So, Why Do You Take Birth Control Before IVF?

When embarking on the journey of in vitro fertilization (IVF), the protocol often includes an unexpected step: taking birth control pills before the fertility treatments begin. The use of birth control pills in the preparatory phase of IVF can seem counterintuitive when the ultimate goal is to achieve pregnancy.

However, these oral contraceptives play a critical role in synchronizing your menstrual cycle and ensuring that your ovaries are resting before they are stimulated for the retrieval of eggs.

By putting a temporary halt to natural ovulation, birth control pills give your fertility specialist control over the timing of the IVF cycle, which can be crucial for its success.

In addition to cycle control, birth control pills can help lower the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), a condition that can be brought on by fertility medications used to induce ovulation.

This preparatory measure also affords the medical team time to monitor your hormone levels and perform any baseline assessments without the interference of a fluctuating natural cycle.

Overall, the inclusion of birth control pills before IVF is a common practice designed to create the most conducive environment for embryo development and implantation, laying a solid foundation for the complex process of IVF.

Key Takeaways

  • Birth control pills are used before IVF to synchronize and control the menstrual cycle.
  • They help minimize the risk of OHSS and allow for better timing of egg retrieval.
  • Birth control usage facilitates hormone monitoring and baseline assessments prior to IVF.

Understanding IVF and Birth Control

In preparation for in vitro fertilization, your use of birth control pills can be crucial for timing and optimizing the treatment process.

Basics of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a complex series of procedures designed to assist with fertility, prevent genetic problems, and aid in child conception.

During IVF, mature eggs are collected from your ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab.

Then, the fertilized egg or eggs are transferred to the uterus. This process can take about two to three weeks per cycle and may require several cycles for successful pregnancy.

Role of Birth Control Pills in IVF Treatment

Birth control pills (BCPs), also known as oral contraceptives, are prescribed before beginning IVF treatment for a variety of reasons.

First, BCPs can help to regulate your menstrual cycle, making it easier for the clinic to schedule the exact times for your treatment.

They can also suppress spontaneous ovulation, which ensures that the eggs can be retrieved at an optimal time.

Additionally, BCPs may decrease the risk of cysts developing which could interfere with the stimulation of the ovaries.

Types of Birth Control Pills for IVF

There are mainly two types of birth control pills used for IVF preparation: combination pills containing both estrogen and progestin and progestin-only pills.

Your fertility specialist will recommend the type of pill which is best suited to your individual treatment plan.

Combination pills are often used to more precisely regulate the cycle, while progestin-only pills might be prescribed if you have a health condition that contraindicates estrogen use.

It’s essential you follow your specialist’s guidance on which BCP is appropriate for your IVF journey.

why do you take birth control before IVF

Preparatory Functions of Birth Control in IVF

Before undertaking IVF treatment, it is critical to prepare your body to increase the chances of success. Birth control pills play a crucial role in regulating your menstrual cycle, synchronizing follicle development, and preventing premature ovulation.

Regulating the Menstrual Cycle

Birth control pills are used to gain control over your menstrual cycle. By regulating hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone, they create a predictable menstrual cycle.

This allows for precise timing of the IVF cycle, which is essential for planning subsequent steps, such as the administration of fertility medications and scheduling the egg retrieval.

Synchronizing Follicle Development

Your follicles require careful synchronization for efficient IVF treatment.

Birth control pills help by temporarily suppressing the body’s natural hormonal cycle, allowing all the follicles to start developing at the same pace once fertility treatments begin. This synchronization ensures you have multiple mature eggs available for retrieval.

Preventing Premature Ovulation

One of the major concerns during IVF is premature ovulation, which can occur if the naturally produced luteinizing hormone (LH) peaks too early.

Birth control pills suppress the body’s spontaneous hormone surges, preventing the early release of eggs and ensuring they can be retrieved at the optimal time during an IVF cycle.

Mitigating Risks and Side Effects

To optimize your health and outcomes during IVF treatment, it’s important to mitigate risks and manage potential side effects. Here’s how you can address specific concerns with the guidance of your healthcare provider:

Reducing the Risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS)

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) is a potential complication of IVF, but you can reduce your risk.

Birth control pills help regulate hormone levels, therefore decreasing the chances of OHSS by preventing your ovaries from over-responding to fertility drugs.

