Hulu’s series The Kardashians follows Kim, Khloé, Kendall, Kylie, and Kourtney as they navigate their fame, their careers, and their families. The episodes gives fans a peek into the sisters’ relationships—like Kim’s connection with Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson and Kourtney’s romance with musician Travis Barker.
Kourtney and Travis’ journey to start a family together is one of many major plot lines this season. Episode two featured clips of Kourtney, 42, starting the in vitro fertilization, or IVF, process with Travis, 46, by her side. And it wasn’t easy: “Travis and I want to have a baby and so my doctor took us down this road of doing IVF and it hasn't been the most amazing experience." Kourtney said, according to People.
In another scene, Kourtney told her mom Kris Jenner that “the medication that they’ve been giving me, they put me into menopause,” she said. “Literally into menopause.”
“Based off of what? A drug?” Kris asked. "Yes," Kourtney answered, “The medication basically put me into depression."
After going through six months of fertility treatments, Kourt was finally able to undergo an egg retrieval. "I feel like it's a blessing that we're here and even able to be doing this 'cause the last two times we tried we weren't able to get to this phase," she told Travis, per People. "All we need is one good egg, and now it's just in God's hands," Kourtney explained in a confessional scene.
Unfortunately, Kourtney reported in a later episode that her doctor was "able to retrieve the egg but it didn't make it to the embryo stage.”
In today's episode, Kourt also opened up about some other, um, interesting things she and Travis are trying to boost thei fertility, including drinking his semen to help deal with abnormal thyroid levels per her doctor's advice. (Imbalanced thyroid hormones can impact fertility, per the Mayo Clinic.) “I can't remember what he said, if it was low or high," Kourtney said. "But he told us, well, he told me, that the thing that would help it was drinking [Travis'] c*m, like, four times a week."
Kourtney and Travis also went on an Ayurvedic cleanse. “Our new thing that we are going to be trying is a Panchakarma cleanse,” she shared. “It is Ayurvedic and it is like 3,000 years old, which will get all of the toxins that are deep within our tissue out of our bodies to have better quality eggs.”
Kourtney pointed out that she did the cleanse 10 years ago. “I kept telling Travis about this. This is the one thing that we haven’t tried that he has heard me talk about,” she said.
But can IVF medications really trigger early menopause and depression? And is drinking semen or going on a cleanse actually helpful in boosting fertility? Here’s everything you need to know, according to experts:
What is a Panchakarma cleanse?
Kourtney and Travis embarked on an Ayurvedic cleanse called a Panchakarma cleanse, which required them to avoid exercise, sex, and caffeine. The overall idea of the cleanse is to help your body detox and reset, according to the Ayurvedic Institute.
The couple worked with Martha Soffa, an Ayurvedic Panchakarma expert, to guide them through the cleanse process, according to Entertainment Tonight. Five days before their Ayurvedic treatments started, the couple stopped having sex, drinking caffeine and alcohol, eating sugar, and exercising for a five day period. (Travis, apparently, was not a huge fan of skipping out on sex and exercise, ET reported).
Once that five day period of abstaining was over, Kourt got her treatment: a yoni steam and a ginger foot bath. On her website, Martha says that the steam "is made with Ayurvedic herbs used to prepare the body for pregnancy." Travis, on the other hand, got a four-hand massage (it "nourishes your body, opens energy channels, and restores a lasting, youthful glow to your skin," the website says) and then had someone pour oil on his head to help his nervous system.
"I’m super grateful Travis is doing this with me. I don’t think I could do it on my own," Kourtney said on the show, per ET. "I just feel like it’s something we have to do together. We’re making a baby together."
There’s no science to suggest a Panchakarma cleanse will improve fertility.
While good overall health and a healthy diet can help support fertility, there’s no data to suggest an Ayurvedic cleanse will actually help you conceive, says women's health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D.
Meet the experts: Jennifer Wider, M.D., is an expert on women's health, author, and radio host. Jenna Turocy, M.D., is an assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
Ayurvedic medicine is thousands of years old and uses diet, herbal remedies, meditation, exercise, and breathing to balance the body, spirit, and mind (it has also made its way into the beauty industry). “While this type of medicine has proven advantages, medical research has not shown that a cleanse would boost fertility," Wider adds.
Drinking semen probably won't affect your thyroid, and it won't enhance your fertility.
Kourtney’s doctor’s recommendation definitely raised a few eyebrows and with good reason—there’s really no good data to support this, says women's health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D.
"Semen is made up of protein, carbs, and a bunch of vitamins, but nothing that will likely impact the thyroid function in a substantial way," she explains. And, no, it also won't cause substantial improvements in the fertility department, either.
“Swallowing semen will not help increase a person's fertility,” she says. In fact, your body would treat your partner’s semen the same way it treats anything else you ingest, she says. “When a person swallows anything, it proceeds along the same path through the digestive system just like an iced coffee,” Dr. Wider says. “This path would likely have no effect on a person's reproduction or reproductive organs.”
