For a couple trying to conceive, it is important to explore all possible options. See a fertility specialist regularly, have sex as often as possible, get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods, and try taking fertility supplements. Fertility supplements don’t just help a woman produce the necessary levels of hormones; they also improve her reproductive health. The most commonly used prenatal vitamins and minerals are folic acid, Omega-3 fatty acids, and chaste berry. In this article we will examine all three of these, as well as a number of other commonly used fertility supplements. We will also examine the claims made by the makers of some popular over-the-counter fertility supplements for men and women.
There are claims that Vitex agnus castus, also known as chaste berry, can be used used to correct the balance between LH and FSH hormones. It’s said to increase LH production while decreasing FSH production as it acts on the pituitary glands. There are also claims that it relieves PMS symptoms, as well as aches and pains associated with menstruation, but the National Institute of Health (NIH) cautions that studies demonstrating these benefits have not been well designed, making it impossible to draw firm conclusions about chaste berry’s usefulness in easing PMS symptoms. The NIH also doubts whether chaste berry can truly help with infertility, and recommends that further studies be conducted to clarify things.
Throughout the ages various contradictory claims have been made about the effect of chaste berry on human sexual desire. Some claim it is an aphrodisiac, while others say it is the herbal equivalent of a cold shower (hence the name, chaste berry). The Mayo Clinic has taken the position that there is no reason to believe it has either effect. If you are considering taking chaste berry for infertility, ask your OBGYN what he or she thinks.
Folic acid has been used as a fertility supplement for many years. While the Internet may be filled with bogus claims for miracle drugs, old wives’ tales, and dubious New Age medical practices, folic acid stands out as genuinely useful. A combination of folic acid and vitamin B decreases the incidence of birth defects, especially in the brain, spinal cord, and neural tube. All these things develop in the early stages of pregnancy, so it’s recommended that folic acid be taken prior to pregnancy as well as during.
Folic acid is also important to sperm production, so men and women alike should make sure to get enough of it. Good dietary sources include dark, green leafy veggies (such as kale or spinach), beans, peas, nuts, fruits, and eggs. The best sources are asparagus, Brussels sprouts, liver, and spinach. Folic acid is water-soluble and susceptible to heat, so it is best not to boil your food if you are attempting to get your fertility supplements from your diet.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The “new” folic acid is Omega-3, a fatty acid that can be found in seafood, nuts, and oils. Also known as “brain food,” Omega-3 promotes cardiac and circulatory health—meaning it is good for men’s sex drive—and therefore useful, if only indirectly, as a fertility supplement.
Popular Over-the-Counter Fertility Supplements
The most popular supplement on the market is FertilAid, which comes in men’s and women’s formulas. FertilAid says its women’s formulas promote a regular ovulation cycle and hormonal balance, and that the natural, herbal ingredients include chaste berry and the recommended preconception dose of folic acid. The company claims its men’s formula promotes sperm motility, quality, and production. According to FertilAid, the L-Carnitine included in this formula is the key nutrient that promotes healthy sperm formation, although FertilAid is also rich in Vitamin B and Zinc.
The good news about FertilAid? While there is reason to doubt that the product is a particularly effective solution for male infertility (see Fertility Supplements for Men section below), it has performed well in clinical trials aimed at measuring its effect on women. Dr. Lynn Westphal, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University School of Medicine, says that proper nutrition is absolutely helpful in boosting fertility, and FertilAid might be especially helpful for women whose menstrual cycles are irregular. Westphal co-authored a 2006 study of 93 women who had been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for six months or more, and 26 percent of the women who took FertilAid were able to conceive within three months … compared to 10 percent of those who took a placebo. While this study does not conclusively demonstrate FertilAid’s effectiveness, it does suggest that FertilAid may be valuable for women if taken in conjunction with other measures, such as proper exercise and nutrition, stress reduction, etc.
Fertility Supplements for Men
There are a great many fertility supplements for men available on the market, but there is ample reason to doubt their effectiveness. Dr. Marc Goldstein, director of New York City’s Center for Male Reproductive Medicine and Microsurgery, agrees that sperm need good nutrition to be strong swimmers, but he cautions that vitamins and minerals have at best a “minimal” effect on male fertility. Goldstein says it is far more important for men hoping to become fathers to avoid stress, get regular exercise, and stay out of hot tubs and saunas (excessive heat can significantly decrease sperm motility).