Management of Ovarian Cysts

Birth control pills are often prescribed before IVF to manage ovarian cysts which can arise naturally in your menstrual cycle.

These cysts may affect the IVF process and outcomes, and your healthcare provider may use birth control to help dissolve functional cysts before beginning IVF treatment.

Preventing Complications During IVF Treatment

Proactively using birth control has been shown to synchronize your follicles and stabilize the endometrium, creating an optimal environment for embryo transfer and improving the predictability of your cycle. This careful preparation can prevent a number of complications, ensuring a safer and more efficient IVF cycle.

The IVF Cycle and Birth Control

The use of birth control in the initial phase of an IVF cycle is crucial for synchronizing your menstrual cycle and preparing your ovaries for stimulation.

Initial Stages of the IVF Cycle

When you begin your journey through IVF, one of the first steps involves synchronizing your menstrual cycle. This is often achieved through the administration of birth control pills.

The purpose of synchronization is to provide your fertility treatment team with control over the timing of your cycle to optimize the success of your IVF cycle.

Ovarian Stimulation and Egg Retrieval

Once your cycle is synchronized, the next stage involves ovarian stimulation. This is where fertility drugs come into play to stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs rather than the single egg typically released each month.

These drugs, which are a crucial part of your fertility treatment, require careful timing following the cessation of birth control pills to efficiently retrieve eggs during the peak window of fertility.

Transition to Fertility Drugs

After a brief period of using birth control, you will transition to a regimen of fertility drugs. This transition is designed to precisely control your natural cycle and prepare for egg retrieval.

During this phase, various fertility tests may be conducted to monitor the response of your ovaries to the medications, ensuring the development of mature eggs ready for retrieval.

Additional Considerations in Birth Control for IVF

When preparing for IVF, understanding the nuances of birth control use is crucial. It’s not just about regulating menstrual cycles, but also how age, health, and contraceptive choice can impact your journey.

Age and Fertility

Your age is a significant factor in fertility and in shaping the IVF process. Earlier research indicates that age can affect reproductive potential, and using oral contraceptives before IVF may influence outcomes.

Women over 40, for instance, may have different considerations compared to younger women, as they often face a steeper decline in fertility.

It’s critical to approach birth control pretreatment by taking into account your age and its implications on fertility.

Individual Health Conditions

Individual health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or cancer, can also guide the approach to birth control before IVF.

Certain contraceptives may carry additional risk factors for you if you have pre-existing conditions. For example, some birth control options can influence insulin resistance in diabetes or affect blood pressure.

It’s essential to work with your healthcare provider to choose a safe and effective contraceptive method that complements your IVF protocol and overall health profile.

Choosing the Right Contraceptives

Selecting the right contraceptives before IVF should be done with care. Oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) are commonly used, but they come in various formulations that can have different effects.

The choice between a combination pill or a progestin-only pill can depend heavily on factors like infertility etiology and personal health history.

Consultations on the impact of oral contraceptive pretreatment on IVF outcomes play a key role in helping you and your doctor make an informed decision that aligns with your IVF journey.

Post Birth Control Monitoring

After completing a course of birth control pills, your fertility clinic will embark on a series of monitoring strategies to ensure your body is ready for the next steps in the IVF process. This monitoring is crucial to time the egg retrieval and embryo transfer with precision.

Ultrasound and Blood Test Monitoring

Your fertility specialist will conduct regular ultrasound scans to assess ovarian follicle development. These scans allow your doctor to visualize the ovaries and developing follicles, which contain your eggs.

Alongside ultrasounds, blood tests are used to measure hormone levels, particularly estradiol, to further gauge follicular growth and readiness.

why do you take birth control before IVF

Adjusting Hormone Levels

Based on your ultrasound and blood test results, the reproductive endocrinologist may adjust hormone medications to optimize follicle development and prepare for egg retrieval.

It’s common to adjust dosages or add medications during this phase to get your hormone levels just right for successful follicle and egg development.

Preparing for Egg Retrieval and Embryo Transfer

Monitoring leads to the final preparations for egg retrieval, a minor surgical procedure where eggs are collected from the follicles.

Post retrieval, your eggs will be fertilized to become embryos. Embryo transfer involves transferring the most viable embryos into the uterus.

This step is critical for achieving pregnancy through IVF, and the timing is often based on the size and quality of the embryos, which is assessed through continuous monitoring.

