Supplements

Your diet and menopause

Diet, vitamins and menopause: Princeton IVF blog
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Can what you eat affect when you go into menopause?

New research from the UK suggests that it might.

They followed 914 women through menopause and sent them questionnaires about their diets, and what they found was interesting:

  • Fatty and oily fish delayed the age of menopause by 3.3 years for each daily portion

  • Fresh legumes delayed onset of menopause by 0.9 years for each daily portion

  • Refined pastas and rice was accelerated the age of menopause 1.5 years for each daily portion

They also asked these women about daily vitamin intake:

  • Vitamin B6 delayed menopause by 0.6 years

  • Zinc delayed menopause by 0.3 years per daily portion

Does this mean that making the right dietary choices can affect when one will go through menopause?

Perhaps, but not necessarily. Women who eat healthier may also live healthier lifestyles which could contribute to this as well.

Does this mean that these dietary choices can effect how long a woman will remain fertile?

While it certainly makes sense that dietary changes which delay when a woman runs out eggs should affect the quality of the ones that are left, this research does not address that issue.

Melatonin and fertility

Melatonin and fertility: Princeton IVF blog
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What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that is produced in the pineal gland, at the base of the brain. It is involved in the regulating your natural circadian rhythms of sleep and wakefulness. It is considered a “dietary supplement” by the FDA and is available over the counter at pharmacies and vitamin stores.

What is melatonin used for?

Many people find melatonin useful to help them sleep and take a pill (typically 3 mg) at bedtime. It is often helpful for insomnia, for those with unusual  work schedules, overcoming jet lag and to help blind people who do not experience the light and dark cycles. It has also been tried for a number of other medical and psychiatric disorders.

Why would melatonin affect fertility?

Melatonin has been known for sometime to the influence reproduction in some animals so it is not a long shot to think it might affect humans. In one study, they found that the follicular fluid, the liquid that surrounds the eggs and is extracted during an IVF procedure, contains high levels of melatonin.

Is there any evidence the melatonin may help?

There is some research that show eggs retrieved from IVF are more likely to fertilize, produce higher quality better looking embryos, and are more likely to implant. The problem with these studies is that oftentimes they are given along with other supplements (folic acid, inositol and antioxidants) that have been shown to help fertility. Also, just taking a pill or supplement that you think will help you, will help even if it does not contain any active ingredients. That is called the placebo effect. The bottom line is that we do not know.

What about melatonin for men?

There is some evidence that melatonin may lower sperm counts and motility (the percent of sperm that are swimming). For that reason, it is a good idea for men trying to father children to avoid taking melatonin.


Fishing for a baby

Fish and fertility: Princeton IVF blog
Eating more fish may help your chances of having a baby.

Can eating more fish make you more fertile?

It might actually help your chances of of having a baby, according to researchers at Harvard

What is the connection between fish intake and fertility?

The group at Harvard looked at women who were trying to get pregnant, how much fish they consumed and how long it took them to get pregnant. They found that women with regular fish intake were more likely to get pregnant and more likely to be sexually intimate with their partners.

How much fish intake is necessary to get this benefit?

The fertility benefit was seen with as little as 2 servings of fish a week.

Does a fish-rich diet make your more fertile.

This study shows the women who eat more fish are more likely to achieve pregnancy sooner, but one should not necessarily assume that their dietary choices directly caused their higher fertility. Causation is certainly likely, but this study was not designed to prove it.

Why would fish intake improve a couples fertility?

There are good reasons to believe that eating fish might make it easier to get pregnant. Fish are very high in omega 3 oils which have been shown in multiple studies to be beneficial in both promoting better pregnancy outcomes and better outcomes with in vitro fertilization (IVF). Other nutrients found in fish and other seafood such as Zinc may also explain the fertility benefits of fish.

What about the mercury?

That is the big unknown. Many large ocean fish such as swordfish, shark, tuna and tilefish have been shown to contain accumulate large amounts of environmental toxins such as mercury. The FDA recommends limiting these kinds of fish when pregnant over these concerns. It is unknown whether that benefits of regular fish intake offsets the risks of exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals. So, it is recommended for women who are pregnant or attempting pregnancy to minimize large ocean fish in their diet.

Caffeine, vitamins and miscarriage

Can caffeine affect your miscarriage risk: Princeton IVF blog
Caffeinated beverages and risk of miscarriage

It may be time to cut back on coffee before pregnancy...

An new study from the National Institutes of Health suggests that the morning pilgrimage to Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or your favorite coffee may not be such a good idea, at least if you or your partner are trying to get pregnant.  In the past, it was thought that small amounts of caffeine intake were not an issue, but researchers have now found that the as little as 2 drinks a day may almost double the risk of a pregnancy ending in miscarriage. Furthermore, this risk was present not just during pregnancy but when a woman drinks caffeinated beverages even several months before conception, and was even true when the male partner consumes caffeinated drinks. The risk of miscarriage was just as high when the male partner used caffeine.

So, does that mean caffeine causes miscarriages?

Not necessarily. The study was small so this could just be a statistical fluke and it is quite possible that people who drink more coffee have other unrelated issues that make them more prone to miscarriage.  Still, prudence would suggest  avoiding caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and soda are a good idea when planning pregnancy.

But, there is a bright side to the study...Vitamins.

It turns out that women who took multivitamins actually had a lower miscarriage risk, by about 50 %.

Soy and fertility

Are soy products good or bad for your fertility?

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Soy products such as soy milk and tofu are high in protein and have become popular for their reported health benefits. So, why the concern?It turns out that soy products also contain chemicals called phytoestrogens. These phytoestrogens are chemicals found in plants that look and act like estrogens, the "female" sex hormones that both women and men produce naturally.  It is commonly believed (but not universally accepted) that these phytoestrogens may have health benefits such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and taming the symptoms of menopause. One of the main concerns over the use of these "dietary supplements" is that if they act like estrogens, they may very well carry the the same risks as taking estrogen pills like Premarin and Estrace.

 So, how does this tie in with fertility issues? One of the key ingredients in birth control pills is a type of estrogen (commonly ethinyl estradiol) so it should come as no surprise there may that taking soy products could potentially be a problem for women attempting pregnancy.

With that in mind, researchers at Harvard's School of Public Health, looked at women undergoing IVF treatment to see if the use of soy products had any effect on the pregnancy rates. The results were somewhat surprising. IVF patients taking soy supplements were actually more likely to get pregnant. While the study was small and limited, and it is certainly to early to encourage women doing IVF to take in more soy products, it does appear to be reassuring for those trying to get pregnant and don't want to stop the soy milk and tofu.