Are you confused about when to take fertility herbs and supplements? Some of the most frequent questions we receive at Natural Fertility Info.com are:
- “Should I take this herb/supplement all month long?”
- “Should I stop taking this herb/supplement during my period?”
- “Can I take my fertility herbs while I am on the Fertility Cleanse?”
- “When should I stop taking fertility herbs and supplements?”
- “Which herbs/supplements can I take or stop once I get pregnant?”
There seems to be much confusion about when to take fertility herbs and when not to. I hope this post helps to clear up any questions you have and empowers you to listen to your body so you can see what is right for you.
One of the reasons it can be confusing is because of how the hormonal system works. During part of the month one hormone is high and during another it drops, and a different hormone is high. It is an intricate symphony of hormones and reactions… hormones acting as the conductor, letting the body know when to release the egg, start growing the lining or when to start the period.
Many herbs that are used to help promote and support fertility have some effect on the endocrine system. For example, Vitex is a popular and effective herb that nourishes and helps the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis. Through this, it has been shown to increase progesterone, lengthen a short luteal phase, and boost overall fertility. The actions of the herbs and supplements must be taken into account when determining how they should be used.
In this article, I am going to address the top four questions previously mentioned. The range of supplements and herbs mentioned in this article are by no means all of the herbs and supplements out there. I cover the most common herbs and supplements as well as all of the supplements/herbs supported on our website. If you are using a product and are confused about when to use it and if it is safe for pregnancy, contact the manufacturer of that supplement and ask them directly, so you can get the best advice for that particular product.
Should Fertility Supplements and Herbs Be Taken All Month Long?
There is no one answer across the board for all fertility supplements and herbs. Each is used differently and for different reasons. Most Fertility Herbs and Supplements are suggested to be used all month long, for consecutive months for the best results. Instead of going through each and every herb and supplement, I will cover the herbs or supplements that should not be used all month long and the reason for this.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening Primrose Oil is a nutritious oil that is traditionally used to help increase cervical mucous. Suggested usage is 1500mg of this oil from day one of your cycle (menstruation) until ovulation. It should not be taken after ovulation when trying to conceive, as it has been shown to promote contractions of the uterus.
Dong Quai works by promoting blood flow to the pelvis where it will stimulate an absent or scanty period. It also nourishes the blood (it is in nearly all Chinese herbal blood-building formulas) and treats iron deficiency and anemia. One of its best uses is helping women who are not menstruating to invite their menstruation back. The increased circulation also helps to strengthen and balance the uterus. In rat studies, it has been show to help build the uterus lining.
I generally suggest Dong Quai to be used before trying to conceive so one can get the full benefit by taking it all month long except during menstruation. Once the period has come back, then you can focus on trying to conceive. If Dong Quai is being used during the month while trying to conceive, it is best to stop using it once you have ovulated and discontinue use during your period. If Dong Quai is part of a blend, it will not be as potent and not have such a strong effect. Dong Quai is a known uterine contractor so it should be avoided if you think you are pregnant, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Progesterone cream is used to help balance estrogen dominance or help with low progesterone issues. Progesterone must be used very specifically so your cycle is helped, not disturbed. Dr. John Lee recommends that Progesterone cream should only be used after ovulation and discontinued once menstruation has returned. If you find out you are pregnant, you should continue on the progesterone and speak with your health care provider right away so your hormone levels can be monitored and progesterone usage adjusted as needed. Stopping progesterone once you are pregnant is dangerous as it may cause your progesterone levels to drop at a time that they should be increasing daily.
If progesterone is used before ovulation, it can cause ovulation to be suppressed. Charting is one of the best ways to know when you are ovulating. If you do not have a menstrual cycle or are not ovulating, Dr. Lee suggested to mimic a 28-day cycle by using progesterone cream, helping to jump start the cycle again. You can learn more about progesterone use for fertility here…
Slow Flow is an herbal formula designed to help a menstrual cycle that is very heavy. Slow Flow uses astringent herbs, uterine tonics, and nutrients to support normal menstrual flow, and is to be used on heavy bleeding days. Heavy bleeding is technically defined as having to change protection more than every two hours. Suggested usage for Slow Flow is three capsules every three to four hours during heavy menstrual blood loss. Up to 6 capsules may be taken daily for longer-term management, but no longer than three months. So to reiterate, Slow Flow should only be used during the period.
