Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute
The Daily Mail, from the UK, recently posted an article regarding sunlight and fertility that should catch some interest.
Infertility is a problem that causes some couples to seek help from in vitro fertilization (IVF). New research shows that sunlight exposure for a month prior to the procedure increase the odds of success by 35%. Dr. Frank Vandekerckhove, who reported the research, looked at the IVF results of about 6,000 women and compared the dates of their treatment with weather conditions. The more sunshine, the greater likelihood of becoming pregnant. Dr. Vandekerckhove said that sunshine a month before conception probably helped a woman’s eggs to mature. He also mentioned that there is no reason to think that a burst of sunshine won’t also help women trying to get pregnant naturally.
There is nothing really new about the effects of sunlight on fertility, and this work by Vandekerckhove is not the first to establish the link of sunlight to IVF. Much has also been studied regarding natural, non- laboratory fertility. Low vitamin D, which is primarily a result of low sunlight exposure, is closely related to the ability to conceive in both women and men. Couples spend thousands of dollars on fertility clinics and IVF when perhaps all they need is some time in the sun.
In an article posted on Emax health, entitled Sex in the Sun May Increase Your Fertility it is pointed out that approximately 15% of couples who want to conceive are plagued by problems of fertility. Drs. Elisabeth Lerchbaum and Barbara Obermayer-Pietsch, in 2012, conducted a review of articles on vitamin D and fertility and came to these conclusions: “VDR knockout mice [mice whose vitamin D doesn’t work due to inability to link to receptors at the cellular level] have significant gonadal insufficiency, decreased sperm count and motility, and histological abnormalities of testis, ovary and uterus.” They also point out that vitamin D is involved in female reproduction—including IVF outcome, so it is a bit surprising that the article in the Daily Mail gave the impression that the research by Vandekerckhove was a totally new concept.
The review also stated that in men, higher vitamin D levels are positively associated with semen quality and androgen (male hormone) status, and that vitamin D treatment might increase testosterone levels.
One thing that is missing in these excellent studies is any discussion of the production of nitric oxide (NO) by sunlight exposure. NO is a potent vasodilator that is essential for proper erection in men, meaning it relaxes the blood vessels, allowing the blood to pass more easily through the vessels. Without it erectile dysfunction (ED) occurs. Viagra, Cialis and other such ED drugs work through a Nitric Oxide pathway and act by keeping NO in circulation for a longer period. But they don’t work in about one-third of the cases, and the effect diminishes over time, not to mention the side effects such as headaches, body aches and pains, gastrointestinal distress, dizziness, vision changes, flushing, congestion and runny nose. Since sunlight exposure increases NO, it is probably a better choice. For those who wish to produce a pregnancy, ED could be a devastating problem, and sunlight may be the answer.
Sunlight exposure has so many positive properties that we may never know them all. Use non-burning sunlight safely. Here’s to a successful pregnancy and a sunny family life!
Vandekerckhove, F. Presentation at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) annual conference in Lisbon, Portugal, from June 14 to 17.
 Lerchbaum E1, Obermayer-Pietsch B. Vitamin D and fertility: a systematic review. Eur J Endocrinol. 2012 May;166(5):765-7.
 Burnett AL. The role of nitric oxide in erectile dysfunction: implications for medical therapy. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2006 Dec;8(12 Suppl 4):53-62.