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Birth Control Cleanses: A Necessary Measure, or a Marketing Gimmick?

Aug 5 2021 | Written by Rhea Kumar (She/Her)

As we’re all aware, the supplement industry is just about the most saturated industry there is today. Let’s face it, we all want to be “better” in some way or another, and the modern day array of supplements posit a lot of claims. 

Every year, Americans spend about $35 billion dollars on vitamins annually. And not to burst your bubble, but the majority of supplements we consume don’t really do much. Sorry, I’m going out on a limb here into the abysmal unknown, after all I’m sure many of you take pride in your supplement routine, as do I. There are supplements marketed for just about everything these days: skin health, hair health, nail health, eye health, oh and get this: supplemental gummies for eyelash growth.

Now we’re treading into some tricky waters here. The supplement industry has gone far beyond the staples of vitamin D’s, all around multi-vitamins, and even those little Flintstone vitamins that we all took pride in chewing on once or twice in our younger years. 

The supplement industry is now entering the birth control realm, targeting - or as some medical professionals might argue - preying on birth control users, and those who are just coming off birth control. The term “post-birth control syndrome” is a non-medical term often frowned upon by the medical community, but the term is heavily used by birth control cleanse products on the market. The term refers to the symptoms a BC user may experience as they get off the pill. 

Back in the 1980s, up to 80 million women were using birth control in what some might call, birth control’s heyday. Fast forward today, and a surprising 70 percent of women who have used the Pill have said they’ve stopped taking it or have thought about going off it in the past few years. 

What are the side effects of going off birth control?

There is a lot of misinformation about the side effects of getting off the Pill. Now, the symptoms are not definite, and it varies from person to person, but in general, the side effects should not differ much from what pre-menstrual symptoms you experienced before getting on the pill. 

Some common side effects that some may experience as they get off BC can include:

  • Mood fluctuations 

  • Changes in sex drive (less or more)

  • Pregnancy (but we knew that, right?)

  • Weight gain or loss 

  • Acne 

Once again, your body can perform amazing mechanisms all on its own, all of the side effects (save for pregnancy), may or may not happen, and in the case of it happening, it’s only temporary. The adjustment period should last about 90 days for your menstrual cycle to return to whatever your “normal” was. For some BC users who have been on the Pill since a young age, it might be difficult to even re-discover what your normal was, but as stated above, your body does that type of regulation all on its own.

Is a birth control cleanse necessary?

First, let’s talk about what a birth control cleanse even is. 

In the simplest term, a BC cleanse “detoxes” excess hormones from your body that may still remain after getting off birth control. Ah, the word “detox”, Instagram’s favourite marketing buzzword, if you ask me. In fact it's one of the biggest marketing gimmicks of our modern age. 

Can a uterus be cleansed?

First off, the uterus cannot “cleansed”, “detoxed,” or “toned,” in any way. Such claims are promoted by popular BC cleanse products including Premama’s 28-day Birth Control Cleanse drink.

The next question to answer is: How did we get here? Why do we believe our bodies are “polluted” or “toxic” after using BC? How do companies get away with promoting such an idea?

Dr. Jane van Dis, OB-GYN says that “there’s a sense that because you’re taking a drug that comes in a little blister pill pack that there’s something inherently toxic about the drug or the manufacturing of the hormones.” In reality though, there is nothing toxic about such hormones. The Pill has been studied and researched for over decades. Its side effects have been scrutinized and researched plenty across the medical community since the 1960s, yet the proof is in the pill: there’s nothing toxic about BC.

Okay, so you’re still really concerned about how long these manufactured hormones might stay in your body. 

How long does birth control stay in your system?

The average amount of time for your system to clear your hormonal birth control (oral contraceptives or vaginal rings) is a not so whopping: 48 hours. Yep, it’s not as crazy as one might think. No extra detoxes or pills necessary, it’s all a wonderful natural process that happens all on its own. 

Note: Depo-Provera may last up to 3 months in the body as opposed to other forms of hormonal birth control because it is a shot. 

Let’s just say that this phenomenon isn’t new. Menstruators have always experienced an uphill battle between what we think is normal versus what big pharma and the supplemental industry tells us. (If you haven’t already, check out our article on how big pharma created Female Sexual Dysfunction).  If you think you’re experiencing something out of the ordinary after getting off the Pill, always seek advice from a trusted medical professional first!