 35, the ratio is one in five. Of course, age isn't a problem for everyone. Some women reportedly get pregnant even in their 50s. (According to Guinness World Records, the world's oldest spontaneously pregnant mother was 57'A when she conceived.) But face it: Spontaneous pregnancy in a woman's late 40s and 50s is rare.
When should you seek a doctor's help? Generally, after you've been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for six months to a year. But if you have a history of miscarriages or difficulty conceiving, if you're older than 35, or if you already know that your partner has a low sperm count, you may want to get help before six months are up. No matter what your situation, don't despair. Reproductive technologies become more sophisticated — and more successful — with each passing year. At this point, couples can try various techniques with complicated-sounding names — ovarian stimulation with fertility medications, intrauterine insemination (with or without sperm washing), intracytoplasmic sperm injection, use of donor sperm or donor eggs, and in vitro fertilization (and its many variations) — depending on their particular cause of infertility. For a couple that has trouble conceiving right away, chances are better than ever that they will eventually become pregnant. Check out Infertility For Dummies by Jackie Meyers-Thompson and Sharon Perkins (Wiley) for more information. If you're having trouble getting pregnant and you're not sure whether it's time to see an infertility specialist, discuss it with your practitioner.
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