Fertility, or the potential to reproduce, depends upon many factors, including the frequency and timing of sexual activity, age, nutrition, sperm quality and reproductive organ health. Medications play a role in helping a woman conceive when conception is desirable and in preventing conception when pregnancy is not the goal. Fenugreek, an herb long associated with stimulating milk flow in breast-feeding mothers, may reduce fertility, but evidence is scant and unreliable. See your doctor for birth control advice and don’t depend upon herbal remedies to prevent conception.
Trigonella foenum-graecum is the botanical name for the plant that produces fenugreek seeds, which contain protein, mucilages, steroid saponins and other constituents, according to the “PDR for Herbal Medicines.” In addition to increasing milk flow, traditional uses for fenugreek seeds include inducing childbirth, aiding digestion and treating unwanted menopausal symptoms, reports the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. NCCAM is a division of the National Institutes of Health.
Effect on Fertility
Research on the effects of fenugreek as it relates to fertility is limited, but a 2006 study conducted at the department of animal production, faculty of agriculture at the University of Sana’a, in the Republic of Yemen, tested the reproductive results of rats who consumed a diet of 30 percent fenugreek seeds. The study concluded that male rats that ate the seeds experienced reduced sperm quality, and female rats experienced fewer fetuses per pregnancy. Clinical tests confirming fenugreek’s effect on human fertility are nonexistent as of 2011.
As a food source, fenugreek seeds are a popular spice in East Indian cuisine, and they may be eaten raw or toasted, ground and added to baked goods for a maplelike flavor. For health purposes, you may consume the seeds or grind them and make a paste for topical use, suggests NCCAM. Due to a lack of research, there is no standard recommended dosage, so consult your doctor if you want to use fenugreek therapeutically.
Although fenugreek is a known spice, do not consume it during pregnancy unless directed to do so by a doctor, since the herb may induce labor, advises NCCAM. Fenugreek may produce indigestion and intestinal distress in some people. Talk to your doctor if you’re trying to get pregnant or trying to prevent conception.
- “PDR for Herbal Medicines, Second Edition”; Joerg Gruenwald, Ph.D., 2000
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fenugreek, Steven Foster, July 2010
- “Contraception”; Evaluation of the Potential Antifertility Effect of Fenugreek Seeds in Male and Female Rabbits; A. Kassem, et. al., March 2006