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Foods Rich in Isoflavones Are Known as Natural Birth Control

If you are frequently forgetting to taking oral contraceptives at the same time every day, you are increasing the chances of becoming pregnant. If you don’t want to switch to another form of birth control are there any foods that might help or hurt your contraceptive chances?

I spoke with our resident expert on all things food-related, Mary Hartley, RD, and this is what she told me. “Foods that are high in isoflavones have been called ‘natural contraceptives.’”

Isoflavones are plant-based estrogen-like compounds that could, in theory, create hormonal imbalances that affect ovulation and interact with birth control. Genistein, the most potent isoflavone, is found in legumes, and so soy foods, peas, peanuts, chick peas, and fava beans have been thought to influence fertility. Wild yams (not to be confused with sweet potato yams) contain the isoflavone, diosgenin, but it has a very weak effect compared to the body’s own reproductive hormones. At this point, the potential health benefits and risks of the various isoflavones are under investigation, but there is no current data to suggest that normal intakes are likely to cause hormonal imbalances.

Historically, pomegranate, rhubarb, licorice, and the herbs black cohosh and Queen Anne’s Lace have been used to reduce fertility, but there are no studies to support those claims. You can find isoflavones also over the counter in many menopause symptom relief products like i-Cool or Estroven. These products are not regulated by the FDA and not indicated as other the counter contraceptives.

What I think is important information to understand is not to ingest these foods concurrently in large quantities with birth control. Though there isn’t a lot of evidence when used in combination these foods could actually decrease the effectiveness of birth controls. I wouldn’t recommend eating just large quantities of these foods alone expecting them to prevent pregnancies, either. It’s not realistic and there are plenty of birth control options that we know work.

Keep the lines of communication open with your PCP or OBGYN to discuss other choices. Though I think that there is medicinal power in foods I wouldn’t stake my fertility on eating bucketfuls of wild yams. Just some food for thought.

May 6th, 2012

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