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Can Natural Fertility Supplements Interfere with Fertility Drugs?
a blog by Kim Griffiths, July 20, 2013
Chaste tree berry, Red clover, Black cohosh, Red raspberry leaf. If you’ve heard any of these names before, it is likely you have looked into ways to boost your fertility naturally. Herbal supplement use is a growing trend amongst men and women of reproductive age, but fertility patients should proceed with caution when using over-the-counter fertility supplements. In honor of Herbal Supplement-Prescription Drug Interaction Awareness Month, we are dishing some little known facts about supplement use.
Because they are considered all-natural, many fertility patients fail to recognize the potential for prescription drug-herbal supplement interaction. Not only can herbal supplements decrease the efficacy of prescription fertility drugs, but they can also potentially harmful side effects.
“Some fertility supplements can be counterproductive. We don’t always know the dosage and strength and these supplements bind to receptors in the brain causing hormone interaction and suppression,” explains Eva Littman, M.D. of Red Rock Fertility in Las Vegas. Herbal supplements are widely available in most grocery and health stores, though they are not regulated by the FDA. There are not definitive, controlled data available regarding the recommended usage (effectiveness, dosage, or safety) of these supplements. Supplements may vary from brand to brand and batch to batch, and there is also potential for pesticide exposure which can be harmful to one’s health and fertility.
In some instances, fertility supplement use requires an increased dosage of fertility drugs to achieve the desired ovarian stimulation response. Speaking to your doctor about natural fertility supplement use is essential for properly managing your care, adjusting medication doses, or advising you to discontinue supplement use altogether. Still, the Journal of American Medical Association says that as many as 40% of patients do not talk to their doctor about herbal supplement use. “Make sure to fully disclose everything to your physician. A lot of these supplements have not been tested as far as pregnancy is concerned, though we know that prescription drugs are tested and safe. We also do not know how long it takes for supplements to leave your system when trying to conceive and before pregnancy,” Littman advises.
This isn’t to say that all fertility-boosting supplements should be avoided. In fact, some doctors recommend natural supplements to their patients after thoroughly reviewing their protocol and with monitored use during a treatment cycle . Dr. Littman recommends her patients take CoQ10 to improve egg quality and DHEA to assist in egg development. She advises patients to stay away from soy products and phytoestrogens which can negatively impact hormone levels.
Patients pursuing fertility treatment and exploring herbal supplement use in hopes of naturally increasing their fertility should discuss the risks and benefits of supplement use with their fertility doctor before use.