Types of Birth Control Used in IVF

The selection of birth control for IVF is a significant decision. Therefore, you should be aware of the various forms of birth control since they encompass distinct quantities and types of hormones.

The two primary categories are monophasic birth control and the NuvaRing.

Monophasic Birth Control

Monophasic birth control is an oral contraceptive known for its consistency in hormone dosage. Each pill in the pack contains the same level of hormones, ensuring a steady and unchanging supply to the body.

This uniformity is advantageous, as it eliminates the fluctuations that might occur when taking birth control pills with varying hormone levels.

With monophasic birth control, the hormonal environment within your body remains constant, simplifying the regulation of the menstrual cycle during the IVF process.


The NuvaRing offers an alternative to traditional monophasic birth control pills. It takes the form of a soft, flexible plastic ring that is inserted into the vaginal cavity.

Over the span of four weeks, the NuvaRing consistently releases hormones. This sustained and stable hormone distribution minimizes the need for daily compliance, a departure from the daily pill regimen.

This can be a particularly appealing option for individuals who prefer not to worry about remembering a daily medication.

The NuvaRing’s ease of use and reliability in hormone delivery make it a noteworthy choice in IVF, providing a hassle-free means of birth control.

Instances Where Birth Control May Not Be Used in IVF

While birth control serves as a crucial element in many IVF protocols, there are circumstances where its usage may not be suitable.

Several factors can contribute to this decision, underscoring the importance of individualized treatment plans.

The scenarios in which birth control may be omitted from an IVF regimen include instances of low ovarian reserve, a history or high risk of blood clots, existing ovarian cysts, and prior unsuccessful IVF treatments.

Low Ovarian Reserve

A low ovarian reserve implies that the quality and quantity of a woman’s eggs have diminished, often indicating reduced fertility potential.

In cases of low ovarian reserve, fertility specialists may approach the use of birth control cautiously. This is because birth control may temporarily suppress ovarian activity, potentially exacerbating fertility concerns.

The decision to withhold birth control in such circumstances is typically made with the intent of optimizing the chances of obtaining viable eggs for the IVF process.

History of Blood Clots or High Risk

Individuals with a history of blood clots or a heightened susceptibility to clot formation are generally not considered ideal candidates for birth control within the IVF framework.

The relationship between birth control and an increased risk of clot formation is a well-documented concern.

Due to this risk, fertility specialists may explore alternative approaches to cycle synchronization and suppression that do not involve the use of hormonal birth control.

Existing Ovarian Cysts

While birth control is effective in reducing the likelihood of new ovarian cyst formation, it does not address the size or severity of pre-existing cysts.

In situations where ovarian cysts are already present, it’s often advisable to allow time for these cysts to naturally resolve or to pursue specific treatments aimed at eliminating the cysts before introducing birth control into the IVF cycle.

The intention here is to ensure a clear and unobstructed path for the IVF process to unfold, minimizing potential complications or disruptions.

Previous Unsuccessful IVF Treatments

Unsuccessful IVF cycles can be emotionally challenging. It’s imperative to allow yourself time to navigate these emotions before contemplating further attempts. Engaging with a trusted friend, family member, or professional can offer valuable support during this period.

Additionally, if prior IVF attempts were ineffective, your fertility team may opt to exclude birth control from the treatment plan and instead explore alternative medications.

This decision stems from concerns that birth control could adversely affect the IVF process by suppressing ovarian function, as I have previously detailed.

Talk to your Healthcare Provider

Before embarking on your IVF journey, it’s crucial to consult with a fertility specialist or healthcare provider. They will assess your unique situation, address your concerns, and create a personalized IVF plan that considers your health and fertility goals and optimizes your chances of success.

Costs and Insurance Considerations

When embarking on IVF treatment, understanding the financial aspects is crucial. The treatment typically involves significant costs, and the extent to which insurance covers these expenses varies widely.

Understanding IVF Treatment Costs

IVF Treatment Costs

The costs of IVF can be comprehensive, usually encompassing consultations, hormonal treatments, egg retrieval procedures, laboratory fertilization, and embryo transfers.

You may encounter additional charges for services like ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection), PGD (Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis), or the freezing and storage of embryos.

  • Initial Consultation: Often ranges from $200 to $400
  • Medication: Costs between $1,500 to $3,000
  • Procedures: Egg retrieval and embryo transfer can sum up to around $12,000 to $17,000
  • Additional Services: May incur extra costs

Please note that these figures are approximations and the actual expenses can vary based on location, clinic, and specific treatment details.

