Vitex and clomid are two very popular fertility remedies for women who are trying to conceive. Yet, finding reliable and unbiased information about either of them can sometimes be frustrating and tricky.
Plus, a lot of the information about both of these remedies is buried in research papers…which aren’t always fun to go through!
So, I’ve created put this (hopefully!) easy and comprehensive guide comparing vitex vs. clomid.
In this guide we’ll go over:
- How vitex and clomid work.
- The success rate of each remedy.
- Which remedy is more likely to result in twins.
- Many other commonly asked questions (including their effect on miscarriages, birth defects, PCOS and much more).
NOTE: as an integrative nutrition health coach, my primary focus is to educate and simplify things for you as much as possible. In this case that means summarizing science-based data collected from various sources. This article is purely for educational purposes and it’s not meant to be an endorsement of either vitex or clomid. Furthermore, this article is not meant to replace the advice, guidance and recommendations of your physician.
|Reduces high prolactin||Y||N|
|Improves luteal phase defect||Y||N|
|Increases likelihood of twins||N||Y|
|Safe or effective for PCOS pregnancy?||Depends on hormone levels||Not always|
|Side effects||Includes headaches, rash, weight gain||Includes enlarged ovaries, visual disturbances|
VITEX AND CLOMID FOR PREGNANCY: HOW THEY WORK
In order to effectively compare vitex and clomid, we have to start by looking at how they work. Understanding this, along with who they’re intended for, will make it easier for you to make the best choice for your fertility.
How Vitex Helps With Pregnancy
Vitex (aka chaste tree berry) is a peppercorn-sized berry that acts on the pituitary gland.
Now, normally the pituitary gland releases two hormones: LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone).
Both LH and FSH regulate various aspects of the menstrual cycle, including follicle development and ovulation.
- mildly inhibits the release of FSH.
- increases the release of LH.
- indirectly increase progesterone (as a result of its effect on FSH and LH).
Now, let’s go a little deeper into the benefits of vitex for ovulation and pregnancy.
1. Improves Luteal Phase Defect
Because vitex increases both LH and progesterone, it’s also helps with LPD or luteal phase defect (source).
Now, two main things can contribute to LPD: low progesterone or the endometrium not responding to progesterone.
In addition, LPD often means that your luteal phase (which is when ovulation occurs) is short. In terms of duration, a short luteal phase typically lasts 10 days or less and this can negatively impact ovulation.
2. Regulates Prolactin
In addition to increasing LH, vitex also regulates the production of prolactin.
Now, if you’re not familiar with prolactin, it’s a hormone that is mostly needed for breastfeeding.
However, some women have high prolactin levels even when they’re not breastfeeding.
Unfortunately, high prolactin can stop your ovaries from making estrogen. Eventually, this can cause irregular or missing periods, making it difficult to conceive (source).
Research shows that vitex lowers elevated prolactin levels, which then facilitates conception.
3. Improves Thickness of The Endometrium
Estrogen thickens the endometrium and progesterone thins it. The right balance of both hormones is necessary in order to have a healthy endometrial lining and successful implantation.
In addition, a healthy endometrium also reduces the risk of miscarriage and allows you to carry the pregnancy forward.
How Clomid Helps With Pregnancy
Similar to vitex, clomid also acts on the pituitary gland.
- Clomid is able to interact with various estrogen receptors in the body. This includes receptors in the brain, vagina, endometrium and cervix.
- By doing this, clomid prevents your natural estrogen from binding to those receptors.
- As a result, this tricks your body into thinking that your natural estrogen levels are lower than they actually are.
- Since the pituitary thinks that estrogen is low, it ends up releasing more LH and FSH.
Since FSH stands for “follicle stimulating hormone,” the more FSH is released, the more it stimulates the ovaries to work and grow a follicle.
As for LH (luteinizing hormone) it’s job is to stimulate ovulation.
So overall: clomid creates a surge in both LH and FSH, which then affects various aspects of the menstrual cycle.
VITEX VS CLOMID FOR TWINS
At the moment there’s no data indicating that vitex increases the chances of having twins.
However, when it comes to clomid, the numbers show that it can increase the likelihood of multiple pregnancy.
This is because clomid can stimulate the ovaries to the point where it releases more than one viable egg during your cycle.
Overall, the numbers show that 1 out of every 20 clomid pregnancies results in twins (source).
NOTE: clomid twins are usually non-identical since they result from two separate eggs. This is in contrast to identical twins who come from one fertilized egg.
VITEX AND CLOMID SUCCESS RATES: HOW THEY COMPARE
Vitex Success Rates for Ovulation and Pregnancy
When it comes to the success rates of vitex and clomid, a lot depends on the underlying cause of infertility.
As we saw earlier, vitex seems most helpful for women with low progesterone (which shortens the luteal phase). For example, the Australian Journal of Herbal and Naturopathic Medicine outlines the case of a woman who had 3 consecutive miscarriages and low progesterone:
- after 1 month of supplementing with vitex, she had a successful pregnancy (and live birth) along with healthy progesterone.
- she went on to have a second successful pregnancy (and live birth) as a result of using vitex again.
