Vitamin C Increases Fertility in Women with Luteal Phase Defect
A moderate amount of supplemental vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility in women with luteal phase defect, according to a new study published in Fertility and Sterility (2003;80:459–61).
The menstrual cycle is divided into two phases: the follicular phase, beginning at the onset of menses and ending at ovulation; and the luteal phase, beginning at ovulation and ending with the onset of menses. The follicular phase is marked by rising estrogen levels, while progesterone is the predominant hormone in the luteal phase.
Luteal phase defect is a hormonal disorder marked by insufficient progesterone levels during the luteal phase, resulting in menstrual disorders, infertility, and recurrent miscarriages. Luteal phase defect affects between 3 and 5% of infertile women and about 35% of women who experience repeated miscarriages.
A number of factors can cause luteal phase defect. Recent findings have suggested that oxidative damage may play a role, and antioxidant levels, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione, were found to be significantly lower in women with luteal phase defect and recurrent miscarriages than in healthy women. The potential benefits of antioxidant vitamin supplementation have not been previously explored.
One hundred fifty women with luteal phase defect seeking medical attention for infertility were enrolled in the current study. Levels of estrogen and progesterone were monitored for three menstrual cycles. The participants were randomly assigned to receive 750 mg of vitamin C per day or no treatment beginning at the onset of the third cycle of the study. During the third cycle, progesterone levels increased significantly in women receiving vitamin C but did not change in women receiving no treatment. Estrogen levels also increased in the treatment group but not the untreated group. Moreover, there was a significantly higher pregnancy rate in the vitamin C group than in the untreated group: 25% of the women receiving vitamin C became pregnant within six months of starting treatment, while only 11% of untreated women became pregnant in the same time period.
The results of this preliminary study suggest that vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility in some women with luteal phase defect. Placebo-controlled trials are needed to confirm the benefits observed in this study and to identify the amount of vitamin C that has the best effect on luteal phase defect. Vitamin C is inexpensive and safe, and could be useful as an early intervention in the treatment of infertility due to luteal phase defect.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, Vermont, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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