Do IV Vitamin Drips for Fertility Actually Work?
There's a growing trend for intravenous (IV) vitamin therapy for every condition under the sun: hangover? Acne? Wrinkles? Fatigued? Get a drip, so goes the marketing spiel.
Rihanna, Adele, Chrissy Teigen...celebrities have been posting photos of themselves hooked up to drips left, right, and center.
Stores and stalls offering a quick hit are now popping up in malls and retail centers around the globe.
In the US, you can get a dial-up home visit and in Asia, IV drips are listed on treatment menus in beauty salons, and even offered in schools (theoretically to give students an exam edge!)
How Does it Work?
The process works much the same as receiving a bag of fluids in a hospital - it's a direct infusion right into a vein in your arm using a needle and catheter.
First invented by a Baltimore physician, Dr. John Myers in the1950s, the rationale behind IV therapy is that receiving vitamins and minerals directly into the bloodstream, rather than traditional pill forms, allows the nutrients to bypass the digestive system for faster and more reliable absorption.
Fans say the benefits include increased energy, hydration, mental clarity, enhanced mood, improved sleep, decreased stress and anxiety, increased immunity and muscle recovery. As well, of course, as addressing nutrient deficiencies.
IV infusions are also offered for fertility
Some fertility clinics now even offer vitamin drips as a bolt-on to their regular treatment protocols.
Those that support the use of vitamin drips to help prepare the body for fertility treatment say there are two main reasons for their use:
Firstly, to make sure that a patient has an optimum level of fertility-essential vitamins and minerals prior to treatment (nutrient deficiencies can impact fertility and fertility treatment outcomes).
Secondly, to help "detox" the body of certain substances, such as heavy metals like mercury and lead - high levels of which can cause problems with reproductive hormones.
Risks and Controversy
Despite their popularity, IV drips aren't without their cautionary tales.
Given they are often sold and administered by unlicensed and unqualified therapists and inserting a substance directly into your bloodstream isn't without its risks, there's a growing rumble of push-back from medical bodies.
The UK's National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) says people should be screened for liver and kidney function before receiving a vitamin infusion, as it says the treatment could potentially put the liver and kidneys under stress - that's especially if the solution contains Vitamin A, as an excess of this nutrient can be toxic.
It is possible to overdose on other vitamins and minerals, such as selenium, and if a person is eating and healthy diet and doesn't have any absorption issues, taking a huge slew of vitamins and minerals in one sitting could potentially lead to that.
There's also the risk of infection at the point where the needle enters the vein.
Then there's the argument that companies exploit customers by offering false hope. In the UK, a wellness company was forced to withdraw a £250 IV fertility drip from sale after experts said it could "exploit vulnerable women".
This is mostly based on the fact that to date there is no reliable scientific evidence that an IV drip can improve a woman's fertility.
However, a lack of formal studies or trials doesn't mean it doesn't work, just that it hasn't yet been proven to. As such, it remains the case that the only formally medically recommended supplements for women trying to conceive are folic acid and vitamin D.
Whilst there's no firm evidence to suggest you should shell out for an IV drip to boost your fertility, it's worth remembering that nutritional deficiencies are common (9 in 10 Americans are at risk of at least one deficiency, according to the CDC) and a lack of key nutrients such as Vitamin D, zinc and Vitamin B12 have been linked to impaired fertility.
An IV vitamin drip can be an effective way to help the body reach optimal nutrition, especially for people who can't absorb nutrients well through their gut, those who have restricted diets, or who take medications (such as oral contraceptives) that can interfere with nutrient levels.
What is scientifically proven is that optimal nutrition is essential for optimal fertility.
Ultimately, if you're interested in trying out IV therapy, they key is to make sure you go to a medically qualified practitioner who has taken a thorough medical history and who can care for you in a safe and in a sanitary environment.
Probably best to avoid the mall...
Naturopathic medicine expert Dr Raquel Hammonds from the Center for Reproductive Health and Gynecology in LA describes the benefits of the IV vitamin drips for fertility that she administers.