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Are Over-the-Counter Fertility Treatments Safe?

June 21, 2022

If you’re trying to get pregnant, you’ve probably noticed an array of retail products designed to help you conceive — pills, teas and even powdered beverage mixes. Plenty of fertility diet books also vie for your attention and dollars with promises to help you become a mother.

Don’t chance it. Most of these products don’t work and haven’t been vetted by respected medical research organizations.

It sometimes can feel as if getting pregnant takes a long time, but nature usually takes care of women conceiving, incubating and delivering babies quite well.

If you haven’t conceived after a year, or six months if you’re 35 or older, doctors can guide you through the next steps.

Be Wary of OTC Fertility Treatments

Over-the-counter fertility treatments are a range of products and promises:

  • Dietary supplements containing ingredients said to thin cervical mucus to clear the way for sperm to meet eggs, or hormones to increase egg production
  • “Packs” and drink mixes filled with vitamins and minerals meant to metabolize ovarian cells better. Partner products for men aim to increase sperm count
  • Herbal fertility blends purporting to regulate hormones and/or help your body produce more protein
  • Pills, made with plants and herbs, said to mimic the effects of the tried-and-true medically approved fertility drug clomiphene
  • Teas made with leaves, herbs and berries that claim, among other benefits, to make the uterine lining thicker
  • Fertility diets, which encourage eating, and avoiding, certain types of foods

Talk to your Doctor

If you are having trouble conceiving, you should talk to your doctor, who will evaluate whether:

  • You’re healthy.
  • You have regular periods, which indicates that you ovulate regularly.
  • Your tubes are functioning properly.
  • Your partner’s sperm is healthy.
  • You’re having intercourse at the right time in your cycle for conception.

It’s easy to be lured by over-the-counter fertility treatments that claim to work as a superpower. Use common sense. If you don’t ovulate regularly or have gynecological problems, you need to see a physician who knows how to help. If you have no problem yet want to be at optimum health for conceiving, your OB-GYN will be happy to give you tried-and-true tips during your well-woman exam.

Try These Fertility Tips

“No” is the established medical community’s blanket answer about over-the-counter fertility products. But your OB-GYN might suggest incorporating certain elements into your treatment. For example, some store-bought products contain dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Respected studies show that a synthetic version can help some patients. Talk to your doctor before trying it.

Over-the-counter prenatal vitamins also are worth considering. These one-a-day pills are designed to keep mother and fetus healthy. They won’t help you conceive, but starting early has three benefits:

  • The folic acid they contain will aid in preventing certain spine and brain defects in the fetus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • These vitamin-mineral blends do not contain too much Vitamin A. That’s good, because too much can be toxic for fetuses, the National Institutes of Health reports.
  • Some women can’t tolerate certain prenatal vitamins. Beginning ahead of pregnancy allows time to see which are trouble-free for the individual, although that might change if morning sickness sets in.

So-called fertility diets are another trend that has merit. While each is different, most fertility diets focus on eating healthfully: lean proteins, complex carbohydrates from whole grains instead of processed flours, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Most fat comes from non-animal sources such as olive oil. Foods in this category, especially leafy greens and cabbages, will give you plenty of anti-oxidants — so there’s no need to buy a special product just for anti-oxidants.

To get pregnant, you need to have intercourse at the right time for conception to occur. If you’re menstruating regularly, you are likely ovulating well. You don’t need anything else to increase fertility, balance your hormones, thin your uterine mucus or whatever else over-the-counter offerings sell.

So relax and give your body the time it needs to conceive. The human body is amazing, without pseudo-pharmaceutical assistance.

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