One of the most common pieces of advice given to couples struggling with infertility is to do everything they can to be healthy, because it increases their chances at a successful pregnancy. This advice is well meaning yet clichéd, and is also nonspecific, which can lead to confusing, and sometimes conflicting advice.
To understand dietary supplements at a comprehensive level requires a level of biochemical and physiological knowledge that most people have little time to attain. For the success of IVF and other assistive reproductive therapies, however, health issues surrounding fertility, as well as anecdotal evidence supporting the use of various supplements further cloud the issue. There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer to the questions that struggling couples have. Additionally, placebo effects come into play, since the intake of dietary supplements has profound positive effects on a patient’s mood, sense of wellbeing and satisfaction.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines a dietary supplement as a product that is “intended to supplement the diet that bears or contains one or more of the following dietary ingredients: a vitamin, a mineral, an herb or other botanical, an amino acid, a dietary substance for use by man to supplement the diet by increasing the total daily intake, or a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of these ingredients.”
The following is a table of some supplements that women use, whether by prescription or self-medication, when undergoing IVF:
|Antioxidants||Co-enzyme Q10, r-alpha lipoic acid, Pycogenol, Resveratrol, Melatonin, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, Zinc||Scavenge free radicals|
|Insulin sensitizers||Myo-inositol, Cinnamon extract, Apple cider vinegar)||Induce ovulation and help attain pregnancy in women with PCOS|
|PCOD Mimetics||DHEA||Increase the number of antral follicles in the ovary|
|Vitamins and minerals||Prenatal vitamin, Vitamin D, Vitamin B complex, Folic acid, Biotin, Calcium||Vital for the overall body function, and hence necessary for the reproductive system|
|Amino Acids||L-Arginine, L-Ornithine|
|Blood Thinners||Low Dose Aspirin||Improve circulation and facilitate implantation|
|Essential fatty acids||Omega 3, Flax-seed oil, Evening primrose oil||Active in normal production of hormones|
|Miscellaneous||Vitex, Royal jelly, wheatgrass, Nettle leaf and Red raspberry leaf tea, Probiotics etc||Variable|
The rationale for taking these supplements is most often cited as follows:
- For increasing egg quantity
- For improving egg quality
- For increasing endometrial thickness
- For improving endometrial receptivity
Other miscellaneous substances are believed to reduce stress, improve mental health, act as a tonic, flush out toxins, boost immunity, and improve general wellbeing of the body and reproductive system. Such fancy sounding claims are difficult, if not impossible, to prove or disprove.
In the Philippines, fertility supplements can extend to several “home remedies” or “traditional medicines” that have little scientific basis, and whose success is based on anecdotal evidence, rumor, or faith. It is important for IVF patients to stay informed about supplements and how to use them to increase reproductive success.