More and more women are opting off the pill. One survey found that 70% of women who've taken birth control reported they've stopped taking it, or have thought about going off it in the past three years. (There are both pros and cons to the pill, which we go deeper into here.)
If you're one of the many ladies thinking about stopping the pill, you may have stumbled across something called "birth control cleanses" on the Internet or Instagram. Birth control cleanses purportedly help your body to "detox" and remove the "majority of hormones that prevent pregnancy" that exist in your body as you're on the pill.
However, the idea that you need to "cleanse" your body of hormones after stopping the birth control is completely a myth, says Suzie Welsh, RN, fertility nurse and founder of Binto. In other words, if you buy a birth control cleanse, you're wasting money that you could be spending on prenatal vitamins, such as Binto's prenatal kit that contains high-quality ingredients proven to help prepare a woman's body for pregnancy.
Why You Don't Need to "Cleanse" After Taking the Pill
According to Premama Wellness, a birth control cleanse brand, "it can take your body some time to regulate your hormone balance and re–establish your fertility."
This is true in the sense that you may not ovulate for one to three months after stopping the pill, says Dr. Jessica Chan, MD, OB/GYN and Binto advisor. However, it doesn't mean that a "cleanse" will help that.
There is no medical need to "detox" from hormones, nor are there any specific ingredients that can help you do that, Nurse Suzie says. It's true that it can take some time for your hormonal cycles to regulate after you stop a hormonal form of birth control, which is why a non-hormonal option may be better. (Learn more about that option here.)
Note: If you haven't gotten a regular period for one to three months after stopping the pill, see your OB/GYN to figure out what might be at the root of the issue.
What Are Birth Control Cleanses?
The birth control cleanse that we examined claims to be a "28-day drink mix designed to prep the body for pregnancy by balancing hormones and stimulating uterine health." It contains the following ingredients:
- Chaste Berry: supposedly a natural source of progesterone that helps normalize the ratio of progesterone to estrogen.
- Vitamin C + E: said to prompt liver function by promoting the breakdown and removal of excess estrogen, hormones and toxins stored in the body while nourishing and regenerating the liver cells. Vitamin C increases progesterone in the body, which helps regulate menstrual cycles, thicken the lining of the uterus and improves ovarian function.
- Folic Acid: decreases symptoms of PMS and is very important in early fetal development.
- Iodine: crucial for its role in proper thyroid function. The thyroid releases hormones into the bloodstream so the hormones can reach the body’s cells. Iodine also works to improve symptoms of PCOS including a reduction of ovarian cysts and regulation of periods.
When we asked our experts, however, Dr. Chan said she didn't know if any evidence behind chasteberry or iodine helping improve pregnancy odds. However, vitamins C and E are important antioxidant which can help remove damaging free radicals from your system. But there's no reason you need to get them through a "cleanse," Nurse Suzie points out.
Finally, folic acid is a crucial nutrient for women who want to get pregnant — well, it sort of is. As we describe in this blog post, folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9. Folate is the naturally occurring form of the vitamin found in many foods — and that's what you should look for in your vitamins. (Binto's prenatal kit uses only methylated folate, the most active form of the vitamin.)
A Better Way to Prepare Your Body for Pregnancy
If you're concerned about your fertility after stopping the birth control pill, there are some proactive steps you can take — which don't include any sort of "cleanse."
- Take prenatal/fertility supplements. Look for ones that contain ingredients like Folate.
- Practice self-care. Take steps to reduce stress in your life, like exercise, yoga, and getting enough sleep. Seven to nine hours are idea.
- Reset your diet. Make sure you're getting enough plant-based fiber in your diet, choose organic meats with no hormones added, and make sure you're eating plenty of healthy fats — specifically, the omega 3, 6, and 9 fats found in foods like olive oil, salmon, avocado, and nuts.