Insurance Coverage for Fertility Treatments

Navigating Insurance Policies

The degree of insurance coverage for fertility treatments like IVF is highly dependent on your insurance provider and plan.

Certain insurers consider IVF to be an essential health benefit, while others may offer limited or no coverage at all. It’s important to review your policy in detail to understand:

  • What aspects of the treatment are covered
  • The percentage of the cost you’re responsible for
  • Any restrictions, such as the number of cycles

Some states mandate partial or full coverage for fertility treatments, while others do not.

Potential Coverage Scenarios

  • Full Coverage: All associated costs are covered, subject to policy limits
  • Partial Coverage: Certain procedures or elements (like medications or consultations) may be covered
  • No Coverage: You would be responsible for all costs out of pocket

Examining your plan and speaking with your insurance provider will give you clarity on your financial responsibilities for IVF treatment.

Considering Alternative Paths

While the IVF journey holds promise, it’s essential to acknowledge that it may not always result in conception. If, despite your best efforts, IVF doesn’t lead to a successful pregnancy, it’s worth considering alternative paths. One such option is embracing the childfree lifestyle.

The Childfree Lifestyle

The childfree lifestyle is a conscious choice not to have children, and it offers numerous benefits and opportunities. While IVF may not be the answer for everyone, living childfree can be an amazing and fulfilling path. Here are some reasons to consider it:

  • Freedom: The childfree lifestyle provides unparalleled freedom to pursue your interests, career, and personal goals without the responsibilities of parenthood.
  • Financial Stability: Without the financial commitments of raising children, you can enjoy increased financial stability and invest in your future.
  • Personal Fulfillment: A childfree life allows you to focus on personal growth and self-discovery, leading to increased personal fulfillment.
  • Reduced Stress: Embracing a childfree lifestyle can significantly reduce stress and allow you to maintain a more relaxed and peaceful existence.
  • Opportunities for Adventure: With no parental responsibilities, you can explore the world, travel, and embark on exciting adventures.


Understanding the IVF process, including the role of birth control and the natural cycle’s significance, is essential for anyone embarking on the path to parenthood through assisted reproductive technology.

The “why” behind birth control in IVF is just one step in your journey, and it demonstrates the meticulous planning and care that goes into this complex process.

Your medical team will guide you through this journey, ensuring that your IVF experience is as smooth and efficient as possible.

If IVF doesn’t lead to conception, don’t despair; the child-free lifestyle offers incredible opportunities for fulfillment, freedom, and personal growth.

Your happiness is paramount, and there are many wonderful avenues to explore. Embrace your journey, whatever it may be, with hope and enthusiasm.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, we answer some common queries that you may have regarding the use of birth control pills prior to starting an IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) treatment cycle.

What is the purpose of using birth control pills in an IVF treatment cycle?

Birth control pills can regulate your menstrual cycle and create a more predictable ovulation timing. This allows for optimal timing of egg retrieval and increases the chances of a successful IVF cycle.

How does birth control use prior to IVF impact the timing and scheduling of the procedure?

The administration of birth control pills before an IVF cycle helps synchronize your follicles, enabling your healthcare provider to better control the cycle timing. This synchronization can lead to a more efficient and effective treatment schedule.

What are the potential side effects associated with taking birth control before undergoing IVF?

Some women may experience side effects from birth control similar to those experienced with regular contraceptive use, which can include nausea, breast tenderness, headaches, or mood changes.

Is it possible to proceed with IVF without the use of birth control pills, and if so, how does the protocol differ?

Yes, it is possible to proceed with an IVF cycle without the use of birth control pills. Known as a “natural cycle IVF,” this approach relies on the natural menstrual cycle and may involve fewer medications.

How soon after egg retrieval in an IVF cycle should one start taking birth control pills?

Typically, there is a waiting period after egg retrieval before starting birth control pills again; your doctor will advise you on the best time to begin based on your individual treatment plan.

After discontinuing birth control post-IVF, what factors might delay the onset of a period?

Factors such as stress, hormonal imbalances, or the presence of ovarian cysts can influence the delay of a period after discontinuing birth control following an IVF cycle.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for general informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified specialist or healthcare professional regarding any medical condition or concerns you may have.