IVF is a widely used fertility treatment that can involve using hormones to stimulate ovulation. Your doctor may recommend taking birth control pills before starting IVF to stop the natural release of ovulation hormones, which can make the process easier.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a kind of assisted reproductive technology (ART) that may help people experiencing infertility to have a child.

In standard IVF, a person receives hormone injections to help a large number of their eggs mature at once so they can be retrieved and either stored or fertilized with sperm. In natural cycle IVF, there are no stimulating hormones involved.

You and your doctor may discuss the pros and cons of each method, as well as your specific circumstances and preferences, to determine the best IVF treatment for you.

People who have standard IVF often take birth control pills before starting the process. These pills help stop the body’s usual release of hormones so that it’s easier for their medical team to schedule different stages of the IVF procedure. Oral contraceptives can also help prevent side effects of IVF.

Read on to learn more about the role of hormones in standard IVF and how birth control can be an important part of the process.

During ovulation, the body releases an egg from an ovary into the fallopian tube. Once the egg is released, it can be fertilized and implanted in the womb. This results in pregnancy.

This process involves the release of different hormones. Two important hormones involved in ovulation are follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). FSH helps an immature egg become a mature egg, and LH helps release the egg and prepare the womb for implantation.

The rise in LH, called an LH surge, is what triggers the start of ovulation.

Combination birth control pills contain both estrogen and progesterone, which stop the body from creating FSH and LH so ovulation does not occur.

While you’re on this birth control, no egg is released from the ovary. Since no egg is released, there’s no chance of pregnancy.

People take birth control pills for other medical reasons besides preventing pregnancy. These include managing conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and heavy menstrual bleeding.

The first two stages of standard IVF are ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval.

During the ovarian stimulation stage, you may receive fertility drugs that contain hormones such as FSH and LH to help your ovaries produce many more mature eggs at one time. You may take these medications for about 8 to 14 days.

When tests show that your eggs are mature, another drug starts ovulation, and your eggs are retrieved in a surgical procedure. They can be frozen and stored, or fertilized with sperm so that they may become embryos, which can then be transferred into your uterus. If an embryo implants in the uterine wall, this will result in pregnancy.

These hormones also come with a risk of IVF complications, such as:

  • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS): The ovaries become enlarged, and you may have fluid retention and weight gain.
  • Early luteinizing hormone (LH) surge: Ovulation begins early.
  • Multiple pregnancy: Someone becomes pregnant with twins, triplets, or a higher number of fetuses.

Taking birth control pills as part of IVF helps reduce your body’s natural release of FSH and LH hormones. This helps to reduce the risk of complications. You may also have a lower risk of developing ovarian cysts.

Oral contraception also means doctors may have to use fewer hormones to proceed with the technique. They can also schedule the beginning of ovulation and the egg retrieval to coincide with the individual needs of a person and their medical team.

The type of birth control pill you use may depend on the IVF procedure at your clinic. Many people take the combined oral contraceptive pill, which has both estrogen and progestin.

Your doctor will likely recommend that you take birth control for a certain period of time before starting on hormones that stimulate ovulation.

The number of days you have to take birth control may depend on your individual health profile and the advice of your doctor.

In a retrospective study published in 2020 that looked at live birth rates among people taking contraception before IVF, individuals took birth control for 12 to 30 days. In another retrospective study published in 2019, birth control was taken for 21 days.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a technology that helps people experiencing infertility. Stimulating ovulation through the use of hormones is a part of the standard IVF process.

Doctors may recommend taking birth control pills before IVF to stop the body’s natural release of ovulation hormones. This helps doctors to time IVF treatments and prevent side effects from having higher levels of hormones in the body.