14:38 30th August 2019 | Medications
MYTH: It's best to stop taking prescription medications while trying to get pregnant.
FACT: Don’t stop taking any prescription medications until you've discussed this with your doctor or specialist.
While some medications are safe to use before and during pregnancy, others can affect your chances of getting pregnant, cause problems during pregnancy, or harm your baby.
Your doctor will give you the best advice about what medications and drugs are safe to take before and during pregnancy and can often suggest safe substitute medications to take while you’re trying to get pregnant.
Speak to your doctor about the safety of any medications and drugs you and your partner are taking before you try to get pregnant.
The facts about medications and drugs
Many substances can be classified as drugs or medications, including:
• Prescription drugs to treat chronic conditions such as depression, asthma, thyroid conditions, diabetes, high blood pressure, epilepsy, acne, or depression
• Over-the-counter medications to treat headaches, pain, infections and colds
• Complementary medicines, vitamins and mineral supplements and herbal remedies
• Medications for cancer treatment
• Recreational drugs like marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, cocaine or inhalants (glues or aerosols).
The number of people using supplements is on the rise with many of them using supplements that may inadvertently affect their fertility.
Since consumers see supplements being sold over-the-counter, in health stores or being recommended in the news, the assumption is they are totally harmless. But the reality is that they have the same effect as taking medicine. If you continuously supply your body with supplements, they can impact your metabolism, hormones, and your entire endocrine system, which regulates fertility.
Supplements are generally useful for people who have restricted diets. But, you still need to be very careful of what you’re taking as a majority of the vitamins sold online or even in healthy food stores are unregulated. (I.e No governmental organization oversees dosing or effectiveness of these supplements).
As you prepare to start your IVF cycle, review your entire medication list with your fertility doctor. Make sure to list even the most seemingly benign drugs, including:
• A daily allergy pill
• Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil)
• Any prescriptions
• Over-the-counter (OTC) supplements
These medications could potentially:
• Interfere with fertility drugs
• Yield negative effects on hormone regulation
• Reduce overall efficacy of treatment
All drugs and medications pass into the bloodstream. Some directly affect sperm or eggs and reduce fertility. Some pass directly into the baby’s bloodstream across the mother’s placenta, which can cause health problems for the baby.
• Recreational Drugs
For both men and women, taking cocaine, heroine, ecstasy and marijuana can reduce the chance of having a baby. Taken over a long period of time, recreational drugs can cause permanent problems with the reproductive system and infertility.
Steroids = Sterile!
Taking anabolic steroids for body-building or competitive sports causes testes to shrink and stops the production of sperm. If you’re planning to be a parent, be aware that it generally takes about two years for sperm to return to normal after stopping steroids.
Caffeine, alcohol and smoking are also drugs, which can affect the health of mothers, fathers and babies. For men, drugs like marijuana, cocaine and heroin, reduce testosterone levels and sex drive (libido). There is some proof that marijuana can lower a man’s sperm count, decrease the amount of semen and reduce sperm motility (ability to ‘swim’), which reduces the chances of fertilising an egg.
For women, the medications below pose specific concerns in particular. Your doctor may be able to prescribe alternatives during your cycle and even during pregnancy.
1. Taking high doses of certain supplements, such as vitamin C, may lead to unintended side effects, such as nausea or headaches. Vitamin C is portrayed as one of the healthiest and most natural supplements you can take, as it’s simply an essential vitamin that your body needs, but it doesn’t come without its health risks.
While only limited research has been done on the possible side effects of vitamin C supplementation, experts believe that some people who take it may experience a mild form of nausea or diarrhoea. In addition, it may interfere with other kinds of preexisting health conditions and medications, so check with your doctor first before starting a regimen of vitamin C treatment to solve fertility problems.
2. Taking too much folic acid has been linked to increased risks for heart disease and for cancer. While folate deficiencies have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, taking too much folic acid can actually do the exact same thing. Over-supplementation and high doses of folate have been posited as a possible risk factor for cancer, though a causative relationship has yet to be proven.
It should be noted that these unpleasant side effects aren’t necessarily associated with normal levels of folate or regular supplementation of folic acid, only with excessive usage. As such, using correct doses is very important for those taking folic acid as a fertility supplement.
There are just so many different types of supplements out there and some come with their own set of risks. But here are some supplements experts say can impact your fertility.
