Do birth control pills prematurely age a woman’s eggs?

No, according to a recent study reported in the Washington Post.

Taking birth control pills may make women’s eggs seem old, at least as measured by two tests of fertility. In younger women taking the pill, hormone levels associated with the ability to make mature, healthy eggs are more like those of older women than they are like the levels of younger women who don’t use these contraceptives, according to the study. Women on the pill also have fewer structures in their ovaries (antral follicles) that can mature into viable eggs.

However, the new results don’t imply that the pill prematurely ages women’s eggs, the researchers said. Instead, the findings suggest that the pill obscures a woman’s underlying reproductive status, said Lubna Pal, director of the menopause and polycystic ovarian syndrome programs at Yale University. As a result, tests that are typically done to assess women’s fertility shouldn’t be done on women taking the pill, she said.

A woman’s “ovarian reserve” is a measure that predicts how well her ovaries produce mature oocytes, or eggs, that can be fertilized. As women age, their ovarian reserve diminishes, leading to fewer eggs and to fewer that reach a mature stage. Most doctors assess ovarian reserve by measuring the levels of anti-Mullerian hormone, or AMH, in the blood and by conducting a vaginal ultrasound to count the number of early-stage ovarian structures called follicles. A level of follicle stimulating hormone, FSH, can assess a woman’s egg quality. Together, these markers are strongly correlated with how a woman’s ovaries are aging.

The bottom line for women on the poll is not to try to assess their ovarian function while on the pill, but wait until they are off the pill for at least a month. and this is a practical issue as more and more young women are looking to preserve their fertility by taking advantage of egg freezing. doing the tests of ovarian reserve while on the pill could panic someone into either rushing into egg freezing or getting very discouraged that their reproductive function is severely diminished.

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