Should You Take Fertility Herbs or Supplements During Your Period?
Yes and no. It all depends on the herb or supplement you are using. There are specific herbs and supplements that should NOT be used during your period such as:
Progesterone cream should be discontinued as soon as you get your period. This is a time that the body naturally decreases its progesterone.
Unless you have a really slow flow or non-existent flow, Dong Quai should not be used during menstruation. The reason for this is that Dong Quai increases circulation to the uterus; during menstruation this could cause heavier bleeding than normal.
In the past I have generally suggested that women stop using vitex during menstruation, but over time, through years of working with vitex with many, many clients, I have come to find vitex works best when taken all month long.
Every herb will react differently for each person. Some women do better by taking herbs all month long, while others benefit from taking a break during their menstrual cycle, giving the body a chance to cleanse itself and rest.
So my answer is go with your intuition and see how it works for you. Yes, I know it is not very scientific, but there is no one answer that fits all. I generally suggest a break during menstruation if you are taking the herbs for months on end, as it is a good idea to give the body a break.
Can I Take My Fertility Herbs While I Am On the Fertility Cleanse?
During the Fertility Cleanse it is best to only be doing the Fertility Cleanse and not using any other fertility herbs. The reason for this is that the Fertility Cleanse is using a blend of many different herbs to help balance and cleanse your body. Adding additional hormonal herbs to this may be too much. There are some exceptions though. If you have been using fertility herbs prior to the Fertility Cleanse, then you may continue using them. And nutritional supplements are fine to take during the Fertility Cleanse.
Kits and natural fertility programs are best started directly after the Fertility Cleanse has been completed. On the other hand, superfoods can be used during the Fertility Cleanse.
It is best to not try and conceive the month that you are doing the Fertility Cleanse because many of the herbs in the Fertility Cleanse should not be used while you are pregnant.
When Should I Stop Taking Fertility Herbs and Supplements?
If you are taking hormonal medications, birth control or any other type of medicated hormonal treatment, it would be best to not mix them with fertility herbs. We do not know what the effects are since there have been no studies done yet. We do not know if maca or vitex (or other hormonal regulating herbs) will interact negatively with Clomid or IVF medications. So to be on the safe side, it is best to not mix the two.
If you are going to use medically-assisted treatments it is best to only use herbs and supplements in preparation, before hormonal medications and injections are being used. There are a couple of supplements that you will want to talk to your doctor about such as a prenatal multivitamin and essential fatty acids (just to make sure) if you are getting a medically assisted treatment.
Another time to discontinue use of fertility herbs and supplements is once you become pregnant. We go into depth about this in the section that follows.
Which Herbs and Supplements Can I Take or Should I Stop Once I Become Pregnant?
Most fertility herbs and supplements should be discontinued once you find out you are pregnant (this of course is referring to all the herbs and supplements not mentioned above with specific warnings).That means once you take a pregnancy test and get a positive. There are some fertility supplements and herbs that could be used during pregnancy under the guidance of a health practitioner or doctor who is familiar with these therapies such as:
- Prenatal Multivitamin (100% whole food)
- Essential Fatty Acids (especially DHA – very important to a developing fetus)
- Progesterone Cream
When it comes to pregnancy it is best and safest to focus on eating an incredibly healthy diet. This is the safest and most important way to provide nourishment, present and future health for your growing baby.
I hope this article helped to clear up some of the questions you may have had. When in doubt, just ask the manufacturer of the product you are using and they can let you know how to correctly use the product and if it is safe during pregnancy.
- Rodriguez, H, (n.d.). Dong Quai: Uterine Tonic and Fertility Herb… . Retrieved from: http://natural-fertility-info.com/dong-quai-fertility-herb.html