PCOS (Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome) can be a devastating diagnosis. Many afflicted women worry they may not be able to conceive without medical assistance. Some women experience what’s known as a “short luteal phase”, which refers to the time between the release of the egg from the ovaries, and the shedding of the uterine lining. Women with a short or disrupted luteal phase may find it difficult to conceive. PCOS is often to blame for this, as women with PCOS may not produce enough estrogen to trigger egg maturation and release.
Many women who have difficulty conceiving turn to natural supplements to help encourage a more hospitable uterine environment. One commonly used supplement is Agnus Castus, also known as chasteberry or vitex. Chasteberry is a shrub native to Greece and Italy that was originally use to promote chastity among monks, hence the name. Interesting then that it would turn out to be so useful for reproduction!
Some studies have shown Agnus Castus may be helpful for symptoms of PMS, though critics say the tests are poorly designed. Clinical evidence may be limited, but anecdotal evidence abounds. Many women have had great results in using the herb to ease PMS symptoms, regulate menstruation, and as a fertility aid.
It is thought that the herb works by regulating the function of the pituitary gland. It may help extend the luteal phase so a mature egg can be released earlier in the cycle, so it can be fertilised before the uterine lining is shed.
Thinking about trying Agnus Castus?
You might want to discuss it with your doctor, especially if you are undergoing any other treatments. Your doctor may be familiar enough with it to have an opinion. Many doctors will be unfamiliar with it, as the science is not generally considered conclusive. You might also consider seeing a naturopath or someone in a similar discipline. If all else fails, you can pick some up at your local health food store. Side effects of Agnus Castus are not well documented, so you should start with a low dose to see how it affects you, then increase the dose over time.
Even if the supplement doesn’t actually prove to extend your luteal phase, if you think it will work, it just might. The placebo effect can be surprisingly effective. If nothing else, it can help you relax and enjoy sex more. If you don’t release an egg, nothing changes, but if you do, it may be just the push you need to make a baby.
Agnus Castus may offer some advantages, but it is crucial to remember that it is not a surefire fix for reproductive problems. A healthcare professional should always be consulted before beginning any new treatment or supplement.
Additionally, exercise caution when ordering Agnus Castus online or from a health food store. There are differences in product quality and potency because not all goods are produced equally. Choose reliable manufacturers that put their goods through independent testing to make sure they are secure and efficient.
It is also important to note that Agnus Castus should not be taken in place of any prescription drugs or medical procedures. Always heed the advise of your doctor, and let them know if you are taking any supplements.
Furthermore, stop taking Agnus Castus right away and see your doctor if you suffer any negative side effects or reactions. Although side effects are not frequently recorded, everyone’s body responds to supplements differently, so it is crucial to put your health and wellbeing first.
Finally, keep in mind that fertility is a complicated subject and that there are frequently a number of variables at work. It is important to approach your fertility journey holistically, taking into account aspects of your lifestyle like food, exercise, stress management, and emotional health. To increase your chances of getting pregnant, keep the lines of communication open with your medical team and consider all of your alternatives.
Agnus Castus may be effective in improving fertility for some people, but it is important to take caution and seek professional advice before using it. The choice to try Agnus Castus or any other supplement should ultimately be decided in collaboration with a medical professional who is familiar with your unique medical history and fertility issues.
Photo Credit: Anna Reeves on Flickr
This post first appeared in 2015. It was last updated in July 2023.