Contraceptives: Does the pill store up my eggs?

I have been taking the combined pill for a couple of years, and my question is, if the Pill suppresses the release of an egg, do the eggs get stored up to be used at a later date?

Dr Fred Kavalier answers your health question:

The combined contraceptive pill - which contains oestrogen and progestogen - works by preventing the ovaries from releasing eggs. It does this by altering the body's hormone levels. A healthy woman will normally release one or two eggs from the ovaries every month between puberty and her menopause. When she is pregnant (and when she is taking the Pill) she won't release any eggs. The fact that one or two eggs are not released every month probably does mean that these eggs are available for future use. But this tiny number of eggs pales into insignificance when you know what is happening inside the ovary. When females begin life inside their mothers' wombs, the eggs in their ovaries begin to develop. By the middle of pregnancy - when the foetus is five months old - it has about five million eggs in its ovaries. This number steadily declines for the next 50 years. By the time a female baby is born, she only has one or two million eggs left. When puberty begins at the age of about 11, the number of eggs is less than 500,000. At the time of the menopause - around the age of 50 - the egg count is down to about 1,000. So even though taking the Pill might "save" a few eggs, it will have an insignificant effect on future fertility.

Please mail your questions for Dr Fred to health@independent.co.uk. He regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions.

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