Having trouble conceiving can frustrate and discourage women who are trying to expand their families. Many women turn to expensive and invasive procedures to improve their chances of conception. But taking natural supplements to restore your body’s hormonal balance, increase blood flow, and encourage cell growth can provide a low-cost solution. In this article, Ethan Lynette of Fairhaven Health, lists five specific supplements that can promote reproductive wellness and discusses the benefits each offer in encouraging conception.
Posts Tagged ‘cycle irregularity’
Women are born with a finite quantity of eggs, a number which steadily declines with age. A baby girl is born with approximately one to two million eggs, but only 300,000 remain by the time she hits puberty. Throughout her reproductive lifetime, she will only ovulate 300 to 400 eggs.
Since your ovarian reserve is limited, it’s important to keep your remaining eggs as healthy as possible. Egg quality is impacted by multiple factors, including age, chronic exposure to environmental toxins, stress, poor diet, hormonal imbalances often associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and ovarian surgeries, all of which can negatively impact fertility. Poor egg quality contributes to fertilization issues, unsuccessful implantation following fertilization, and miscarriage due to chromosomal abnormalities.
While there is no way to increase the number of eggs you have, it is possible to improve the quality of your existing ovarian reserve. Thankfully, recent scientific research suggests that blends of powerful antioxidants can help improve egg quality. Research indicates that egg cells are highly susceptible to harm from free radicals, the unstable oxygen molecules that are produced as the body breaks down toxins, and antioxidants help ensure your egg cells are protected from their damaging effects.
We recently added OvaBoost to our line of fertility supplements, which is designed to help improve egg quality and optimize ovarian function in trying-to-conceive women. This all-natural supplement is especially recommended for women over the age of 35 and for women diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
OvaBoost contains powerful antioxidants including myo-inositol, which works to promote optimal ovarian function and cycle regularity in women with PCOS, a major cause of female fertility issues. The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but hormonal imbalance plays a big role in the onset of symptoms. Women with PCOS tend to produce higher levels of male hormones like testosterone, which can impact ovulation and menstrual cycles.
Many researchers believe that these higher testosterone levels are related to insulin sensitivity. That’s where myo-inositol comes into play. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas, and is responsible for carrying sugar into the cells of the body where it can be used for energy. Women with PCOS have cells that are less sensitive to insulin, resulting in higher insulin levels. High insulin levels appear to be correlated with an increased production of male hormones. But the good news is that research in women with PCOS shows that supplementing with myo-inositol can improve insulin sensitivity, helping restore hormonal balance and increasing fertility in these women. Learn more about OvaBoost
A significant number of the women who experience issues with fertility also suffer from a medical condition known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Unfortunately, PCOS affects as many as 1 in 5 women of reproductive age, and most of these women will have difficulty becoming pregnant. Many women who are diagnosed with PCOS have multiple, small cysts in their ovaries, which can lead to hormonal imbalances and cycle irregularity. But, the presence of cysts on the ovaries is just one of the signs of this syndrome. In fact, PCOS is characterized by a wide array of symptoms, including acne, weight gain, loss of hair, abnormal hair growth (typically seen on the face, back, or fingers), miscarriages, and sleeping problems.
While there is still much to learn about PCOS, it is now believed that the symptoms listed above, including the development of multiple cysts in the ovaries, appear when the ovaries are stimulated to produce excessive amounts of male hormones, particularly testosterone. And, what stimulates the ovaries to produce abnormally large amounts of male hormones? The answer: Insulin.
What exactly does it mean to be insulin resistant?
Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas and participates in the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. On the surface of each cell of the body there are insulin receptors, little doors that open and close to regulate the flow of glucose (the sugar that is used by your body’s cells for energy) into the cell. These receptors, or doors, are activated by insulin. Women who have PCOS often have insulin receptors that do not function efficiently. This causes a condition known as insulin resistance, which forces the pancreas to produce more and more insulin to push glucose into the cells. These elevated insulin levels have the detrimental effects described above. It estimated that anywhere from 30-50% of women with PCOS experience insulin resistance.
How is insulin resistance controlled?
Recently, I’ve seen quite a bit of discussion surrounding the benefits (or lack thereof) of taking the prescription medication known as Metformin for PCOS and insulin resistance. Metformin is a drug used to help control blood glucose in three ways; it decreases the absorption of dietary carbohydrates through the intestines, it reduces the production of glucose by the liver and it increases the sensitivity of muscle cells to insulin. Simply stated, it lowers insulin, glucose, and testosterone levels, which results in a decrease in the symptoms associated with PCOS. Therefore, addressing insulin resistance helps many women with PCOS restore cycle regularity and increase their chances of conception.
