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Can natural supplements help me get pregnant faster?

Can natural supplements help me get pregnant faster?

Kindara | March 12, 2021 |
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Medically reviewed by: Dr. BreAnna Guan

Tired of another month gone by without a positive pregnancy test? Priya Fertility System Now Available

 

When you’re trying to conceive, especially if it’s been a while, it’s natural to search the internet for ways to increase your chances of getting pregnant. When you do, you’ll probably start seeing ads for fertility supplements everywhere you look. And who doesn’t want a natural, affordable solution for improving fertility? While there aren’t any magical cure-all supplements that can guarantee a pregnancy, there are a few that may help address underlying factors affecting fertility. However, before you break out your wallet, we did some research into the safety and effectiveness of the most popular fertility supplements on the market. 

A note on supplements and scientific research

Good nutrition is vital for staying healthy and keeping your body functioning as it should (1). People often look to supplements to help bridge the gap between the nutrients they need and the nutrients they get from food. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines dietary supplements as products that contain a “dietary ingredient,” such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs or botanicals (2). 

Unlike prescription and over-the-counter medications, supplements aren’t required to go through any safety trials before they’re marketed to the general public. Additionally, manufacturers don’t need to have any scientific research to back up claims about their product’s effectiveness (2). That’s why supplement bottles have an asterisk by the description of what the product does, along with a notice that “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

This sounds scary, but many supplements do have clean safety histories (just think about the millions of Americans that take multivitamins every day without experiencing problems). However, there are also plenty of supplements out there with labels spouting false or unproven claims (2). 

In 2019, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy organization, looked into 39 women’s fertility supplements. They found that none of the supplement manufacturers had actual scientific evidence that their product did what they claimed (3). This doesn’t necessarily mean that none of the supplements on the market can actually help with fertility. It just means that you can’t assume that the claims on a supplement’s label are backed by scientific research. For many fertility supplements, there hasn’t been enough research to prove or disprove their effectiveness.

Dietary supplements and safety

Supplements can be an affordable way to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need, but they’re not risk-free (2). Dr. Breanna Guan, a naturopathic doctor specializing in women’s health and fertility, cautions that not all supplements are created equal. She recommends looking for medical-grade products from a trusted distributor and avoiding online marketplaces, especially for CoQ10.. With many online sellers, it’s difficult or impossible to verify the quality of a supplement.

If you’re thinking of taking a new supplement while you’re trying to conceive, your best bet will be to do your own research — this blog post is a good place to start — and talk to your doctor. They’ll be able to help you avoid unwanted side effects, harmful drug interactions, and products that could potentially harm you or your future child. 

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) [low risk]

Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant produced naturally by the body that helps with cell growth and maintenance (4). Because of this, it’s considered a generally low-risk supplement (5). In some recent studies, CoQ10 was found to improve ovarian response in women with decreased ovarian reserve that were undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI) (6, 7). However, more research is needed to determine how (or if) CoQ10 affects fertility in women with average ovarian reserve and those trying to conceive naturally.

Multiple studies have found CoQ10 may improve sperm quality in men, but more research is needed to determine whether this translates into increased pregnancy rates for couples (8, 9, 10).

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) [high risk]

DHEA is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. In the body, its role is to help produce other hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone (11). According to a 2018 review of DHEA research, the supplement is associated with increased pregnancy rates and reduced miscarriage rates in women with decreased ovarian reserves (12). However, DHEA comes with a high risk of potentially serious side effects. Dr. Guan recommends women to get their hormone levels tested before taking DHEA to see if you actually need it or not. The correct dosage is also very important to mitigate common side effects.  The Mayo Clinic advises to avoid this supplement due to the serious side effects such as elevated androgen levels, decreased “good” cholesterol, increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and increased symptoms in existing psychiatric disorders (11).

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) should note that taking DHEA may increase androgen levels. Many women with PCOS experience ovulatory problems caused by excess androgens, and a supplement that further increases androgens may make symptoms worse (11, 13).

