A woman’s reproductive health has to do with her entire body. In other words, whether you can or can’t get pregnant isn’t confined to your reproductive cycle and organs. Carrying a baby requires the perfect function of hormones, ovulation, your period and physical processes directly related to your fertility.
But your body doesn’t function in distinct, segmented ways. Every part of your body is interrelated and interconnected. This leads many women, and fertility specialists, to address infertility or failure to conceive with a full-scale, lifestyle audit.
Anyone who has diabetes or a thyroid issue can tell you that when one part of your body isn’t functioning properly, it negatively impacts your health in every way. Because as many as 15% of women experience infertility, launching an investigation into every facet of your health is essential to finding answers. One area many women pursue is taking supplements.
Can Supplements Help You Get Pregnant?
Doctors who specialize in women’s health have a variety of backgrounds and opinions about taking supplements. Supplements can provide an additional dose of vitamins that you may be deficient in or enhance the effects of vitamins you are already getting. Typically, herbal or other supplements aren’t endorsed by pharmaceutical companies and may lack verifiable research. Herbal supplements have less rigid regulations by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and their use for the purpose of enhancing fertility may be unsubstantiated.
That said, there is significant anecdotal evidence from women who have pursued natural supplements in their efforts to conceive. These stories are overwhelmingly positive. Generally, these supplements have few side effects and are good for women’s health. With little risk, many women opt in for natural remedies in an attempt to boost their fertility. Let’s look at which supplements many women and men may use to enhance their fertility.
Supplements That May Support Fertility
Used for: Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea, fatigue, perimenopause, thyroid disease.
Used for: PCOS, acne, digestive problems, SIBO.
Used for: protection from free radicals for both the egg and sperm.
Chaste tree berry or vitex
Used for: hormone balance, hirsutism, hypothalamic amenorrhea, high prolactin, PMS, breast pain
Used for: Perimenopause.
Used for: balancing hormones and producing estrogen, which should result in healthy eggs.
Used for: period pain.
Used for: conception, to regulate ovulation and to increase progesterone.
Used for: Detoxification and immune support.
Used for: PMS, breast pain, uterine fibroids, heavy periods, ovarian cysts, perimenopause, and promotes healthy thyroid hormones that improve fertility.
Used for: PMS, heavy periods.
Used for: sperm production in and quality in men.
Used for: PCOS, insulin resistance, functional hypothalamic amenorrhea, PMS, migraines, fatigue, sleep, period, detoxification, perimenopause, inflammation, improved thyroid hormone and healthy metabolism of estrogen.
Used for: insomnia, depression, jet lag, PCOS, hair loss, migraines.
Myo-inositol (a form of vitamin B)
Used for: PCOS, to regulate menstruation and improved ovulation.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)
Used for: PCOS, endometriosis, detoxification.
Used for: hormone regulation and increased cervical mucus.
Used for: Estrogen excess, PMS, endometriosis, digestive problems, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and gut health, which allows better absorption of vitamins and minerals and overall good health and fertility.
Progesterone (Micronized or Natural)
Used for: PCOS, hirsutism, PMS, migraines, heavy periods, endometriosis, perimenopause.
Red raspberry leaf
Used for: balancing progesterone levels and reducing inflammation of the uterus.
Used for: PCOS, endometriosis.
Used for: maintaining good cortisol levels and depression, helps with PMS and fatigue.
Used for: protection from free radicals, healthy cell division and ovarian follicles, PMS, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, detoxification, thyroid disease.
Used for: balancing hormones, reduced adrenal stress, increased sperm count in men.
Turmeric or Curumin
Used for: Heavy periods, period pain, endometriosis, adenomyosis, detoxification.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Used for: migraines.
Vitamin B6 (P5P)
Used for: PMS, histamine intolerance, heavy periods, perimenopause.
Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin)
Used for: PMS, heavy periods.
Used for: sperm motility in men and healthier ovulation in women.
Used for: bone health, fertility and health during pregnancy.
Used for: sperm motility or increased sperm count in men.
Used for: PCOS, acne, endometriosis, period pain, balancing hormones, promoting healthy eggs; also used in male fertility.
Used for: perimenopause, digestion, GI health, sleep and anxiety.
Supplements may come in pills, packets or even teas. While low-risk, because of varied regulatory standards, claims and packaging details can be different depending on the manufacturer. There are benefits but there may also be side effects.
It’s important to exercise educated consumerism. The brands you choose should have seals or descriptions that include at least one of the following:
National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) International testing, inspection and certification
US Pharmacopeia, which cites drug reference standards
Underwriters Laboratory, a certification foundation
Consumer Lab, an independent review organization
These organizations can vouch for the ingredients in the product you are buying. Approval by these bodies ensures that the supplement you are taking doesn’t have harmful ingredients.
Fertility Supplements: Benefits and Side Effects
The health of your body’s reproductive system and materials may be improved by supplements. There are various organs and even fluids that have to be healthy for a successful pregnancy. As far back as 2004, researchers at Stanford were reviewing nutritional supplements to increase fertility.
An article published in 2018 in the Reproductive Biomedicine journal describes herbal fertility treatments that date back to the colonial era. From botanical remedies to minerals, taking supplements is not new, but it does lack some scientific backing. If you want to take a supplement to increase your fertility, you should talk to your doctor. There are a few reasons you need to have this conversation:
Even natural herbs and supplements can have side effects like nausea, rashes or headaches
Serious side effects can be caused by high doses of supplements, including risks of heart disease or blurry vision
Natural fertility supplements may interact with other drugs you are taking
An article published by Oxford Academic reports on a study of 250 women who were taking fertility treatments (IVF and ICSI). They found that, while more than 82% of the women reported making a lifestyle change, less than half did not change their consumption of alcohol or caffeine or increase their exercise. Additionally, while some women did seek supplements, of the 93.2% who were taking folic acid, nearly 17% were taking less than they should. There were correlations between the conception rates of women who changed their lifestyle and women who did not.
Long story short? How you treat your body matters. When you are trying to conceive when you are pregnant and as a woman. There are many resources that can help you research supplements that could enhance your fertility. New research is being published all of the time as popular fertility supplements are established in the marketplace.
Your doctor is an important resource but many women also seek advice from authorities in other fields. Some doctors lack training in the area of alternative medicine and nutritional supplements. If the extent of your doctor’s advice is “take a prenatal,” there are additional sources of information and guidance. You may find help from other professions such as naturopathic doctors.
Briden, Lara. “Period Repair Manual, Second Edition: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods.” Self-published September 14, 2017.
Gormack, Alice A. et al. “Many women undergoing fertility treatment make poor lifestyle choices that may affect treatment outcome.” Oxford Academic, July 2015. Accessed February 5, 2020.