Looking for an easy way to boost your fertility health over the festive period? Add prenatal vitamins!
7th December 2018
The festive period isn’t exactly synonymous with having a healthy diet…and so most people put off making any lifestyle changes until the New Year. But adding in prenatal vitamins is an easy change to make if you’re planning to get pregnant. These pre pregnancy supplements are crucial during the preconception period and lay the foundations for a healthy pregnancy.
The science – what are prenatal vitamins and why are they recommended?
But why is it so important to understand your nutritional health and to start taking prenatal vitamins when you’re preparing your body for pregnancy?
While a well balanced diet will provide you with everything you need when you’re planning to get pregnant,the national guidelines recommend that women supplement their diet with both vitamin D and Folic Acid before conception and during their pregnancy. Seeing as you won’t know for a few weeks that you are pregnant, it’s important to take these while you are trying to conceive.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency is common in the UK, but plays an essential role in our bodies by helping us to absorb dietary calcium and phosphate – these nutrients are essential in helping us to maintain healthy bones, teeth and muscles, and support the development of your baby during pregnancy. Although there are some dietary sources of vitamin D, the main source comes from sunlight – so it’s recommended to take a vitamin D supplement of 10ug a day before conception all the way through pregnancy to boost both the mother’s and baby’s bone and muscle health.
Folic acid (or folate): Low folate status is common in the UK, so getting enough folic acid early on can encourage healthy fetal development, and prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida (caused when the neural tube does not fully close at the end of the first trimester). It’s a common misconception that folic acid is only important if you’re pregnant – but a lot of women don’t realise it’s a really crucial pre-pregnancy supplement. Women are advised to take at least 400ug of folic acid a day for the 8 weeks prior to conception and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, to ensure there is a good folic acid supply until the neural tube closes.
You may be surprised to know that the baby’s neural tube closes around week 4 – 6 of pregnancy – when most women don’t even know they are pregnant!
Pre-natal vitamins also improves your chances of conception. The Nurses’ Study found that for folic acid, women who got at least 700mcg a day from diet and supplements were 40- 50% less likely to have had ovulatory infertility than women getting less than 300mcg.
Where should I start? Some easy changes to make over the festive period
The festive period is the perfect time to start introducing supplements into your routine – here are some ideas to get you started:
- Mix in natural fertility boosters (eat brussel sprouts!): Along with the daily supplements suggested above (10ug of vitamin D and 400ug of folic acid), you can also eat more foods which contain folate – the natural form of folic acid. Folate is a B-vitamin and occurs naturally in dark green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, kale, cabbage and broccoli), beans and pulses, dairy products and fortified breakfast cereals. Take some time over the festive break to get creative and try out new recipes that include these high-folate ingredients – love them or hate them, brussel sprouts are a great source! If your dislike for brussel sprouts stems from eating soggy over boiled brussel sprouts, then try some recipes that make them a bit more interesting, like this Jamie Oliver recipe. Remember: this should sit alongside – not instead of – folic acid supplement tablets.
- Supplements aren’t just for women: If you have a male partner and are planning to have a baby, it’s also important that they take daily supplements to boost their sperm health. Creating a thousand new sperm cells a second means churning out miles of DNA, a process that depends on folate, iron, zinc and other micronutrients – so it makes total sense that increasing the supply of micronutrients can significantly increase pregnancy rates! Men should take supplements too, consider trying Proxeed – a supplement that has been validated in clinical trials to support sperm health, and contains antioxidants (which can reduce sperm cell damage – a leading cause of male subfertility).
- Don’t go it alone! If you’re in a relationship, take your prenatal vitamins at the same time as your partner. It will help you both remember and stick to taking the supplement as part of your daily routine as you’re preparing to conceive.
This post is a summary of a longer module in Adia’s FREE 12-week fertility health plan. To see the whole plan just sign up!