Gillian Goddard

2 min Read Gillian Goddard

Gillian Goddard

Does Taking Birth Control Long Term Affect Menopause?

Q&A on symptoms

Gillian Goddard

2 min Read

Does taking birth control for over a decade in my teens and 20s affect the timing or symptoms of menopause? For example, I took birth control in some form continuously from age 15 to 27 for cramps and, later, to prevent pregnancy. Does this mean I have a ton of extra eggs such that I should expect menopause to be delayed?

—Wondering what to expect

Researchers have hypothesized that birth control pills might impact a woman’s fertility and her age at menopause. This makes sense. If birth control pills work by preventing ovulation, then all those unused eggs remain in the ovaries ready to be used later. 

Does that then mean that for every 10 years you are on the pill, you get 10 additional years of reproductive life? No, this is definitely not true. The first birth control pill was introduced in 1960. We would know by now if there were women who were going into menopause at 70 because they took a birth control pill for 20 years. 

However, using birth control pills may be associated with a more modest delay in menopause. One study looked at women enrolled in a breast cancer screening trial. The data included whether or not the women had taken birth control pills, when they had taken them, and for how long. The authors made a distinction between women who had used older, high-dose pills before 1972 and those who took the new lower-dose pills after 1972. 

They found that the women who took high-dose pills experienced menopause about 1.2 months later for each year they took the pill, or about three years later on average. However, the women who took the lower-dose pills did not experience menopause any later than those who did not take birth control pills at all.

The authors suggest that the higher-dose pills suppress the production of follicle-stimulating hormone more than lower-dose pills do and that this may account for the differences seen between the women who took high-dose pills and those who took lower-dose pills.

Most readers here, especially those not yet in menopause, will have been prescribed lower-dose birth control pills. So it is not clear whether your age at menopause will be impacted by birth control pill use or not. If taking lower-dose pills does impact age at menopause, we would expect that impact to be modest.

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