Pregnancy is scary, hopeful, worrying, joyful, and sometimes surprising. It can be a defining event in a woman’s life and the start of a family.
For most women, getting pregnant is not a difficult task. For some others, the first step towards motherhood can be full of obstacles. Certain health issues and lifestyle factors can lessen the chances of conceiving. Diet, including omega-3 intake, is a particularly important factor that can affect the likelihood of getting pregnant. This is true in both healthy woman and in those who are suffering from health issues that impact the reproductive system. As we’ll see fish oil is a great fertility aid.
There are two conditions that are most commonly responsible for infertility.
1. Omega 3 and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Also known as PCOS, polycystic ovary syndrome is an endocrine disorder. There is no known cause for why the disorder develops, but it is one of the leading causes of infertility. It is marked by a hormone imbalance with increased levels of insulin and luteinizing hormone (LH). Whilst sufficient levels of LH are necessary for ovulation, an increase of LH causes testosterone to be produced in larger amounts than is normal for the female body. Women with PCOS may experience fewer or no menstrual periods. The lack of menstruation and the tendency of the egg to release out of cycle, or to not release at all, severely lessens the chances of conception.
There is no ‘medical cure’ for PCOS, but the effect it has on the body can be reduced with hormone treatment. Omega-3 fish oil can significantly aid in this treatment due its ability to balance and regulate hormone profiles. When tested, these fatty acids were seen to lower both LH and testosterone levels. The study that produced this result involved participants taking 1,500mg of omega-3 fish oil supplementation daily for a period of six months. With a lower amount of testosterone, the female reproductive system can function better.
Omega-3 appears to regulate other hormone imbalances as well. A 2015 study found that omega-3 supplementation increased the amount of adiponectin in woman. This hormone is naturally found in higher amounts within women and is associated with a healthy reproductive system. Woman with larger amounts of adiponectin are more likely to get pregnant. With an improved amount of adiponectin, the study showed that menstrual cycles became more regulated. This means that the eggs were being released within the correct cycle and conception would be easier to achieve.
2. Omega 3 and Endometriosis
This condition occurs when uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus. The severity of endometriosis varies but up to 50% of women with the condition experience infertility. Uterine tissue growing outside of the area it’s supposed to can irritate the surrounding tissues, leading to inflammation. The repeated inflammation can then lead to scar tissue forming and that can hinder the function of the reproductive system. Endometriosis can damage the Fallopian tubes, stopping the eggs from reaching the uterus. Scar tissue around the uterus can prevent the egg from implanting into the uterine lining. When the ovaries are affected, the quality of the eggs can also be damaged. In severe cases, it can distort the structures within the pelvic region.
The main treatment for endometriosis is removing the tissue through surgery. Hysterectomies are a common outcome with the condition because once the damage is done, it’s not easily reversed. However, there may be ways to prevent the development and severity, keeping the condition from affecting fertility. Omega-3 intake may play a part in the risks of developing endometriosis, especially a low intake of EPA. A 2014 study found that women you had a high intake of EPA appeared to be less likely to develop endometriosis, indicating that the fatty acid could be effective as a preventative approach.
After the condition has already developed, omega-3 fish oil may be useful at suppressing it. The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids have been well studied and the ability to fight against inflammation is considered one of the most beneficial effects of omega-3 supplementation. Since endometriosis causes inflammation, which leads to the damage to the reproductive system, omega-3 can play a positive role in dealing with the condition. If less inflammation occurs, there will be less damage and a lower chance of the condition leading to infertility.
This theory was tested in a study conducted in 2013 involving mice and it was shown that inflammation associated with endometriosis was suppressed. Although it was conducted with mice, many previous studies regarding omega-3 and inflammation suppression with human participants have shown similar results so it’s relatively safe to say that the anti-inflammatory effect on endometriosis seen in the mice is similar to the effect that would be seen in humans.
Whether infertility is caused by PCOS, endometriosis, or simply a poor diet, omega-3 can offer a safe and effective approach to getting pregnant. The ability of these fatty acids to regulate hormones and stop inflammation can battle two of the most common obstacles hindering conception. While it is not a cure-all, regular supplementation with fish oil can provide a large stepping stone towards pregnancy.
Adiponectin. (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2015, from https://sites.google.com/site/miscarriageresearch/hormones-and-miscarriage/adiponectin
Hopeman, M., Riley, J., Frolova, A., Jiang, H., & Jungheim, E. (2014). Serum Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Endometriosis. Reproductive Sciences, 1083-1087. doi:10.1177/1933719114565030
Nadjarzadeh, A., Dehghani-Firouzabadi, R., Daneshbodi, H., Hassan Lotf, M., Vaziri, N., & Mozaffari-Khosravi, H. (2015). Effect of Omega-3 Supplementation on Visfatin, Adiponectin, and Anthropometric Indices in Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Journal of Reproduction and Infertility, 16(4), 212-220.
Oner, G., & Muderris, I. (2013). Efficacy of omega-3 in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome. Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 33(3), 289-291. doi:10.3109/01443615.2012.751365
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Torsten Mangner (Photographer). (2006 January 24). Schwangerschaftstest[digital image]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/alphaone/94603992