Updated: Sep 20, 2020
(As featured in The Natural Parent Magazine)
The world of fertility herbs and supplements can be overwhelming, confusing and dangerous if you are not under the care of a qualified herbalist.
If you “google" fertility supplements you are instantly faced with an abundant selection of herbs and supplements promising to:
Regulate you cycle
Improve egg quality
Benefit fetal development
Reduce inflammation and detoxify the body
Increase cervical mucus production
Support the endocrine system
Promote hormonal balance
All of these things sound highly beneficial, however self prescribing could do you more harm than good.
What is right for someone else isn’t necessarily right for you.
For example, Vitex is a popular herb for promoting ovulation however should not be used in most cases of PCOS (even though lack of ovulation is a key issue in this condition). Vitex can also be dangerous when combined with IVF drugs as it may lead to Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome.
Another example is Iodine, which benefits egg quality, however can harm the thyroid in some women and can play havoc on the menstrual cycle. Even if you have the same symptoms or diagnosis as someone else - the herbs you need are likely to be different. This is because the prescription of herbs depends on the underlying mechanisms of your condition and your unique nutritional deficiencies. These can be determined by your herbalist through a range of investigations and blood tests. It’s also important to understand that not all supplements are created equally; you get what you pay for. Unfortunately many companies use fillers, GMO’s and hydrogenated oils which make for a lower quality product and can be potentially toxic. You should only take high quality supplements/herbs prescribed by a professional. Herbs may also interact with pharmaceuticals so its important to disclose any other drugs or supplements you are taking to your herbalist. My favourite prenatal supplement is Mygen. Mygen is pioneered right here in Australia by integrative medicine professionals and contains high quality, therapeutic levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Preconception herbs should be taken a minimum of 3-4 months prior, this is because your eggs take approximately 120 days to develop to maturity, so what you do now affects the eggs you release in 4 months time.
It’s also crucial to understand that you can not out-supplement a crappy diet.
What you eat does affect your fertility.
For example, the excess hormones found in dairy may disrupt the endocrine system. Whilst soy, corn and gluten can all cause inflammation in the body.
Inflammation can disrupt ovulation and the proper balance of hormones in your body. Inflammation can also be the cause of implantation failure and early miscarriage.
Trans fats which are found in cookies, cakes, animal protein and fast foods increase insulin resistance, while highly processed carbs and sugars cause more insulin to be released into the blood stream. High insulin levels and insulin resistance impact fertility by inhibiting ovulation.
So what should you eat?
Firstly, you want to be eating loads of fruits and vegetables as they are rich in glutathione, which is important for egg quality. Nuts, avocados and olive oil reduce inflammation in the body, whilst good carbs that are high in fibre have a gradual effect on insulin and help the body to get rid of excess hormones.
Lean meat and fish are a great source of protein, zinc and iron - which are all crucial for a healthy pregnancy. Herbs and supplements can be a highly beneficial, safe way to boost your fertility when used correctly. Do what you can to look after your own health, eat well and ensure you start your supplements early to give you the best chance at falling pregnant, having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Sara Laharnar is the owner of Tree of Vida Acupuncture, a womens health clinic on the Mid North Coast close to Forster & Taree. She is a passionate acupuncturist/herbalist dedicated to womens health, fertility and pregnancy support.