There is also a large amount of information available about lifestyle changes that could help control insulin resistance. Weight loss has shown to be helpful for women that may be overweight – yet, weight loss can be more difficult for those with PCOS. The combination of dietary changes and more aerobic exercise has been shown to help even if weight loss is not achieved. What dietary changes are most helpful? Eliminating high glycemic carbohydrates such as refined sugars, white bread, and refined corn and potato products and incorporating high-fiber foods (whole grain bread and brown rice) and non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, green beans, etc) is recommended.
For women with PCOS that are trying-to-conceive, herbal supplements (such as, FertilAid for Women) can help to restore hormonal balance and encourage cycle regulation.
If you follow the news related to nutrition and fertility, you might have heard that gluten (a protein substance found in wheat and other cereal grains) sensitivity and/or celiac disease (a disease of the small intestine caused by gluten intolerance) may be linked to infertility and/or irregularities with the menstrual cycle. Research studies have shown that women with gluten sensitivity are more likely to experience:
- Delays in menstruation
- Gynecological and obstetric complications
- Low birth weight
Gluten sensitivity can affect if and how your body absorbs vitamins and nutrients – crucial components to a woman’s reproductive health. Without proper food absorption, a woman’s hormones may not function as they should, which could cause irregular menstruation and/or ovulation. Suboptimal nutrient absorption may impact the ability of a woman to conceive, and might also impact the health of a fetus (e.g. low birth weight) due to insufficient availability of nutrients.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and the gluten connection
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, also known as PCOS, is a hormonal imbalance that can adversely affect fertility due to an inconsistent menstruation cycle. Most women with PCOS have many small cysts on their ovaries, but also experience a cluster of symptoms ranging from excessive hair growth to insulin resistance.
One nutritionist that works closely with women dealing with PCOS noted that at least 85% of her PCOS patients tested positive for some form of gluten sensitivity. That is HUGE! Those that went gluten-free saw a reduction in their PCOS symptoms (and even lost weight which can be tough with PCOS).
Fertility issues caused by gluten sensitivity are not just for women . . …gluten sensitivity may also be linked to low sperm count, motility and morphology.
All in all, gluten sensitivity is becoming more common in our society. If you’re experiencing issues conceiving, it may be worth getting tested for a gluten allergy.
With so many different monitors on the market, it can be hard to determine which monitor is best suited for you. Most don’t work well for women with irregular cycles or have limitations for short or long cycles. When trying-to-conceive, timing is everything – the OvaCue can help with prediction and confirmation of when ovulation is taking place, even for those with irregular menstrual cycles.
For women with irregular cycles, the use of the OvaCue Fertility Monitor’s oral sensor and optional Vaginal Sensor is ideal because the monitor is able to adjust accordingly to the irregularities that may occur that month. Irregular cycles are often related to a hormonal imbalance, which can make it difficult to use most monitors as they predict ovulation based on pre-determined levels of a specific hormone (which some women may not reach due to an imbalance). The OvaCue is different in the sense that it interprets each daily reading in correlation to previous readings, instead of having to reach a certain pre-determined level. The OvaCue uses an electrolyte method of detecting ovulation – reproductive hormones affect your electrolyte levels, allowing the monitor to detect the selection of your dominant follicle by interpreting the rise and fall of your electrolyte levels.
The oral sensor uses your average cycle length to determine when to look for specific trends in your oral readings. Once this trend is detected (also known as your ‘cue peak’), the monitor is able to predict when ovulation may occur, which generally happens about 5-7 days past the detection of the ‘cue peak’. The ‘cue peak’ is indicated by a light blue square (the selection of your dominant follicle) and signifies the beginning of your fertile window. However, women with irregular cycles or ovulatory disorders may stray from the average and ovulate a little early or late from the original prediction.
The vaginal sensor allows additional information to be interpreted and cross reference data received from the oral sensor. The vaginal sensor is monitoring electrolyte levels in your cervical mucus – the rise and fall of both estrogen and progesterone. It can detect when estrogen levels increase just prior to ovulation and when your estrogen levels decrease and progesterone increases – signaling ovulation. For women with a hormonal imbalance – ovulation may actually occur earlier or later than the average 5-7 days (after the dominant follicle is selected). The vaginal sensor is able to notify you a day or two in advance of when ovulation occurs. If ovulation is occurring earlier than predicted – the colored day will turn to a high/peak fertility day (dark blue) when I may have previously been a ‘possible’ fertility day. If ovulation ends up occurring later than first predicted, your fertile window will actually be extended out (continued dark blue days) until ovulation is confirmed with a pink square.