1. BLACK COHOSH
Black cohosh is a dietary supplement that’s often used to treat hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. There isn’t a ton of research on the effectiveness of this herb. In clinical trials, people who took black cohosh for as long as 12 months found no serious harmful effects. However, there have been some serious cases of liver damage associated with people who took black cohosh products. Either way, it can cause incredibly strong uterine contractions and induce premature labour in women who are pregnant.
2. VITAMIN A
Vitamin A is important for your eye health, your immune system, reproductive system, and the proper functioning of major organs. But if taken in large quantities, this seemingly benign supplement can have catastrophic effects if taken before something as simple as outpatient elective surgery. When it comes to fertility specifically, Vitamin A, especially derivatives, should be avoided when trying to get pregnant. According to the National Institutes of Health, consuming too much Vitamin A (over the recommended 770 mcg RAE) in the early stages of pregnancy has been found to cause congenital birth defects like malformations in the eyes, skull, lungs, and heart.
3. ANY DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS USED FOR WEIGHT LOSS
In general, any product that claims to help with weight loss is something to be sceptical of. Most of the dietary supplements that are focused on weight loss are enriched with stimulants, such as Yohimbe. This can cause high blood pressure, seizures, or even heart attacks, and other potential side effects which could be disastrous on a potential pregnancy. Think of weight loss supplements as you would any kind of stimulant. For instance, if you need a ton of caffeine to get you through the day, that habit can affect your fertility.
If a woman is pregnant or trying, megavitamins should be avoided. They contain very high levels of certain nutrients that could be harmful to pregnancy. For women trying to conceive, a lack of key essential nutrients can make it more challenging. So it’s best to stick to eating healthy.
5. DONG QUAI
The root of a dong quai plant is commonly used to reduce menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, as well as menstrual cycle conditions like migraines. It’s said to have similar effects of estrogen, which is why it’s known as the “female ginseng.” There isn’t too much research done on its effectiveness and side effects, but it can cause uterine contractions and increase the risk of miscarriage.
6. TESTOSTERONE BOOSTING SUPPLEMENTS
Some people may take testosterone to help enhance their libido. But this can not only have an effect on male fertility but can also cause significant harm to a female fetus. When it comes to male fertility, any medication containing testosterone or any of its components (androstenedione, DHEA), should be avoided because sperm production is driven by hormones that are separate from testosterone. Testosterone-containing supplements act hormonally to reduce hormonal input to make sperm, and can either lower sperm counts or decrease them to zero (i.e. sperm production stops).
7. RED CLOVER
This may be a controversial one since red clover is known for being the “fertility herb.” On the plus side, it is rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals. It’s also known for helping to regulate hormone levels and increase cervical mucus. But red clover is an “estrogen mimicker”. Since it contains estrogen-like compounds, it can possibly increase the risk of women developing cancer in the endometrium.
There is not enough data to suggest any type of supplements out there will really help protect your fertility (i.e. slow the decline in egg supply). So if you are taking any supplements, be sure to talk to your doctor to make sure they’re safe.
Medications to flag to your fertility doctor
If you are on supplements of any kind, here’s a quick checklist to inform your doctor about on your journey to conception
• Prescription and OTC nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Midol), and naproxen (Aleve)
• Medications for depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions, like antidepressants
• Steroids, like those to treat asthma or lupus
• Antiseizure medications
• thyroid medications
• Skin products, especially those containing estrogen or progesterone
• Chemotherapy drugs
What can you do
It’s a good idea for women and men to have a general health check-up a few months before they start trying for a baby.
Your doctor will:
• Assess whether any drugs or medications, including supplements, vitamins and minerals you’re taking might be harmful before or during pregnancy.
• Give you advice on how best to manage any chronic health condition before and during pregnancy.
• Suggest safe options, if you take medication for a health condition, such as asthma.
• Advise you on how to stop taking your regular medication safely, if you need to.
Some supplements, vitamins, minerals, and herbal medicines are safe to take while trying to get pregnant and during pregnancy, and others are not. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking anything new.
In general, it’s always a good idea to try to get as many vitamins and nutrients from the food you’re eating. The reality is, that’s easier said than done. In some cases, dietary supplements can really help and your doctor may even recommend it. But before you start stocking up on vitamins you think you may need, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks. If you’re not careful, some supplements can affect your fertility in the long-run without you knowing.
For enquiries, contact Nigeria's most fertile fertility centre today.
Call: 01 631 0092 / Whatsapp: +234 (0)810 460 7791.
Visit: 66 Oduduwa Way, Ikeja GRA
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