Acetyl L-carnitine (ALC) and L-carnitine (LC) [low risk]

Acetyl L-carnitine (ALC) and L-carnitine (LC) are antioxidants that have been found to aid in reproductive function for both men and women. Like CoQ10, another antioxidant, they’re considered low-risk supplements. Taking these supplements may improve female fertility, especially in women with conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, and amenorrhea (skipped or absent periods) (14). ALC and LC have also been observed to improve sperm quality, especially sperm motility, in men (15).

Chasteberry [moderate risk] 

Chasteberry, also known as vitex, is a supplement that’s made from the Vitex agnus-castus plant. It’s marketed as a fertility supplement that increases a woman’s chances of conception by lowering prolactin levels. Prolactin is a hormone that helps the body create milk during pregnancy, but having too much of it when you’re not pregnant or breastfeeding can lead to infertility (16). 

A few small studies have found that women taking supplements containing chasteberry had higher pregnancy rates than women taking a placebo. However, these studies used small sample sizes and often looked at supplements with multiple ingredients, not just chasteberry. More research is needed to definitively say that chasteberry can improve fertility (17, 18, 19, 20). 

Additionally, chasteberry is associated with mild side effects, such as nausea, headache, gastrointestinal disturbances, and itching. It may not be safe for women with hormone conditions to take this herb, and it may interact with some medications. It’s important to talk with your medical provider before you start to take chasteberry supplements (21).

Inositol [low risk] 

Inositol is a vitamin-like substance. It is produced in the human body and found in many plants and animals. Inositol can be found in many forms (called isomers). The most common forms are myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol. It has a few important functions in the body, one of which is improving insulin sensitivity — great news for women with PCOS (22). PCOS is often linked to insulin resistance and problems with ovulation, which can make it difficult or impossible to get pregnant. Doctors may prescribe Metformin, a diabetes medication, to try to improve insulin sensitivity and regulate ovulation in women with PCOS (23). However, multiple studies have found inositol to be as effective as, or superior to, Metformin at improving insulin sensitivity and fertility in PCOS patients (24, 25, 26). Plus, it’s considered a low-risk supplement. Side effects are rare and generally mild, and there are no known interactions with other medications or supplements (22).

Prenatal vitamins [low risk] 

Prenatal vitamins are multivitamins created for pregnant women to help support a healthy pregnancy. They’re not fertility supplements, as they’re not intended to improve your chances of getting pregnant. However, the nutrients in prenatal vitamins may indirectly boost fertility by improving your overall health (27). Doctors typically recommend taking prenatal vitamins when you’re trying to conceive because they can help support a baby’s development before you even know you’re pregnant (28). Dr. Guan recommends treating a multivitamin like any other supplement, meaning that you should look for one from a trusted provider. The cheapest option may not be the best option, and you could be missing out on the nutrients you need.

The most important nutrient in prenatal vitamins is folate, a type of B vitamin. Taking a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folate each day is recommended to prevent fetal neural tube defects during early pregnancy (28, 29). Plus, studies have found that taking a multivitamin with folate may lower a woman’s chances of experiencing ovulatory infertility, the top cause of female infertility in the United States (30, 31, 32).

Taking folate in a multivitamin may also lead to higher progesterone levels during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle. Progesterone is a hormone that helps your body prepare the endometrium for implantation and helps you sustain a pregnancy (31, 33). In one study, women undergoing IVF were found to be 16% more likely to get pregnant if they were taking a multivitamin that contained 400 micrograms of folate (31).

IMPORTANT NOTE: Some prenatal vitamins may contain folic acid, which is a synthetic form of folate not found in nature. Up to 60% of women have a defect in their MTHFR gene that doesn’t allow their bodies to process folic acid at all (34). It is recommended to look for a multivitamin with folate or methyl-folate and to avoid folic acid altogether (34).

Other nutrients to look for in a prenatal vitamin include iron, calcium, B vitamins, zinc, iodine, selenium (for thyroid health) and vitamins A, C, D, and E (28, 35 ). 

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Though the best way to absorb nutrients is through food, dietary supplements can be a great way to help make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need (36). However, some supplements may cause unwanted side effects or negative interactions with medications you’re already taking (36). By working with your doctor, you can find the right dietary supplements to give you the best chance of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy.

Tired of another month gone by without a positive pregnancy test? Priya Fertility System Now Available

References +
How Not to Waste Another Month When Trying to Conceive
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