A number of studies have demonstrated how melatonin can improve fertility by boosting IVF success rates and improving egg quality, but few studies have researched the possible benefits of melatonin in natural conception cycles. It seems that melatonin may have an important role in helping the ovaries to produce progesterone more efficiently in the luteal phase through it's strong antioxidant effects.
Previous studies have noted that women with luteal phase defect often have lower than usual antioxidant levels and that vitamin C - which functions as an antioxidant - may help the luteal phase in some women by raising both progesterone and estrogen. Melatonin it seems may work in a similar fashion helping to raise flagging hormone levels in the luteal phase.
Part of this fascinating study was designed to establish whether melatonin protects the vital hormone-producing granulosa cells of the ovary from free radical attack by reactive oxygen species (ROC). If melatonin were able to do this - by acting as an antioxidant within the ovary - progesterone levels may be expected to rise.
The study showed that when follicular fluid was withdrawn from ovarian follicles at the time of peak egg maturity melatonin levels did indeed correlate with progesterone levels. Higher levels of melatonin also correlated with lower levels of certain reactive oxygen species (ROS) known to harm progesterone production.
Luteinized granulosa cells from the ovary were then incubated with an aggressive ROS agent known to impair progesterone production with or without melatonin to measure it’s protective effect. The researchers were able to show that although progesterone production was significantly decreased by the ROS agent melatonin was able to protect the ovarian cells and maintain progesterone production.
Lastly a group of 25 women with established luteal phase defect (mid-luteal progesterone levels below 10 ng/mL) were divided into two groups, one group received melatonin 3 mg daily at 10.00 pm throughout the luteal phase and the other did not.
In 64.3% of the treated women progesterone levels improved compared to only 18.1% in the control group. This led the researchers to conclude that:
"Melatonin protects granulosa cells undergoing luteinization from ROS in the follicle and contributes to luteinization for progesterone production during ovulation."
This is more evidence that melatonin is a super-star fertility supplement that may help you conceive whether you wish to become pregnant naturally or are conceiving using ART/IVF. You should always ask your physician before embarking upon a new nutritional supplement regime. Some fertility physicians routinely recommend melatonin for increasing female fertility while others do not.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT intended to diagnose, offer medical or nutritional treatment or replace medical or nutritional advice for which you should consult a suitably qualified physician or licensed dietitian.
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Protective role of melatonin in progesterone production by human luteal cells. Toshiake Taketani et al., Journal of Pineal Research, doi: 10.1111/j.1600-079X.2011.00878.x