Preconception - Evening Primrose oil & Flaxseed oil
I am taking evening primrose oil as I am trying to conceive and have heard it helps to improve mucus quality, however I have read that taking it after ovulation may cause uterine contractions.
Evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis) is a wonderful womens herb which has been used historically for many conditions of female reproductive health as well as being beneficial for inflammatory skin conditions. Women may present with varying symptoms relating to premenstrual symptoms (PMS) such as breast pain, irritability, headaches, back pain and fluid retention of which Evening Primrose oil may be helpful in relieving.
Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) contains an essential fatty acid called Omega 3 (anti-inflammatory) which is the active ingredient, this fatty acid is called GLA (gamma linolenic acid). It is termed an essential fatty acid because it is essential for health. Its effect on the body is due to its potent anti-inflammatory effects as well as playing a role in female hormones and reproductive health due to the GLA content. A deficiency in essential fatty acids can cause infertility in both females and males (reducing sperm count).
Evening Primrose Oil is a herb which can be taken over a long period of time (3-6 months) to help reduce any PMS symptoms and many women find it to be quite fast acting with results seen after only one or two monthly cycles. However for best results it is recommended to take until symptoms are maintained or reduced, this effect may differ from person to person.
Evening Prirose Oil and fertility
In regards to fertility EPO helps to produce better quality cervical mucus which means that it becomes a more friendly fertility medium to the sperm to help it navigate its way through the uterus to the waiting egg as well as helping it to stay alive. Healthy cervical fluid is thin, water and clear and is often described as stretchy and is discharged around the time of ovulation. Unhealthy or hostile cervical fluid is browner and thicker in color and may obstruct the entering sperm and block its passage to the egg.
Evening Primrose Oil and ovulation
It is often suggested by naturopaths to take EPO prior and up to the time of ovulation to assist in the production of healthy cervical fluid to improve fertility and the chances of conception. The time of the month from menstruation to ovulation is called the menstrual phase and the follicular phase (development of a maturing follicle and egg) of the womens cycle, this is from day one to fourteen of the menstrual cycle.
Flaxseed Oil and ovulation
Flaxseed oil is also full of health giving fatty acids needed for the brain development of the foetus as well as providing potent anti-inflammatory oils. However it is recommended to take it only from ovulation through the luteal phase until the onset of menses (approximately day 14-21). This is due to flaxseed oil containing lignans which help to extend the progesterone dominant second half of the cycle and to balance the reproductive cycle in terms of ensuring that each phase is regular, helping to improve the chances of conception.
Once you fall pregnant, progesterone is the hormone which is of most benefit to ensure the growth of the fertilized egg and to reduce the risk of a miscarriage. Once conception takes place it is best to limit many herbs, especially the ones which regulate hormones as some of them can be astringent and cause uterine contractions and possible miscarriage. Many naturopaths will recommend that a pregnant women take a fish oil supplement due to its natural oils promoting healthy brain function.
Progression of the menstrual cycle
The dates given below are approximations and can vary from individual to individual as each womans cycle has a different rhythm. Please observe your cycle and be aware of your personal rhythm for better health and chances of conception.
Day 1-5 – Menstrual phase is the shedding of the endometrial lining, known as a period
Day 6-12 – Follicular phase of the ovaries requires domination of estrogen during the fist week which builds the endometrium and the Graafian Follicules (mature follicle of the ovaries) are stimulated to begin the growth of an ovum. This event occurs due to the Hypothalamus (master hormonal gland in the brain) initiating this action. This is the phase of much activity of Luteinizing Hormone Releasing Hormone (LHRH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
Day 13-14 – Ovulation phase (36 hours) occurs due to a surge of Luteinizing Hormone and after the Luteinizing Hormones and peak estradiol levels. Then a rise in progesterone levels increases the distensibility of the follicular wall, after there is release of an ovum the corpus luteum begins to produce estrogen, progesterone and androgens and becomes vascularised. For some women the day of ovulation may not necessarily be day 14, it may occur anywhere between day 12 - 17.
Day 14-28 – Luteal phase means an increase in the amount of progesterone production and the maturation of the uterus (thickening vascularisation) in anticipation of a fertilized ovum.