There is a small study out of the Netherlands from Leiden University Medical Center that showed women who swallowed semen during oral sex had less of a chance of recurrent miscarriage than women who didn't engage in oral sex, Dr. Wider points out. But, she says, there are caveats: This was a small study (it only included 97 women) and “more research is needed to make a definitive claim.”In general, there are no risks to doing this if your partner is STI-free and you don’t have a semen allergy, Dr. Wider says.
IVF medications can't cause early menopause.
"IVF does not cause or trigger early menopause," confirms Jenna Turocy, MD, an assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
During your menstrual cycle, your body prepares a group of eggs for ovulation, but only one or two eggs actually mature and are released. The rest die off. Turocy says IVF medications are designed to save the rest of those eggs, so they can be collected by a doctor.
Over time, the total number of eggs in your ovaries drops. You are born with around 1 million, and by puberty, only 300,000 are left, according to the Cleveland Clinic. As the number of eggs gets even smaller, that's when menopause begins, Turocy explains. After that, your periods will become irregular and eventually stop, signaling full menopause.
Most women begin menopause at age 51, according to Turocy. "But about 10% of the population will go through menopause earlier," meaning it's not uncommon to experience it in your early 40s.
"IVF medication themselves, they don't actually affect your future eggs," she says. The meds can't make you infertile or cause menopause since they don't impact the eggs you have left.
However, IVF medications may cause side effects that can overlap with menopause symptoms.
"Both in menopause and through IVF, you have a fluctuation of your hormones," Turocy says. In both cases, the amount of estrogen that's in your body drops significantly.
One type of IVF medication, Lupron, tells your body to stop making estrogen. This helps prevent OHSS, a.k.a. ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, a condition where the ovaries swell and become painful, according to the Mayo Clinic. During menopause, your body is also in a lower estrogen state. As a result, many of the symptoms can seem similar, including weight gain and vaginal dryness, according to Turocy.
FWIW, Kourtney doesn't specifically mention which IVF meds she took.
"It's important to remember that Lupron is only temporary, so once it's out of your system, your body's going to go back to its normal hormonal balance," Turocy adds—this is true for other IVF meds, too. "Unlike menopause, which is not temporary." Usually, it takes about two weeks for the meds to work their way out of your system.
Turocy says these side effects are totally normal to experience during the IVF process, and that they'll go away once you stop taking fertility meds. But let your doctor know if you're in serious pain or discomfort, or you notice that you're gaining more than one pound per day.
Fertility drugs can affect your mental health, too.
On the show, Kourtney also confided in Kris that she felt "off." "The medication basically put me into depression," she explained.
"I feel like I've never seen you happier so the depression thing surprises me," Kris said. Kourtney replied, "And I have everything in the world to be happy about. I just feel a little bit off. I'm super moody and hormonal. Like, I'm a lunatic half the time."
According to Turocy, fluctuating hormone levels from IVF medications can also cause irritability and unpredictable mood swings. Infertility (no matter what the cause is) can contribute, too. It's more common than you might think: One in five women between the ages of 15 and 49 who haven't had children before find it difficult to get pregnant, the CDC reports.
"Feelings of anxiety, sadness, irritability, and loneliness are normal reactions to such a challenging experience," Turocy added in an email. And, she notes that women who have difficulty conceiving are more likely to have anxiety and depression, which a 2021 study in Fertility Research and Practice confirmed.
Going through perimenopause can also contribute to symptoms.
You may also experience an overlap of symptoms if you're in perimenopause, the transition phase your body goes through before menopause, per the Mayo Clinic. Some women experience perimenopause as early as in their mid-30s, but it's more common to notice changes beginning in your 40s.
It's not that IVF meds will put you into menopause if you're already in perimenopause—it's just that you may be experiencing symptoms from both factors at the same time, Turocy says.
If you've previously frozen your eggs, your symptoms might not be as intense.
"The worst symptoms are usually during the actual egg retrieval process," Turocy notes. "That's where your hormones can be the highest."
Your doctor will likely give you a variety of medications during this process: Hormones stimulate the development of more than one egg at a time in your ovaries, while meds like human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) help your eggs mature faster, per the Mayo Clinic. You may also take progesterone, which prepares the lining of your uterus to accept an egg.
Later on, if you're using IVF to implant embryos made with eggs that you have previously frozen, your doctor will probably give you a lower dose of IVF meds. This means that your symptoms will likely be less severe.
Kourtney is one of many women who have gotten honest about their fertility journeys.
"I started my egg freezing journey two years ago but this year it’s really different and my mindset has shifted along the way," Heather shared in a recent Instagram post. "Sharing my journey was something I struggled with because every women’s experience is so different," she continued. "This is something I think can be really empowering."
Amy has also documented her IVF journey on IG.
"I have so appreciated everyone sharing their Ivf stories with me. They made me feel empowered and supported," the comedian and actress wrote. "I just wanted to share and send love and strength to all of the warrior women who go through this process."
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