Dear Lucy: If a woman is on oral contraceptive pills for a year, does this mean that no eggs are released for that year? Could this hurt her chances of conceiving later, in her late 20s, 30s, or 40s? —All In One Basket
Dear All In One: Thank you for an interesting question. Contraceptive choices can be difficult enough without worrying that the right choice for right now could have adverse long-term ramifications. To get the most accurate answer possible, Lucy turned to the chief of MIT Medical’s OB/Gyn Service, Chana Wasserman.
Wasserman tells Lucy that oral contraceptives prevent pregnancy through a variety of mechanisms, but, as you surmised, they work primarily by preventing ovulation. “They do this by inhibiting the mid-cycle surge of luteinizing hormone—or LH—which, otherwise, would trigger the release of an egg from a mature follicle,” she explains. “And while the ovaries still develop small follicles while a woman is taking oral contraceptives, the secretion of follicle stimulating hormone, FSH, is also suppressed. This prevents follicles from maturing completely.”
With that in mind, Lucy reminds all her readers to plan ahead when it comes to, well, family planning. You might also want to check out this previous Ask Lucy column on non-hormonal birth control methods. —Lucy