What Difference Do Antioxidants Make?

Antioxidant supplements for fertility do not increase likelihood of conceiving a baby

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Couples going through infertility difficulties are often anxious to try any possible treatment that may help in conceiving a baby. It's important to know what can actually make a difference in conceiving.

A recent review of past research found that taking antioxidant supplements does not appear to help women with fertility problems conceive a baby.

The researchers did not find any negative side effects associated with the supplements either.

Overall, however, the researchers concluded that taking antioxidant supplements did not increase a woman's likelihood of getting pregnant and giving birth.

"Discuss any supplements you take with your fertility doctor."

This study, led by Marian G. Showell, of the Obstetrics and Gynecology department at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, looked at whether antioxidant supplements help with fertility.

Research has shown that about 40 to 50 percent of fertility problems among couples results from ovulation disorders, poor egg quality, fallopian tube damage and endometriosis.

The researchers wanted to learn more about whether antioxidants might help these conditions because it's been thought that antioxidants can reduce inflammation and stress that leads to or worsens these conditions.

The researchers searched eight databases of medical research to find all studies comparing antioxidant supplements to fake pills (placebos), no treatment or other ways of taking antioxidants.

All of the women participating in the randomized controlled trials found in the search were attending reproductive clinics for fertility concerns.

The researchers did not include studies that compared taking antioxidants to taking fertility medications or studies involving couples with male infertility problems.

The researchers identified 28 trials that met their requirements and pulled the data from these to analyze together. The trials involved a total of 3,548 women.

The results revealed no increased likelihood of giving birth to a child among women who took antioxidants.

Among the women with fertility problems participating in the studies, an expected rate of pregnancy leading to a birth was about 37 percent. Among women taking antioxidants, the rate of pregnancy leading to a birth ranged from 10 to 83 percent.

The researchers also did not find any differences in the adverse events between those who took antioxidants and those who did not. That finding means they did not identify any side effects that were specific to taking antioxidant supplements, but the data in the studies on this topic were limited.

Overall, the researchers noted that the quality of the evidence in the studies they found was very poor.

This study was published August 4 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

The research was funded internally by the New Zealand government's Ministry of Health. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
August 4, 2013
Last Updated:
August 6, 2013