Some women may experience ovulation confirmed twice on the OvaCue, which indicates Secondary Fertility. The OvaCue can help you detect this secondary fertility when you use both the oral and vaginal sensor.
First things first, it is important to know what your luteal phase is and when it takes place. Your luteal phase begins at ovulation and ends the day before menstruation begins for your next cycle. It is during this phase that fertilization and implantation would occur. Many women don’t realize that they have a luteal phase defect until they are trying to conceive and begin tracking their ovulation.
A luteal phase lasting less than 10 days can be classified as a luteal phase defect. It is necessary for you to have 10 days or longer in your luteal phase in order for implantation to occur and sustain. With less than 10 days, the uterine lining begins breaking down too early – it is not prepared for implantation which causes an early miscarriage. As stated above, many women don’t discover this defect until they are trying to conceive, but there are a few symptoms to look for. Some women may experience frequent but light periods. Women who chart/track their ovulation, may notice that after ovulation their basal body temperature does not remain elevated during the luteal phase as it should due to the rise in progesterone after ovulation.
There are some known causes of luteal phase defect:
Poor Follicle Production: FSH levels are directly correlated to follicle production. It can be caused by two different issues – either your body is not producing enough FSH or your ovaries are not responding the FSH that it is producing. The corpus luteum produces progesterone, which is necessary to prepare your uterine lining for implantation. Inadequate follicle production in the first half of your cycle leads to poor corpus luteum quality. With inadequate progesterone levels, your uterine lining begins to breakdown, resulting in early menses and possible miscarriage.
Failure of the Uterine Lining to Respond: In this case, FSH levels may be adequate, along with healthy follicle development and corpus luteum, however, the uterine lining just isn’t responding to the normal levels of progesterone. The uterine lining will most likely not be prepared for implantation.
Premature Failure of the Corpus Luteum: The corpus luteum can fail when the initial quality of it is inadequate. The progesterone levels may begin low and drop even further after five to seven days after ovulation. Once these levels drop, menses onset early.
If you discover that you have a luteal phase defect, there are some over the counter remedies. Vitamin B6 is one over the counter option; taking B6 every day of the month can lengthen your luteal phase. B6 can be found in fertility supplements, such as FertilAid for Women. If those remedies don’t help – there are also medications that your doctor can prescribe. Luteal phase defect may sound a bit scary but luckily it is a fairly easy to diagnose and correct.
Clomid (Clomiphene citrate) is a fertility drug commonly prescribed to women that are trying-to-conceive to induce ovulation. Clomid is often prescribed to women with irregular cycles that either experience irregular ovulation or don’t ovulate at all. If you aren’t sure whether you are ovulating, you can determine this by tracking your menstrual cycles with ovulation predictor kits, fertility monitors, or even monitoring your body’s natural signs – the consistency of your cervical mucus and tracking your basal body temperature.
In order to understand how Clomid works, it is important to understand what is happening in your body as you approach ovulation. In the beginning of your cycle, estrogen levels are low which signal your body to produce FSH (follicle stimulating hormone). Estrogen levels begin to increase which triggers LH (Luteinizing Hormone). This surge is what releases the mature egg from the follicle. For ovulation to occur, enough LH and FSH must be produced to release the egg. Clomid is used to help your body produce enough LH and FSH. It tricks the body into thinking that there is not enough estrogen – which increases the production of LH and FSH, causing your body to ovulate. Generally, it is not recommend to take Clomid for more than six cycles, so if pregnancy is not achieved, a different treatment plan should be discussed.
While taking Clomid, it is common to experience a decrease in fertile-quality cervical mucus. It is extremely important to have a healthy environment to transport and protect the sperm when trying-to-conceive. Supplements, such as FertileCM can help increase the quantity and quality of fertile-quality cervical mucus and is safe to take along with Clomid.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone, commonly referred to as FSH, is a hormone that can directly influence your chances of conceiving and/or sustaining pregnancy. The level of FSH your body produces correlates to the quality and quantity of your remaining eggs. Typically, women that are trying-to-conceive want to see their FSH levels below 10mIU/ml. When FSH levels are too high or too low, becoming pregnant can become much more difficult as it affects your menstrual cycle and whether or not you ovulate.
