Vitex Is Great For Female Hormones. But Is It Safe During Pregnancy?
Chances are if you are interested in natural options to solve a whole variety of female hormone issues – you’ve heard of vitex.
Whether using it for calming PMS, helping with fertility troubles, or supporting you through menopause, Vitex is lauded as a phenomenal herb for women’s hormonal troubles. But what about pregnancy?
Now you are not just worried about your own hormones, but also the health and growth of the baby. Is vitex safe? Is it even helpful? What affects can it have on your baby’s development?
I’m here to dive into vitex so you can decide whether or not you want to use this herbal hormone treatment.
We’ll talk about how it can improve female hormones, why it is a fertility booster, and whether or not you should stop once you get pregnant.
What Is Vitex?
Vitex is an herb that is also called chaste tree berry. The shrub itself has violet colored flowers and purple berries. And it’s the fruit and the seed of that gives us the herbal treatment.
Vitex has been a powerhouse natural medicine for centuries – mostly used to treat female hormonal issues. Yet it doesn’t have any hormones itself. So how does it do that?
It’s all about the pituitary gland, AKA “The Master Gland.” Your pituitary gland controls your hormones and vitex supports the pituitary gland.
It’s not adding more hormones into your body like the birth control pill. It’s simply supporting your body’s natural functions.
To learn more about the pituitary gland and even see some visuals, check out this short video:
Vitex and Female Hormones
Women need a balance of estrogen and progesterone. It is common for estrogen to dominate the playing field, so to speak, and all sorts of hormonal issues can pop up – especially around your period.
Many uncomfortable – or even embarrassing – PMS symptoms can be alleviated with vitex. That’s because having too much estrogen makes that time of the month much worse.
Vitex helps your body find balance between the estrogen and progesterone, so if you suffer from PMS symptoms or even PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) symptoms, vitex may be the ideal, all-natural solution for you.
One study looked at 170 women around the age of 36. Half were given vitex; half were given a placebo. The vitex was shown to improve all sorts of PMS symptoms like irritability, anger, headache, bloating, and breast fullness.
Plus, the researchers found this treatment was “well tolerated.”
Vitex can be especially beneficial for women who are coming off the birth control pill. It is normally for hormones to be all over the place for a while, and vitex aids in that transition. (But if you’re still on the pill, vitex won’t be helpful)
And women with endometriosis can find some symptom relief in this herb too.
But don’t think vitex is an overnight cure for all your hormonal problems. It’s slower than that. It takes time for it to really support your hormone balance.
Vitex and Fertility
Vitex is incredible at helping to bring about regular, consistent ovulation in women hoping to get pregnant. And studies show its effectiveness is particularly powerful for women who struggle with a luteal phase defect.
When your progesterone is increased and your luteinizing hormones are boosted, your chances of ovulating go up.
One study looked at an herbal blend that included vitex (it also had green tea and various vitamins and minerals). 93 women who were struggling with getting pregnant for 6 to 36 months were split into two groups. One group was given the vitex blend for three months; the other group was given a placebo. Here were the results:
- 26% of the vitex group was pregnant in three months
- 10% of the placebo group was pregnant in three months
So vitex can certainly help you make a baby – but what about when you are finally pregnant?
Vitex and Pregnancy
Now we get to the big question. So if you’ve been taking vitex to balance your hormones or boost your fertility – should you continue to take it once you realize you’re pregnant?
The answer is mixed. There’s no clear-cut path.
Some suggest not using it all while pregnant:
- PeaceHealth recommends stopping vitex as soon as a woman becomes pregnant.
- WebMD labels vitex as “possible unsafe” during pregnancy and suggests that women “don’t use vitex.” Their concern is vitex’s ability to interfere with hormones.
Then some suggest using vitex only through the early months to prevent miscarriage, though this has never been formally tested by science. The idea is that low progesterone during the first trimester can end in a miscarriage, so this progesterone-boosting herb can help.
Some European research showed that vitex use in early pregnancy (through month three) could prevent miscarriage without any dangers to the baby.
They recommended stopping use at that 3-month point for two reasons:
- Lactation could start too early
- The placenta produces progesterone around month 3
But further research needs to be done to really prove this assumption.
As far as safety is concerned, you have the early lactation concern… but other than that, there isn’t much science pointing one way or the other. So while nobody says it’s necessarily bad for you, nobody also says it’s necessarily great for you.
The NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) reported:
“There is poor evidence based on theoretical and expert opinion and in vitro studies that chastetree may have estrogenic and progesteronic activity, uterine stimulant activity, emmenagogue activity and prevent miscarriages”
There has, however, been one vitex study with rats. The female rats were given up to 80 times the amount of vitex a human would ever been given. There were no differences in the offspring compared to the placebo rat group.
Even if it isn’t going to harm you and your baby, there may be no reason to continue taking it through your pregnancy. So at the end of the day, you are going to have to talk to your doctor about whether to continue vitex with your pregnancy – and the best time to have that discussion is before you’re pregnant.
How To Stop Vitex When You’re Pregnant
If you choose to stop taking vitex when you are pregnant, you may not want to just stop cold turkey. A sudden drop off could affect your hormones – something you don’t necessarily want while a baby is developing.
Natural Fertility Info recommends the following regimen for getting of vitex when you’re pregnant, but you should also talk to your doctor to learn his or her recommendations:
- Get your hormone levels tested by your doctor or midwife
- Then wean yourself slowly for 1 to 2 weeks
- Get your hormone levels tested again
- If your progesterone is too low now, your physician can recommend a natural progesterone cream replacement or another option
Other Side Effects and Notes about Vitex
Though vitex is generally considered quite safe, there are some important things to keep in mind:
- Don’t take vitex if you have a history of depression.
- Don’t take vitex if you have any psychotic disorder (like schizophrenia), as it can potentially alter your dopamine levels
- Don’t take vitex if you have Parkinson’s disease
- Ask your doctor before taking vitex if you have any sort of hormone-sensitive condition; this could include breast cancer, ovarian cancer, fibroids, and even endometriosis, etc.
- If you are taking vitex, absolutely talk to your doctor before you start in vitro fertilization. They may ask you to stop. And do not start taking it in the middle of an in vitro cycle.
You may experience some side effects when taking vitex, but they are honestly very uncommon. If you notice any of these side effects, talk to your doctor about whether or not vitex is still right for you:
- Nausea or upset stomach
- Rash or itching
- Weight changes
Do keep in mind that your period may change a bit when you first start taking vitex. This is normal. If it does not regulate itself in a few months, talk to your doctor.
Vitex and Your Pregnancy
So if you’re reproductive hormones are out of whack and you’re struggling with your periods… vitex may be a great choice for you.
If you are struggling to get pregnant, vitex may be a great choice for you too.
But once you are pregnant, you need to talk to your doctor about whether to stay on this herb.
Other than the possibility of maybe lowering your chance of miscarriage, it won’t have much use to you or your baby during the rest of your pregnancy.