June 25, 2024
7 minutes

All You Need to Know About Egg Freezing and Birth Control

All You Need to Know About Egg Freezing and Birth Control

In an eggshell...

  1. The most common form of birth control happens to be the pill, which is hormonal
  2. Hormonal birth control should be stopped before your egg-freezing cycle
  3. Non-hormonal types such as the copper IUD can stay
  4. Long-term use of birth control does not affect your fertility or egg quality

As per statistics, the most common form of birth control used in the UK is the pill, followed by the condom.

What’s also interesting is that women under 25 preferred these, while those over 25 opted for long-acting reversible contraceptives.

This only makes sense then, for people to ask- “Can I be on birth control during egg freezing?”

Hence, we put together this guide, breaking down the effect of birth control on egg freezing, and the course of action to take with different types of birth control.

So, grab that cup of coffee (or tea ☕) and read on!

Egg freezing and birth control: an overview

With age, our fertility tends to hit a decline button. For many, egg freezing has been a proactive reproductive choice as it helps women preserve their eggs at a younger age and at better quality, for their future use. 

The process involves stimulating the ovaries to grow multiple eggs, followed by their retrieval and cryopreservation (freezing) for later use.

Similarly, birth control has also been a trump card for women’s reproductive choices. It helps by:

  • Spacing out children: Allows women to plan for pregnancies with a desired gap between them.
  • Managing menstrual cycles: Regulates periods, reduces cramps, and helps manage conditions like endometriosis.

Treating medical conditions: Certain birth control methods can treat hormonal imbalances like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

How do different types of birth control work?

Several birth control methods are available in the UK and Europe, each with its unique mechanism of action. Here's a breakdown of some common types:

Hormonal birth control

Hormonal birth control involves synthetic hormones (either oestrogen or progesterone) to prevent ovulation- thus no fertilisation and pregnancy. 

These include the pill, the patch and the ring.

Intrauterine Device (IUD)

This T-shaped device inserted into the uterus via the cervix, releases hormones (hormonal IUD) or copper (copper IUD). Hormonal IUDs work similarly to the COCP, while copper IUDs create an inflammatory environment that disrupts sperm and egg fertilisation.

Injectables and implants

Injectable contraception involves a progestogen injection administered every few months to suppress ovulation.

Implants include a small plastic rod inserted under the skin of the arms, which releases progestogen for a long-acting contraceptive effect. The implant needs to be replaced every 3 years.

Barrier methods

Condoms, diaphragms and spermicides physically prevent sperm from reaching the egg and serve as common forms of non-hormonal contraception.

Can you freeze your eggs while on birth control?

The answer is no. While some birth control methods, like the copper IUD, can be left in place during egg freezing, most hormonal birth control methods (pills, patches, injections, implants, vaginal rings, and even the hormonal IUD) need to be stopped before your egg-freezing cycle begins.

Here's why hormonal birth control and egg freezing is a no-no:  Ovulation (the release of an egg every month) is essential for egg retrieval. Egg freezing relies on collecting mature eggs for cryopreservation. Hormonal birth control, by design, prevents ovulation, which interferes with the process. 

Additionally, it also alters natural hormonal levels. During egg freezing, fertility medications are used to stimulate the ovaries to develop multiple eggs for retrieval. These medications rely on a mix of your natural+ synthetic hormone levels to work effectively. 

Hormonal birth control can suppress these natural hormones, hindering the effectiveness of the medication and potentially impacting the number of eggs retrieved.

Can I freeze my eggs while on the pill?

You will need to stop taking the pill for about a month before your egg-freezing cycle starts. However, this duration can vary based on how long you’ve taken hormonal birth control for. This "washout" period allows your ovaries to "wake up" from the hormonal suppression or imbalance and respond optimally to the fertility medications used for stimulation.

The pill is of two types:

  • Combined oral contraceptive Pill (COCP): This pill contains two hormones - oestrogen and progestin. It works by suppressing ovulation, thickening cervical mucus to hinder/slow down sperm movement, and altering the uterine lining to prevent implantation.
  • Progestin-only pill (POP): This pill contains only progestin, which thickens cervical mucus and may suppress ovulation in some women, but not all.

Stopping both these types is essential for your egg-freezing cycle.

Can I freeze my eggs with the patch?

Similar to the oral contraceptive pill, the patch releases hormones through the skin, preventing ovulation and thickening cervical mucus. If you opt for an egg-freezing cycle, you will have to remove the patch.

Can I freeze my eggs with an IUD?

The answer is a mix of yes, and no, depending on whether your IUD is hormonal or non-hormonal. 

Hormonal IUDs need to be taken out as they prevent ovulation and interfere with natural hormones during your stimulation cycle. 

The copper IUD can stay as it doesn’t use hormones to prevent pregnancy and doesn’t interfere during the egg retrieval process either, as the needle directly goes through the walls of the vagina to the ovaries.

Can I freeze my eggs with Nexplanon?

The contraceptive implant, such as Nexplanon is a small, flexible rod inserted under the skin of the upper arm. As it works to prevent ovulation by releasing progestogen, this needs to be removed before an egg-freezing cycle. 

Can I freeze my eggs while on Depo-Provera?

Depo Provera and Sayana Press are types of injectable contraceptives that contain progestogen, a synthetic type of the hormone progesterone. This prevents ovulation for up to 3 months after you take it. You may have to wait upto 3-6 months from your last shot before starting with your egg freezing cycle.

