Chasteberry (Vitex angus-castus)
If irregular menstrual periods caused by an imbalance of hormones are interfering with your ability to become pregnant, you might consider trying this herbal remedy. European physicians have used chasteberry since the 1950s to treat menstrual irregularities in women. The herb is believed to work on your pituitary gland, increasing this gland’s production of luteinizing hormone (LH). LH in turn boosts the secretion of progesterone during the last 14 days of your menstrual cycle. But it appears that chasteberry also works to keep prolactin levels in check. Its ability to lower excessive levels of prolactin has made it a potential treatment for infertility in some women.
There has been very little published research on the use of this herb for female infertility. In one German study, chasteberry was successful in treating 10 out of 15 women suffering from amenorrhea.7 In the study, women taking the herb began having regular periods again after six months of treatment. Blood tests revealed an increase in levels of LH and progesterone. A few other European studies suggest that, when taken daily, chasteberry can restore progesterone and prolactin levels to normal and result in pregnancy.
If you decide to try chasteberry, buy a product that is standardized to provide
0.5 percent agnuside and 0.6 percent aucubin, two of the plant’s active ingredients. The recommended dose is 175 to 225 milligrams once daily. Keep in mind that this herb does not have an immediate effect. Research and clinical experience suggest that it takes five to seven months to restore regular menstrual periods. And if you have not had a period for more than two years, it can take up to 18 months for chasteberry to kick in.
To date, the herb has a good safety record. In rare cases it may cause gastrointestinal upset and skin rashes. If you become pregnant, stop taking chasteberry as it may stimulate the uterus.
LIFESTYLE FACTORS Cigarette Smoking for Infertility
As you’ll read in the section on enhancing male fertility, it is quite clear that smoking can negatively affect sperm. But scientists are now learning that smoking can also affect female fertility. According to a recent study from researchers in the U.K., the pregnancy rate among women attending a fertility clinic was significantly lower in smokers compared to non-smokers.8 Other studies have found that women who smoke while trying to get pregnant experience delayed time to conception compared to both nonsmokers and past smokers.9 Scientists believe that smoking impairs the healthy functioning of a woman’s ovaries; it also causes damage to a woman’s eggs and the female sex hormone estrogen. If you are planning to start a family and you are a smoker (even a social smoker), I strongly urge you to quit for the benefit of your health and your babies.