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A Surprising Cause of Infertility in Women – Antioxidants

The causes of infertility in women range from polycystic ovaries to irregular periods. But here’s a new, surprising cause of female infertility: antioxidants.

Research shows that antioxidants improve health and slow down the aging process by neutralizing harmful free radicals in our body. But, this fertility research shows that antioxidants eliminate molecules that women need to get pregnant.

“On the one hand, these findings could prove useful to women who are having trouble getting pregnant,” says Professor Nava Dekel of the Biological Regulation Department. “On the other hand, further studies might show that certain antioxidants might be effective means of birth control that could be safer than today’s hormone-based prevention.”

This doesn’t mean you should immediately stop taking antioxidants if you’re trying to get pregnant; it means you should talk to your doctor or fertility specialist about how antioxidants may be affecting your fertility. If you’re trying to get pregnant, you should read The Fertility Diet: Groundbreaking Research Reveals Natural Ways to Boost Ovulation and Improve Your Chances of Getting Pregnant – it’s a great resource.

And, here’s what new research shows about female infertility…

A Surprising Cause of Infertility in Women – Antioxidants

According to Professor Nava Dekel of the Biological Regulation Department, we still don’t have a complete understanding of the effect antioxidants have on our bodies – especially for women trying to get pregnant.

New research by Dekel and her team, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), has revealed a possible unexpected side effect of antioxidants: They might cause fertility problems in females.

There are certain toxic chemicals that decrease fertility, but one would never think antioxidants were in that class!

What Do Antioxidants Do?

Common antioxidants include vitamins C and E. These work by eliminating molecules called reactive oxygen species that are produced naturally in the body. Stress can cause these chemically active molecules to be overproduced; in large amounts they damage our body’s cells and can even cause premature aging.

Antioxidants neutralize these potentially harmful substances (free radicals) and may improve health and slow down the aging process.

The Effect of Antioxidants on Ovulation and Female Fertility

But when Dekel and her research team including her former and present Ph.D. students Dr. Ketty Shkolnik and Ari Tadmor applied antioxidants to the ovaries of female mice, the results were surprising: ovulation levels dropped precipitously. That is, very few eggs were released from the ovarian follicles to reach the site of fertilization, compared to those in untreated ovaries.

To understand what lies behind these initial findings, the team asked whether it is possible that the process of ovulation might rely on the very ‘harmful’ substances destroyed by antioxidants — reactive oxygen species.

Further testing in mice showed that this is, indeed, the case. Antioxidants may be connected to infertility in women because they interfere with the ovulation process.

This fertility research results help fill in a picture that has begun to emerge in recent years of fertility and conception, in which it appears that antioxidation processes have things in common with inflammation. It makes sense, says Dekel, that substances which prevent inflammation in other parts of the body might also get in the way of normal ovulation. So, caution should be taken when administering such substances (such as antioxidants).

Antioxidants as Birth Control?

Much of Dekel’s research has focused on fertility — her previous results are already helping some women become pregnant. Ironically, the new study has implications for those seeking the opposite effect…antioxidants may be a form of birth control!

Dekel and her team are now planning further studies to investigate the exact mechanics of this step in ovulation and to examine its effect on mice when administered in either food or drink. In addition, they plan to collect data on the possible link between females being administered antioxidant supplements and the difficulty to conceive.

Remember that this is one research study, and doesn’t conclusively prove that antioxidants are a cause of infertility for women.

To learn more about getting pregnant, read The Fertility Diet – Natural Foods That Increase Your Chances of Getting Pregnant.

Are you trying to get pregnant? Fairhaven Health's Hormone Balance Bundle improves egg quality, encourages cycle regularity, and helps your body ovulate regularly.

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Source: The Weizmann Institute of Science (2011, January 19). “Antioxidants might cause fertility problems in females, scientists discover.”

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