There are many reasons why you may want to discontinue the use of your birth control. Maybe you’d like to start or expand your family; maybe you suspect your birth control might be contributing to some mental or health-related concerns, or maybe you’d like to just go without it. No matter your motivations, chances are you’ve probably done a little bit of research to help inform you on your birth-control-free journey, which means you may have also come across a hot topic right now: birth control cleanses.
But what is it, is it necessary and most of all, is it safe? Hannah Diamond, APRN, a certified nurse-midwife on the medical staff at Texas Health Nurse Midwife Care, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice, and at Texas Health Fort Worth, helps demystify the topic.
For those that may be unfamiliar, how would you describe birth control cleanses?
Diamond: “This is a new popular term on several social media platforms. Simply put, these are products that are designed to clear or detox your body from the synthetic hormones in birth control. The products are typically a mixture of vitamins and herbal supplements that are supposed to aid in your body’s natural detox after discontinuing birth control.”
So, is it necessary?
Diamond: “Being that your body naturally eliminates these hormones through processes in your liver, there is really no need for [birth control detoxes], and no science that backs them up.
“I believe these have gained popularity due to the thought that birth control ‘can build up’ in your system and cause problems. Sure, birth control is not for all women and for some it can cause problems. However, the idea that you must take additional supplements to cleanse your body of these hormones is not accurate.”
If you decided to move forward with a birth control cleanse, are there any possible side effects of these products, and is it safe?
Diamond: “Since there is no data or research on these products, it is hard to speak to the side effects. However, there are side effects of stopping birth control such as natural hormonal fluctuations that happen with your cycle such as mood changes, acne, and menstrual cramps.”
The side effects Diamond is referring to that come after stopping birth control are unofficially known as ‘post-birth control syndrome.’
Whether you use a birth control cleanse or not, you might experience some of these symptoms in addition to the ones Diamond lists above when going of your birth control:
- menstrual cycle irregularities
- hair loss
- stomach upset
- weight gain
Additionally, many of these symptoms may have been suppressed while you were on birth control and may have been a motivating factor for you to get on birth control in the first place. But these are not “side effects” of quitting the pill or another hormonal method.
If you’re discontinuing birth control in order to get pregnant, how soon after stopping can women start trying to conceive?
Diamond: “You can start trying to conceive immediately. We know certain birth controls can be cleared within hours to days. That’s why we tell women with certain types of birth control, such as the pill, that they need to take them at the same time every day. Hormone levels will drop so drastically that women can sometimes get pregnant if taken outside of a 3-hour window.
“However, for many women, it can take up to 90 days for their cycles to regulate again, allowing for accurate tracking of ovulation.”
While birth control cleanses may not be necessary, there are ways to help ease the transition away from hormonal birth control. Diamond recommends eating a healthy diet, getting a good night’s sleep and enough exercise, as well as managing stress and limiting alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes. This will also help prepare your body for pregnancy if that’s why you’re going off of birth control. Additionally, you can take folic acid supplements, which can help reduce the risk of developmental issues in the early weeks of pregnancy, and prenatal supplements.
No matter your motivations for discontinuing birth control, Diamond recommends always consulting with your OBGYN or health care provider first.
“Every circumstance and person are different and should be treated as such,” she adds. “If you are considering going off of birth control, speak with your doctor today to find out if it is right for you and how best to ween off.”