We all get excited about new things. But most people remain skeptical when you suggest that something old may be better. In fact, what if something VERY old may be one of the hottest developments in a high tech field like fertility treatment? That’s what has been quietly happening with the medication known as metformin.
Metformin has been used since the time of the pharaohs (around 1500 B.C.E.) but it was extracted from the plant Galega officinalis (see image). From then until the discovery of insulin; this was the primary treatment for diabetes. Unfortunately, like many plant extracts there were many other compounds present as well—some with serious and/or troubling side effects. The modern synthesized version of metformin has been purified making it safer and easier to study.
The best known use of metformin in reproductive medicine is in the treatment of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). But we’re now learning that there are many other ways that his modern version of an herbal remedy can help improve the outcome of fertility treatment. Although I’m not a fan of lists, the complexity of this treatment is beyond a simple blog post. So here is what you may want to consider when planning your treatment with your doctor:
- Improving egg quality —reducing oxidative damage to the egg
- Enhancing embryo formation—by improving power function (mitochondrial health) within the egg/embryo
- Better egg maturation—by reducing the effect of DHEA upon egg maturation
- Decreased risk of ovarian hyperstimulation—by reducing the impact of the hormone VEGF
- Reduction in first trimester miscarriage—by reducing insulin resistance
- Prevention of high blood pressure in pregnancy—by reducing inflammation and the hormone VEGF
- Lower cancer risk—multiple mechanisms are likely involved but this is a consistent observation
In summary, pregnancy is a very multifaceted process. Sometimes, we still have a lot to learn about something that has been around for a long time.