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Women are often surprised to learn that one of the things that they need to do before starting in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment is to take birth control pills (BCPs) for a while. Although birth control pills are used to prevent unwanted pregnancy, there are several reasons why they may help increase the chances of conception before IVF treatment.
Why Take Birth Control Pills Before IVF?
If you want to know how long you need to remain on birth control before IVF treatment begins, the answer is around 3 to 4 weeks. Doctors usually ask you to start taking birth control pills around a month before your IVF begins. Here are the reasons why birth control pills are required before IVF:
1. BCPs help reduce the chances of cyst formation in the ovaries.
Ovarian cysts affect your fertility and cause abnormalities in the ovulation cycle. BCPs can prevent cyst formation.
2. BCPs ensure that the ovarian follicles mature at the same rate.
Ovarian follicles are spherical structures in the ovaries that contain an immature egg cell each. When the follicles start to grow and mature, one dominant follicle grows faster than the others, and the remaining ones stop growing. The dominant follicle releases a single egg once it is mature. BCPs ensure that all follicles grow at the same rate so that multiple eggs can be retrieved for the IVF treatment.
3. BCPs ensure that ovaries respond better to stimulation.
In the IVF process, you will be given medication to stimulate the ovaries to produce more eggs. BCPs, when taken before the stimulation, temporarily halt the growth of the follicles and give the ovaries a break. This helps the ovaries respond better to the stimulation medication and produce more eggs.
4. BCPs help in scheduling the IVF treatment
BCPs help you control the timing of the ovulation cycle. This way, the fertility clinic can plan your treatment such that it does not interfere with your working schedule, vacations, or national holidays.
How Does Taking Birth Control Pill Fit Into the IVF Cycle
Taking birth control pills is the first step preceding an assisted reproductive technologies like IVF. Day 1 of your period is the first day of your menstrual cycle. The fertility clinic will ask you to come for a blood test and ultrasound between days 2 to 4. If the test results are normal, the doctor will ask you to begin taking the BCPs on day 4 or 5 of your cycle.
One pill has to be taken each day, at the same time. The last row of pills in the packet is always hormone-free pills. So when you finish all the other pills, you will skip the hormone-free pills and start a new pack the next day. You will need to be on the BCP for at least 10 to 15 days before starting the next step of your IVF treatment.
Which Types of Birth Control Pills Are Used in IVF?
Different BCPs contain varying amounts of hormones. For IVF treatments, a monophasic BCP is used, which means each pill contains the exact same quantity of hormones. This way, consistent hormone levels can be maintained. A combination pill containing the hormones oestrogen and progesterone is usually prescribed for this purpose.
Are Birth Control Pills Always Recommended in the IVF Process?
BCPs may not always be recommended for an IVF process. Your doctor will analyse your medical history before prescribing BCPs. Here are the situations when BCPs are not recommended before IVF:
1. Blood Clots
One of the risk factors where BCPs are not recommended is a history of blood clots. If you have had blood clots in the past, the doctor will not prescribe BCPS. Instead, other medicines will be prescribed to prepare your ovaries for IVF.
If you have ovarian cysts, the doctor may not recommend BCPs as they may cause an increase in the size of the cyst and affect the maturation of the egg follicles.
3. Low Ovarian Reserve
Women who have a low ovarian reserve may be further affected by the use of BCPs. The BCP can cause a decrease in the number of eggs available for IVF.
4. Previously Unsuccessful IVF TreatmenT
If you have had a previously unsuccessful IVF procedure, your doctor may decide to use a different method to stimulate the ovaries, without the use of BCPs.
Your fertility specialist will take all of these factors into consideration along with your medical history and decide whether the use of BCPs is required for your IVF treatment.
Birth control pills are usually recommended as an initial step preceding any assisted reproductive method such as IVF. The pills prescribed contain the same dosage of hormones in each pill in order to maintain a consistent hormone-level. Taking BCPs help the ovaries respond better to stimulation medication and also plan procedures at a time mutually convenient to you and your clinic. Consult your doctor before taking any birth control medication when you are starting IVF treatment.