Just started on birth control? Been on it for a while? Either way, it’s normal to have questions. So, do you ovulate on birth control?
Birth control is so useful — and often so mysterious.
Whether you’re new to it, or you’ve been on it for a while, exactly what it does and how it does it, can feel like a well-kept secret.
So, let’s dive in: do you ovulate on birth control? And if not, why not?
We’ll take you through the details.
In this article: 📝
- If I’m on birth control, will I ovulate?
- What are the chances of ovulating on the pill?
- Why am I still ovulating while on the pill?
- Does birth control affect your ovulation?
If I’m on birth control, will I ovulate?
The short answer is: it depends on the type of birth control.
We’ll start by having a look at the combination pill, which is an oral contraceptive that contains both estrogen and progesterone.
One of the key ways the combination pill works to prevent pregnancy is by interacting with the hormones in your body to stop ovulation.
Ovulation is when an egg is released by either of your ovaries into your fallopian tubes so that it can be fertilized.
There are two important hormones are center stage when it comes to ovulation — FSH (the follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (the luteinizing hormone).
- FSH stimulates the growth of egg follicles, which are small sacs of fluid in your ovaries that each contain a developing egg.
- LH triggers the egg’s release from your ovary
But in order for these two hormones to spring into action, they need a message from your hypothalamus, the gland in your brain that manages the hormones in your body.
As its messenger, the hypothalamus uses a hormone called GnRH (or gonadotropin-releasing hormone).
For GnRH to successfully relay the message, it first needs a signal that your estrogen and progesterone levels are low, which would usually be the case at the beginning of your cycle.
If they are low, it knows it can go ahead and do its job of telling LH and FSH to get productive.
Enter the combination pill.
The combination pill provides you with a supply of estrogen and progestin (synthetic progesterone). And by doing so, interrupts this message system.
On this pill, your estrogen and progesterone levels never get low enough for your hypothalamus to send out its message via GnRH.
And if the hypothalamus doesn’t send out its message, well, FSH doesn’t get to work growing and developing the follicle.
And LH doesn’t get to work releasing an egg.
That means: no ovulation.
(The vaginal ring, which is inserted into your vagina for three weeks at a time, works this way too.)
And there are other ways hormonal birth control works to prevent pregnancy. It also:
- Thickens up the cervical mucus to stop sperm entering the vagina, and
- Stops the lining of your uterus from becoming a hospitable place for an egg to implant.
But there are other forms of birth control. And not all of them prevent ovulation altogether.
What are the chances of ovulating on the pill?
Progestin-only birth control also affects ovulation — but doesn’t necessarily stop it completely.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, for example, the progestin-only pill (AKA the mini pill) only prevents ovulation in about four in ten women.
Types of progestin-only birth control include the contraceptive injection, hormonal Inter-Uterine Device (IUD), and a birth control implant that goes into your upper arm.
And then there are non-hormonal forms of birth control, which don’t impact ovulation at all. These include:
- Barrier methods, like condoms, diaphragms, and cervical caps. They work in a different way, by stopping the sperm getting to the egg.
- Spermicide, which also prevent sperm from reaching the egg.
- Fertility awareness methods, which involves tracking your cycle and having sex outside your fertile window.
- Pull out method, where a penis withdraws from your vagina before ejaculation (although this method isn’t the most effective, as you can get pregnant from precum).
While some of these methods don’t interfere with ovulation, they may not be as effective as hormonal birth control.
Speak to your doctor about what’s right for you.
Why am I still ovulating while on the pill?
If you’re on the combination pill, and you have a period, you may be like… hold on?
Didn’t you say that wouldn’t happen?
If I can’t ovulate, there’s no egg to pass out of my vagina with my period.
So why then am I having a period?!
The answer? Withdrawal bleeding.
On the combination birth control pill, you have a few days in your cycle where you either don’t take a pill or you take a pill that is hormone-free.
On these days, you will experience a withdrawal of hormones.
This triggers the shedding of the lining of your uterus (or endometrium).
While this may look a lot like a period, although often a lot lighter and shorter, it’s not really one as it doesn’t contain an egg.
You can skip your placebos and cut withdrawal bleeding out of your life completely, but that might make it harder to keep track of your cycle.
Progestin-only pills work a little differently.
You don’t have placebos in your monthly dose.
The effects of this on your period may vary.
It may mean your period comes as usual, changes, or doesn’t come at all.
You might also experience breakthrough spotting at other times of the month.
Does birth control affect your ovulation?
The good news is that there are so many options for birth control out there.
Some prevent ovulation, some hinder it, and some don’t affect it at all.
You get to choose which one is right for you.
All the best!
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Can You Get Pregnant Right After Your Period?
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