Dietary supplements are very popular. They include herbs, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and extracts. Because they’re considered a dietary product rather than a medicinal product, they usually are not regulated by the modern science. This lack of regulation means that the ingredient amount may vary from one pill to the next. Supplements have also been found to be contaminated with animal parts and toxic moulds in some cases.
Because they’re sold over the counter, without a prescription, supplements are often viewed as harmless. Studies have shown that many supplements are far from harmless. Some supplements, such as ephedra, have been implicated in causing death, and others, such as comfrey, can cause severe liver damage.
Yet many naturopaths, who believe that the body will heal itself if kept in proper balance, and herbalists tout supplements as a way to help get (and stay) pregnant. Internet sites abound with happy moms claiming that supplements were responsible for their pregnancies. So who do you believe, and are there any supplements that you absolutely should not take?
Although herbs have been used for centuries, studies on their safety and benefits have been few. Here’s a look at some of the more popular herbs used in the treatment of infertility. This list represents a small sample of herbs that can be used and represents herbs that are both Western in origin as well as Chinese.
- Black cohosh: An herb with estrogenic qualities, black cohosh is often used to relieve the discomfort associated with menopause. Studies have been mixed on whether black cohosh is effective. Black cohosh is also recommended to boost oestrogen production, although there’s no proof that this works. Side effects of black cohosh are dizziness, nausea, low pulse rate, and increased perspiration.
- Dong quai: Dubbed the “ultimate herb” for women, dong quai is used for everything from restoring menstrual regularity to treating menopausal symptoms. Dong quai is a blood thinner and should not be taken during an IVF cycle or by women who have very heavy periods.
- Primrose oil: A fatty acid, primrose oil may increase cervical mucus to make it easier for sperm to get to the egg. An unwanted side effect of primrose oil may be thinning of the uterine lining, making implantation more difficult.
- Red clover: This herb is often used to boost oestrogen in a women’s body. This exogenous or outside the body, form of oestrogen may raise your oestrogen levels artificially, which is meaningless if the rise isn’t caused by the production of a mature egg.
A good multivitamin has the correct amounts of the vitamins you need, so rarely do you need to supplement with additional vitamins. Your body takes in only what it needs from water soluble vitamins and urinates out the rest. In addition, overdoing it on some vitamins can cause adverse reactions in your system. Excess amounts of fat soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A, are stored in your body instead of being excreted. Although adequate levels of vitamin A help to preserve your vision and immune system, an excess of vitamin A can result in liver disease and birth defects when taken by pregnant women. So, yes, you can really have too much of a good thing.
If you’re taking standard multivitamin rather than prenatal vitamins while pregnant, make sure that it doesn’t contain extra ingredients such as herbs. Many health food stores sell blends that contain herbs. Don’t take these types of vitamins during pregnancy.
Some studies have shown that liquid prenatal vitamins are better absorbed than pills. They may also be less likely to make you nauseated after you become pregnant.
All the vitamins in the world won’t get you pregnant, but they will help you keep your body in the best nutritional shape possible, along with proper diet, exercise, and general care. This balanced state is the best place for babies to come from!
Folic acid, a B vitamin, is essential when trying to get pregnant. Many studies have shown that 0.4 mg of folic acid a day cuts the chance of having a baby with neural tube defects by 50 percent. Neural tube defects develop very early in pregnancy, in the first four weeks, so taking a good multivitamin containing this amount while trying to get pregnant is essential. Many foods, including leafy green vegetables, fortified cereals, orange juice, and lean beef, contain folic acid, but overcooking can destroy folic acid, so take a vitamin even if you eat well.