Knowing your FSH levels is important in predicting how fertile you are. As your egg quality and quantity dwindle – your body tries to compensate and produces more FSH in order to stimulate ovarian function. This is commonly seen in women experiencing premature menopause or who are at the age when menopause is approaching. Low FSH levels can impact fertility and result in irregular cycles, which is commonly seen in women with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). If your body is not producing enough FSH, it cannot sustain a healthy ovarian reserve.
You can easily test your FSH levels either at home or at the doctor’s office. Both tests are to be performed beginning on cycle day 3 (the 3rd day of your menstrual cycle) and continue through cycle day 5. If you receive a positive at home FSH test, you should visit your doctor for further testing with a blood test.
Fortunately, if you discover that you have an imbalance of FSH – there are some supplements that can help to balance those increasing FSH levels. FertilAid for Women is a supplement that contains Vitex, which has been shown to not only keep FSH levels from increasing but to decrease FSH levels to an appropriate level in some women. Dependent upon your FSH levels and your age, your doctor may want to proceed forward with more aggressive fertility treatments.
When trying-to-conceive, many women track their cycles to determine their most fertile days by using ovulation tests or fertility monitors. Charting your cervical mucus consistency and basal body temperature can also indicate when your most fertile days are and help confirm when ovulation has occurred. Some women, more commonly women with PCOS or irregular cycles, may be unaware that they are experiencing multiple follicular stimulation in a single cycle.
If you have ever received two peak readings or a second lh surge in one cycle just a couple days apart– you may have unknowingly experienced multiple follicular stimulation. In order to achieve pregnancy, the follicle is released from your ovary and it must rupture for the egg to be released from the follicle. In cases of multiple follicular stimulation, your body releases the follicle, but it doesn’t rupture – therefore the egg is not released and you are unable to achieve pregnancy at that time. Your body realizes that this has happened and subsequently releases a second follicle 3-5 days later.
Typically, after ovulation, fertility monitors will register ‘low’ fertility, cervical mucus egg-white consistency will be gone, and there will be shift in basal body temperature. Women that experience multiple follicular stimulation will receive a second peak reading with their monitor and may continue to see any other natural fertile signs. If you receive a second peak reading, it is extremely important that you continue intercourse as you can only conceive after ovulation has taken place (i.e. conception will not result from the first follicle that was released).
It is important to track your cycle diligently so you are able to catch cycles where there may be a delay in the time when you are able to conceive that month. Using the OvaCue Fertility Monitor can help to identify the release of a second follicle so you don’t miss this opportunity to conceive. The combination of the oral sensor and optional vaginal sensor indicates ovulation with a dark pink/purple color on the OvaCue fertility calendar – if this color is seen a second time that cycle, you can conclude that secondary fertility has taken place. When this second set of peak days are identified, intercourse should be continued as ovulation didn’t occur as it should have with the first peak reading. This is one of the main reasons that women experience a cycle that is a couple days longer than usual. Women who experience irregular cycles or who have been diagnosed with PCOS should be especially cognizant of this.
Many women decide to go off of their birth control pill once they have decided it is time to begin trying for a baby. Unfortunately, many women picture this to be a much smoother process then it ends up being. To better understand why this can often be a difficult transition we must first understand exactly what it is that birth control does to your hormones.
There are many different types of birth control; some that stop your period completely or give you very few a year, and others that regulate your period into a 28-day cycle. As they all work a bit different – they have a very similar effect. Birth control works to change the levels of your hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone. By altering and controlling these hormones, they can help to prevent pregnancy in multiple ways – by stopping your ovaries from producing eggs, altering the thickness of the wall of your cervix (which prevents the entry of sperm into the uterus), or by changing the lining of your uterus so the egg can’t attach and implant.
Once birth control is discontinued, many women report having irregular cycles or having no menstruation for many months. It can take a while for your body to return to the cycle you had before beginning birth control pills. This can be especially frustrating for women that were hoping to conceive shortly after going off of the pill. Dealing with irregular cycles (or no cycle at all) can make predicting ovulation nearly impossible. Herbal fertility enhancing supplements, such as FertilAid for Women, contains vitex and other herbs to help regulate your cycle and correct any hormonal imbalances that might be present – this in turn should help to normalize your cycle. Many women begin taking this supplement post-pill to help see a regular cycle sooner and increase their chances of conceiving.