In another study with 189 women, an herbal blend containing vitex, maca and folate was able to:
- increase ovulation from 10% to 42.9%
- produce a 73% pregnancy rate
However, because this was a blend, it’s hard to say if the results would have been similar if vitex alone was used.
Overall, much of the evidence of vitex’s effectiveness comes from anecdotal reports. There isn’t a ton of modern research yet for us to learn from.
Clomid Success Rates for Ovulation and Pregnancy
- the odds of conceiving during the first round (as well as during any other other round) are 5.6 to 20%.
- in general it can take 3 to 6 rounds to conceive.
In addition, a medical review on clomid showed that of the 5000 women in the review:
- 73% were able to ovulate.
- 36% got pregnant.
- 29% gave birth.
Do keep in mind that just like with vitex, clomid’s success rate also depends on the underlying cause of infertility.
For example, clomid doesn’t appear to be very effective for women with PCOS.
In that case, some doctors may use clomid along with the insulin-regulating drug, metformin (source).
CAN YOU TAKE VITEX AND CLOMID TOGETHER?
Since vitex and clomid both act on the brain and hormones, combining them could result in unexpected and unwanted side effects.
Also, do keep in mind that drugs and herbs are fundamentally different:
- Drugs contain one or more active ingredients (which can be lab-made or an extract from a plant). They do not contain nutrients.
- Herbs contain a wide spectrum of active ingredients along with nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and so on).
Due to these fundamental differences some drugs and herbs don’t play well together.
Generally speaking it’s best to choose one option – drug or herb – and do that consistently for a while.
If you don’t see results, then you can switch to the other option.
This is my suggestion as a health coach. Ultimately, check with your healthcare provider if you’re considering taking these remedies together.
OTHER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT VITEX AND CLOMID
How long does it take to conceive with vitex?
Vitex is a slow-acting herb and it can take several months (3 or more) to work.
If you have amenorrhea (missing periods) the Kaiser Permanente website states that you can stay on vitex for up to 18 months (as long as pregnancy hasn’t occurred).
Is Vitex safe for PCOS?
Vitex may not be the best option for women with PCOS. This is because many PCOS patients tend to have high LH. This elevated LH contributes to PCOS symptoms like high androgen levels as well as issues related to ovulation.
So, if you have PCOS it’s a good idea to check your hormone levels and consult with a doctor before taking vitex.
Can vitex cause birth defects?
Vitex is not known to cause birth defects. There’s even been a study done with rats that were given 74 times the dose that would be given to humans. That dose didn’t lead to toxicity or disruptions in the rat fetal development (source).
What are the side effects of vitex?
Some of the infrequent but possible side effects of vitex include, skin rash, headache, upset stomach, nausea, difficulty sleeping and weight gain (source).
Also, since vitex does affect hormones it’s best to avoid taking it together with other types of hormone therapy (such as estrogen or progesterone therapy).
What are the risks and side effects of clomid?
Some side side effects of clomid include:
- ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (which causes enlarged ovaries, pain in the abdominal/pelvic area or distention).
- visual disturbances.
- multiple pregnancy.
- ovarian cancer (if clomid is used for too long).
Why am I not getting pregnant on clomid?
There are different reasons why this could happen.
For example, it’s possible that you may not be ovulating even when taking clomid. In this case, it’s best to talk to your doctor to see what else they can do. For some people adjusting the dose can take care of this.
Another reason could be that your cervical mucus isn’t as healthy as it should be. In fact, one study indicates that clomid’s anti-estrogenic can decrease the quality of cervical mucus.
This means that your cervical mucus can end up being too thick and/or your body may not produce enough of it.
So, if you’re trying to conceive through intercourse, then the sperm will have a difficult time traveling through mucus that is too thick or insufficient in quantity.
Can clomid cause miscarriage?
Based on the available data, clomid doesn’t appear to cause miscarriages. However, since clomid has an anti-estrogenic effect, it can interfere with your natural estrogen’s ability to thicken the endometrium.
And if the endometrium isn’t thick enough, the chances of having a miscarriage go up.
Are clomid babies healthy?
While most babies conceived with clomid are healthy, a 2012 study conducted in Australia showed that 8% of babies conceived through some type of ART (assisted reproductive technology), such as clomid, are born with various defects (source).
Note that this is not saying that 8% of clomid babies have birth defects. This the total percentage of babies born via some type of ART.
Is there a natural clomid?
There are various herbal alternatives to clomid, including cinnamon, black cohosh and ginger.
I discuss these alternatives in this post on the 5 natural alternatives to clomid.
Whether you choose to go with clomid or vitex, please remember that neither one of these remedies is a “pregnancy remedy.”
What they can do is help with ovulation, which is just the first step to getting pregnant.
You still need to ensure that the egg that is released is healthy and that your body has what it needs for successful implantation.
All of this matters, regardless of whether you’re conceiving naturally or through some assisted method like IUI.
And when it comes to egg health and implantation, one of the best things you can do is pay attention to your diet.
If you’d like to learn more about this aspect of things, then be sure to read this article on eating a fertility diet to improve egg quality.