If your health team has prescribed birth control before starting IVF, you might wonder why this is the case. After all, birth control sounds counterproductive when the end goal is pregnancy. So, let’s examine in more detail why and when birth control is used in the IVF cycle and when it’s not.
Why is Birth Control Used Before IVF?
Birth control is the very first step in the IVF process. Essentially, doctors prescribe this to prepare the ovaries for stimulation. It also allows your fertility team to schedule your cycle and plan accordingly, synchronize follicle growth, and reduce the risk of ovarian cysts. Below, we take a closer look at how this works within the body.
Synchronization of Follicle Growth in IVF
In the average menstrual cycle, multiple follicles grow at once. However, eventually, one follicle takes over, becoming the dominant follicle that then releases an egg.
Yet, during IVF, we want your chances of conceiving to be as high as possible. Thus, if you’re wondering how to help follicles grow during IVF, taking birth control will stimulate all of the follicles to grow at similar rates. This means more follicles will mature all at the same time, which increases the number of eggs that can be retrieved.
Birth Control Can Help Prevent Ovarian Cysts
Birth control is actually used to prevent ovarian cysts. While ovarian cysts don’t technically cause infertility, they can delay the IVF process by interfering with egg development. If cysts do develop, it is likely your fertility team will wait for resolution regarding the cyst before continuing treatment. Yet, by taking birth control, you can greatly reduce your odds of this happening altogether.
Control Over Retrieval Scheduling
Scheduling is an important part of the IVF process. It helps your fertility team know the right time to perform your egg retrieval, which can help when it comes to planning staff availability and incubator space. It also helps you plan your personal or work schedule around your IVF process, making this time as seamless and easy as possible.
When is Birth Control Used in IVF?
As previously mentioned, birth control is step one of the entire IVF process. While birth control and ovulation aren’t linked, birth control has various advantages regarding follicle maturation, the prevention of ovarian cysts, and scheduling (as examined above). Thus, it is highly advantageous early on in this process.
However, if you’re wondering when to start birth control for IVF, the sections below contain more information. Additionally, you will always want to consult with and follow the advice given to you by your specific fertility team.
When Do You Start Birth Control for IVF?
Usually, your fertility team will start you on birth control about 10-14 days after your last period. After this phase, you will then begin taking fertility medication to prepare the body for pregnancy.
How Long Do You Take Birth Control Before IVF
Birth control is used for at least 18 days during your cycle. This is usually done three or four weeks before the beginning of your IVF cycle.
Type of Birth Control Used in IVF
The type of birth control used in IVF is important. This is because different types of birth control contain different amounts and types of hormones. The two most common types include monophasic birth control and the NuvaRing.
Monophasic Birth Control
Monophasic birth control is oral contraception that has the same level of hormone in each pill. This means that a consistent level of these hormones is delivered to the body and maintained, no matter which part of the pack you take the pill from.
The NuvaRing is a soft and plastic ring placed inside the vagina, which releases a continuous and stable dose of hormones for four weeks. In contrast to monophasic birth control, the NuvaRing may have better compliance since the patient does not have to remember to take a pill each day for it.
Why Birth Control May Not Be Used in IVF
In some cases, birth control may not be appropriate during IVF. Some reasons for this include low ovarian reserve, a history or high risk of blood clots, existing ovarian cysts, and previously unsuccessful IVF treatments.
Low Ovarian Reserve
A low ovarian reserve means that a woman’s quality and quantity of eggs has diminished. If you have a low ovarian reserve, your fertility team will likely be hesitant to put you on birth control since birth control suppresses the ovaries, which can exacerbate this fertility issue.
History / High Risk of Blood Clots
Blood clots are a known risk when it comes to taking birth control. Thus, if you have a clotting disorder or a history of blood clots, it is unlikely that your fertility team will put you on birth control as part of the IVF process.
Existing Ovarian Cysts
Birth control will reduce the likelihood that an ovarian cyst will form. However, it will not decrease the severity or size of an already existing cyst. Usually, if a cyst is already present, it is recommended to wait a few months for the cyst to go away on its own or to take other action to get rid of the cyst before taking birth control as part of your IVF cycle.
Previously Unsuccessful IVF Treatments
IVF cycle failure comes with a lot of emotions. It’s important to take the time to process these before continuing with further cycles. Talking to a trusted friend or family member or even a professional can help in many ways. At the same time, if you have had previously unsuccessful IVF treatments, your fertility team may remove birth control as part of the process and replace it with other medications. This is because birth control can have unwanted effects on the IVF process, such as suppression of the ovaries as explained above.
At ELITE IVF, we’re here for you. We know how difficult the IVF process can be. Yet, we strive to make it as transparent and easy as we possibly can. Together, we can help your baby dreams come true. Contact us today for more information.