PCOS (Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome) can be a complex and challenging diagnosis. Many women with PCOS are concerned about their chances of conceiving without hormonal or surgical assistance. Some women are concerned about a “short luteal phase,” which is the phase in the menstrual cycle between the mature egg being released and the uterine lining being shed. If women have a short or disrupted luteal phase, that may have an impact on a couple’s ability to conceive. This can be related to PCOS, as in PCOS, a woman often lacks the estrogen to mature the egg and tell it to release from the ovary.
Some women with these sorts of reproductive challenges look to natural supplements to help with their hormonal balance. One such supplement is called Vitex (or chasteberry), which is a shrub from Greece or Italy. Over the years, the reproductive benefits of Vitex have been catalogued and expounded upon. But does it really work?
First of all, it’s ironically named, since it was believed to promote chastity among early monks. Funny that it came to be known as a reproductive aid! Vitex has been studied in relation to PMS symptoms, and has shown some promise, although the tests are not considered to be well-designed. It seems that the science is thin, but the anecdotal evidence is plenty for this extract in helping with PMS, as well as with regulating menstrual cycles and helping with fertility.
The folks who are in favor of using it to help with fertility believe it works by influencing the pituitary gland to regulate reproductive hormones. They believe it can help lengthen the luteal phase, to ensure that a mature egg can be released with enough time for it to be fertilized by a sperm.
So, where does that leave you? You may want to mention it to your doc; she may have read the research and have an opinion on it. Chances are, your doc will not know about it, as the science is not deemed to be conclusive. You could go see a naturopath, or you could just pick some up at a pharmacy or natural health store. It is recommended that you start with a low dose, since side effects may not be well catalogued or understood.
Even if it does not work, guess what? If you think it will work, it very well may work for you, my friend! It’s called the placebo effect, and it can be virtually indistinguishable from actual effectiveness. For example, it may help you to be more relaxed and more excited to have sex with your partner. If you do not release an egg to fertilize, it won’t change anything, but if you do, those changes may be the ones that push you over the edge into baby-making territory!
So good luck, and happy supplementing and conceiving!