Can I freeze my eggs with Syreniring?

Nuvaring and Syreniring are two types of vaginal hormonal birth control ring. It is inserted inside the vagina and releases hormones like the pill and the patch to prevent ovulation. You will need to remove it after talking to your healthcare provider and before starting an egg-freezing cycle. 

Does birth control affect fertility?

No, the short or long-term use of birth control does not affect your fertility or egg quality. Some studies even found no connection between birth control and any adverse effects on the probability of conceiving. 

These concerns stem from the fact that women do not experience regular periods right away after stopping hormonal birth control. This is because the body takes its time to get back to natural hormonal levels.

Does birth control affect egg quality?

Long story short, no. And here’s why. Our egg quality and quantity naturally decline with age. 

This is because eggs, are after all cells. With age, the cell division process tends to accumulate errors in the blueprint, or the genetic material. When this happens to egg cells too, these genetic issues may show up as physical and genetic changes in the egg, making it harder for the egg to do its job (fertilisation). 

And here’s an honesty pill 💊: This happens whether someone is on birth control or not. 

📚Also read: Can I improve egg quality before egg freezing?

Will birth control affect my fertility tests?

🥸We need to nerd it out for this one. But the answer is yes, and temporarily. 

Birth control releases synthetic hormones in your system. Hence, you won’t be able to get an accurate result of your natural menstrual cycle hormones such as oestrogen, FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) or LH (luteinizing hormone). 

However, some studies mention that it affects our anti-Mullerian hormone levels as well. AMH is produced by growing follicles and is one of the best tests to understand the ovarian reserve.

But the best way to look at it would be in a subjective manner. The fluctuation levels may depend on the type of birth control as well as the person who is using it.

While there is no recommendation to go off your birth control before fertility testing, if your levels come abnormally low for your age, you may be asked to go off birth control for a certain period of time before your fertility test. 

We recommend waiting for at least 1 to 2 months after coming off your birth control and retesting for your cycle hormones along with AMH. For a long-term form of contraception, which has the injection, you may have to wait a bit longer for an accurate result.

And remember, this applies only to hormonal birth control. Non-hormonal contraception does not alter your natural hormone levels.

What if I’m prescribed birth control during egg freezing?

Surprisingly, yes. There are cases where you may be prescribed birth control before the start of your egg-freezing cycle, and here’s why:

  1. If you have anovulatory cycles or irregular menstrual cycles due to conditions such as PCOS, birth control may be used to offset the menstrual cycle or help decide the best timing for the start of your cycle 
  2. Minimise the risk of ovarian cysts
  3. Help relieve pain from endometriosis if you are in the earlier stages and planning for surgery later

It’s important to remember that this isn't the same as a birth control regime, it is a part of the stimulation process and the dosage is altered accordingly. 

Apart from these, barrier methods, such as condoms are recommended during your existing cycle and can be safely used for additional protection during intercourse.

This is important because the stimulation medication used in egg-freezing cycles results in the production of multiple eggs. Even when they are timed well for maturation with the trigger shot and egg retrieval, there is a chance that one or two small follicles may be left behind. 

And to avoid any chance of egg+sperm = fertilisation, using barrier methods is key. 

When can I start birth control again after egg freezing?

While your birth control is stopped for about 2 weeks of your stimulation cycle, regardless of the type of hormonal birth control- you can resume it right after your egg retrieval. 

How Amilis can help with your egg-freezing journey

Whether you're currently using birth control or considering a method, it’s best to discuss your plans for egg freezing with your doctor. 

They can advise you on the best course of action based on your specific circumstances, birth control type, and desired egg-freezing timeline. 

At Amilis, we understand the questions you may have about egg freezing and the role of birth control in your journey. That’s why we curated this platform to help you every step of the way. Here’s a breakdown: 

  • AMH test at just £50: Get a personalised report on your ovarian reserve, crucial for planning your egg-freezing journey. This fertility test helps your healthcare provider tailor your stimulation protocol for optimal results.
  • Resources on egg freezing: Connect with an Amilis expert for a 1-1 call for any questions you have about egg freezing, or take a personalised quiz to decide whether it’s for you. You can also explore our knowledge centre for information on all things egg freezing. 
  • Pre-vetted clinics: Amilis has partnered with a network of reputable fertility clinics in the UK and Europe, offering high-quality egg-freezing services. Use our clinic comparator to dive in (first consultation’s free, on the house!), and choose a clinic you trust, is comfortable for you, and ensures a smooth egg-freezing journey. 

At Amilis, we’re working to make egg freezing affordable, and accessible for millions in the UK. 

And in this process, we’ve got you covered, too♥️

Deciding if egg freezing is for you?
Well you don't have to contemplate alone. Amilis can help you make the decision with clear, personalised, empathetic advice.
Book a call
Deciding if egg freezing is for you?
Well you don't have to contemplate alone. Amilis can help you make the decision with clear, personalised, empathetic advice.
Book a call
References
Written by
Navya Muralidhar
MSc Clinical Embryology & Embryologist

An embryologist by degree, and an educator by heart, Navya has completed her Bachelors in Genetics, and her Masters in Embryology and now strives to deconstruct the complex, into educational and informative articles surrounding her field of interest. She's specifically focused on time-lapse technology, IVM, and pre-implantation genetics. When not writing, you can find her at her favourite or newest coffee shop in town, sketching away, or listening to a podcast.