Natural Fertility Boosters
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So I have a question about this herb called Vitex.
Just a little background first; I’ve had irregular cycles since I started getting my period way back in 8th grade, and I thought it was so awesome then (period only once every 3ish months? score! Let’s go swimming!) but now I’m engaged and we talk babies and all that, and no periods often equal no ovulation which means no baby. We try to be natural (and I have tons of allergies and reactions to what seems the whole world, and would like to avoid having to go the route of having to take hormones or anything because I can’t imagine it’d go real well for me) and all so I thought I’d see what was out there that can help regulate cycles and Vitex seems to be mentioned a fair as being great for women who are irregular and what not. But there’s nothing I can find from real people about it working, aside from a couple reviews on Amazon. So my question is basically, have you heard of it or of it working? Do you know anyone who has maybe tried it, really just any information at all. Or have you heard of anything else to get cycles more regular? I know you had issues with your cycles, what finally helped for you? I’m tired of having a period and then maybe one 30 days later, and then not having another for 70+ days. Help please!
Yep, yep. That second-to-last sentence? Periods every 30 days and then uterine radio silence for 75 days, over and over. With the exception of 2001, when I had one period in the ENTIRE WHOLE DANG YEAR. I hear you. It’s maddening.
As for Vitex, though, I’m sorry to report that I never tried it, nor do I know of anyone who tried it, successfully or otherwise. As I’m sure you’ve read, but for the benefit of other people who might have no idea what we’re talking about, Vitex is also known as chaste berry, and is an herb that has been “used for centuries” to “correct hormonal imbalances in women.” I use that last set of quotes because the original “imbalance” that the herb was commonly used for was to suppress that pesky and sinful problem of the female libido. As the “chaste berry” name suggests, it was recommended to promote chastity, particularly among nuns and anyone else who hated the idea of a female sex drive.
There’s little about this use today, from what I’ve read, and whether it DOES, in fact, have a negative affect on libido. Now it’s recommended for women with menstrual disorders and problems, like us. While the herb itself is not a hormone, it does appear to cause a slight rise in progesterone levels. Low progesterone is usually the root of luteal phase defects, which delay ovulation and create overly long cycles where you stand little chance of conceiving.
While a couple fertility sites (of dubious medical caliber, I must add, although high on the pink sparklies and babydust) promote Vitex as an almost sure-fire solution, it’s an herb. Which means no FDA oversight or the need for any clinical research to back up the claims or catalog the side effects. Personally, it seems like something worth trying — side effects indicate nothing particularly risky-sounding, although that whole “female libido” history gives me pause. As anyone who has encountered even the slightest difficulty conceiving can tell you, the process already puts a huge strain on your love life. (Timed sex is the WORST SEX. Ever!)
Then again, I successfully achieved pregnancy twice without the aid of hormonal fertility treatments. I did NOT, however, self-diagnose myself as annovulatory before hitting the health food co-op. If you haven’t talked to your gynecologist about your cycle concerns, please do so. It’s one thing to have wonky cycles for unknown reasons, it’s another thing to have wonky cycles from something like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or thyroid problems.
Noah was conceived a few months after Clomid cycles, and while I didn’t conceive while actually taking the Clomid, I have to give at least partial credit to the drug (and the accompanying progesterone supplements I took to trigger periods) with regulating things out a little better in the following months. I had no such jumpstart with Ezra, but instead tried a few other natural remedies: namely, natural progesterone creams, Red Raspberry Leaf tea, reducing stress, and The Fertility Diet. Acupuncture was next on my list, but ta-da! I got pregnant before making an appointment.
I saw no cycle change with the topical progesterone, but admit I probably didn’t use it as often as I was supposed to because the whole concept kind of weirded me out. I bought it on the recommendation of a friend but…I dunno. PTSD from my post-Clomid mental breakdown made me uncomfortable using it. This is my tic, and my tic alone, though.
The red raspberry leaf tea, on the other hand, very likely helped. Shorter, more regular cycles, and I was downing a ton of it every day in the months right around getting pregnant. That’s the drawback, though, you need to drink multiple cups a DAY. For MONTHS. Like the Vitex, it’s not an instant solution and requires regular intake for a couple of cycles. It’s not terrible tasting, though not particularly delicious or memorable, but MAN, did I get sick of that stuff. But still, I’d give it a thumbs up for at least being a likely cause of success.
In the same column as the tea: diet and stress levels. I know, I KNOW, the next person who tells you to “just relax” gets a fork in the eardrum, and rightfully so, because that’s a gross oversimplification of a very complicated process and system of your body. But expanding my focus beyond whether or not I had a period that month helped me get much healthier, physically and mentally.
Being overweight has a big impact on ovulation, and I believe diet does too, even for those of us who don’t struggle with much beyond a few extra pounds. Crap food is crap food. The Fertility Diet boils down to a few essential changes: NO trans fats (and this includes anything that says “0 GRAMS trans fats” on the package but still contains partially hydrogenated oils), more plant-based proteins like beans and nuts, whole grains, and at least one serving of whole-fat dairy each day. Eliminating crap like sodas and artificial sweeteners and at least reducing refined sugar helps too. It’s not rocket science, at all, and is basically the same food message you’ve been hearing as the key to everything, from cancer to colds, though the full-fat dairy thing is a bit unique. Ditch the processed, overly refined foods and get to know the farmers’ markets and your dusty old cookbook collection. I cut back on meats and sodas, ate beans and nuts every day and drank a glass of Noah’s whole milk or full-fat yogurt. (The occasional bowl of ice cream was TOTALLY FOR FUTURE BABY too.)
The problem with all of this stuff is that it’s hard to commit to long-term. My diet is still chock-full of good stuff, but I drink too much caffeine and my ass cannot afford that full-fat dairy on a regular basis. Since having my second son, Ezra, I’m weirdly more carnivorous than ever. Still can’t kick that Coca-Cola habit either, especially when I don’t have a hypothetical Future Baby as motivation. I don’t remember to drink the tea often enough and thus my cycles are more or less back to 30 days, 30 days, 75 days, 30 days, 75+ days.
Readers? Anyone have experience with Vitex or other natural remedies for correcting wonky cycles? Anyone hit upon something even better and easier than a daily bowl of ice cream?