Infertility is a frequent condition in reproductive medicine that couples encounter post marriage . It is defined as the failure of a couple to achieve pregnancy after 12 months of regular and unprotected intercourse . Infertility is either primary, when no pregnancy has ever occurred, or secondary, where a previous pregnancy has occurred, regardless of the outcome that is normal live birth or miscarriage .
Herbal products have the potential to add to existing treatment options. Using nutritional supplements as a first step in treatment could improve key physiological factors essential to fertility. In fact, the use of complementary and alternative medicine has been on the rise in the United States .
However, the real challenge for physicians using nutraceuticals for the treatment of infertility has been the lack of evidence on what supplements should be used, at what dosages, and what combinations would be the best. On top of the aforementioned, not all supplements are manufactured according to high-quality GMP standards and some can become a real danger when used for pregnancy purposes.
The role of specific ingredients and supplements, such as vitamin B6, 12 and 9, L-carnitine, Co-Q10, polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3), disogenin or others, could play a helpful role especially in infertility of unexplained origin, where it may be due to subtle hormonal imbalances, or perhaps due to nutritional deficiencies, or even because of an ageing reproductive system. Even if infertility is not restored with IVF or other ART intervention, priming the body of infertile women with these supplements could improve the outcome of Assisted Reproductive Technology interventions .
The backbone in the mechanism of action of these supplements in improving fertility is the decrease of oxidative stress on the ova and the follicular fluid of the women desiring to become pregnant. Indeed, vitamin E and selenium are also used for the same purpose. Antioxidants have proven to be helpful in reducing free radical oxygen damage to ova, sperm and reproductive organs. Antioxidants are also best used when combined together because they protect each other from oxidation. This combination also precludes the need for large doses of a single nutrient which may be harmful.
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