Vitamins for fertility
8th May 2019
When planning on having a baby, a healthy lifestyle is key to preparing your body for pregnancy and improving fertility. Alongside exercise, nutrition is an essential part of preconception planning, and this includes vitamins for fertility.
What are prenatal vitamins for fertility and why are they recommended?
Prenatal vitamins are supplements you should take whilst trying to conceive and during your pregnancy. These vitamins will help your body sustain a healthy pregnancy and are important when trying to conceive. Whilst a healthy balanced diet should provide you with the nutrients you need, additional supplements can help top up the vitamins you’re getting from food.
Ideally you should start taking prenatal vitamins before conception, and it’s a good idea for women of reproductive age to regularly take prenatal supplements. Not only will this aid your fertility but it can help with your baby’s growth in the womb. A lot of baby’s key development can occur in the first month of pregnancy – specifically the brain and spinal cord. This can often mean that women aren’t aware they are carrying a baby when these initial key stages are occurring. Observing a healthy fertility diet plan, including prenatal vitamins, means your baby will get the nutrients it needs, even if you don’t know you are pregnant.
The national guidelines recommend that women supplement their diet with both vitamin D and Folic Acid before conception and during their pregnancy. Folic acid has a multitude of benefits for both fertility and pregnancy and can help reduce birth defects. You should also look for vitamins that include iron, iodine, and calcium. They are important for both the mother and the baby’s health during pregnancy. Men should also think preconception health and start taking supplements to support their fertility. Proxeed is a supplement that has been proven, through clinical trials, to support sperm health. Proxeed contains antioxidants, which can improve sperm health by reducing oxidative stress in the gut.
What does vitamin D do?
Vitamin D is produced by the body when exposed to sunlight and can also be found in various healthy foods. It is essential for healthy bones and teeth and is also linked to a multitude of health benefits, including promoting a strong immune system and improving gut health. Vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with diseases such as cancer and lupus. It’s also an important vitamin for fertility, so you should optimise your levels of Vitamins D as part of preconception planning.
Does vitamin D help with fertility?
Whilst research in the area is still progressing, there are indicators showing Vitamin D can help your chances of conceiving. An italian study appeared to show a link between Vitamin D levels and the success rate of IVF. Within the study, women with sufficient Vitamin D levels were twice as likely to conceive compared to those with a deficiency of the vitamin. Researchers believe this is due to Vitamin D boosting healthy egg production and improving the chances of embryos embedding in the womb.
Vitamin D also appears to impact endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome, both common causes of infertility in women. It is also thought to boost sex hormones such a progesterone and oestrogen, which can help regulate menstrual cycles. The regulation of your cycle can help with fertility issues and also help you pinpoint your ovulation which can help when trying for a baby. The sunshine vitamin can also increase both female and male sex drive, reduce stress and improve energy levels – which will all help when you are trying to conceive.
Vitamin D can also help boost both you and your baby’s health during pregnancy. Studies show that vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy can increase your chances of gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and bacterial vaginosis. These issues can lead to a high risk pregnancy and potential complications. There is evidence to suggest a lack of vitamin D can affect an unborn baby in various ways. Lower birth weight, lowered cognitive function and risk of obesity have all been linked to vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy.
Does it produce sperm?
A vitamin D deficiency is thought to affect male fertility. Research shows that a lack of vitamin D can lead to issues including low sperm count and impaired sperm mobility. It is advisable for male partners to increase their Vitamin D intake when trying to conceive.
Although further research is needed to assess the impact of vitamin D on male fertility, a Danish study seemed to prove the link. The study showed an association between Vitamin D levels and the motility of sperm. A lack of motility is when the sperm is not strong enough to reach the egg. This can be a key issue when couples are trying for a baby.
As Vitamin D levels tend to be higher in those with an active, outdoor lifestyle, this could also affect the test results. Low impact exercise, such as jogging or walking, is thought to contribute to increased sperm motility and production. The men in the study may also have had a healthy diet rich in other vitamins, which could also increase their fertility.
What foods are high in Vitamin D?
Oily fish and the oils from fish are one of the best natural sources of Vitamin D. The best fish to eat if trying to increase Vitamin D levels are salmon, herring and mackerel. Swordfish is also high in the vitamin.
Egg yolks are another great source of vitamin D, especially if the eggs are free range. A dish of scrambled eggs using two large hen eggs could contain around 15% of a person’s recommended daily allowance.
Red meat, including beef, also contains vitamin D but isn’t the most impactful food source to tackle deficiency. Organ meat such as liver and kidney is much higher in the vitamin. If you’re a meat eater, incorporating these into your diet is an effective way of upping your Vitamin D.
If you are vegan, mushrooms can be a good way of getting Vitamin D into your diet. You do have to be specific about the types of mushrooms you are eating though. Raw maitake mushrooms and dried shiitake mushrooms are some of the most Vitamin D rich fungi.
Whilst there aren’t many foods that naturally contain Vitamin D, some foods are fortified to include it. You can find products such as orange juice and breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin D. In some countries, cow’s milk is fortified, but this is not common in the UK.
The best way to improve your Vitamin D levels is to get out in the sunshine. During the summer months, we should be able to get all the vitamin D we need from sunlight exposure, if we are living an active lifestyle. However, between October and March, people in the UK often struggle with Vitamin D deficiency, making it essential to consider Vitamin D levels in our diet and when thinking about supplements.
What are the best supplements to take to increase fertility?
The sunshine vitamin can help your fertility but in the Winter it can be hard to get your recommended daily allowance. Try and eat a Vitamin D rich diet but it could also be useful to take a supplement if trying to conceive. 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.
Zinc is useful for both male and female fertility. For women it can help promote healthy eggs, improving their quality and their ability to be fertilised. It’s recommended you take 5 to 45 milligrams a day, depending on your current level. However, you should speak to your doctor beforehand to understand the right dosage for you personally.
Omega 3 Fatty Acid
Omega 3 Fatty Acid helps fertility in numerous ways. It improves the quality of your uterus by increasing blood flow to your sexual organs. It also increases cervical mucus and promotes ovulation .
The body does not produce Omega 3 fatty acids, so it’s important to include it in your diet or as a supplement. Fish oil and flax oil are rich in Omega 3. If you are trying for a baby, it’s advisable for you to take at least 650mg of fatty acid a day.
What vitamins help men’s fertility?
Many of the causes of male infertility are to do with the quantity and the quality of the sperm. It’s important that men take daily supplements to boost their sperm health and production. Creating a thousand new sperm cells a second means churning out miles of DNA. This process depends on folate, iron, zinc and other micronutrients. Therefore, it makes total sense that increasing the supply of micronutrients can significantly increase pregnancy rates!
What Vitamin produces more sperm?
There are various vitamins you can take to help improve your sperm count. Taking 1000mg a day of Vitamin C has been shown to increase both the volume and quality of sperm. Zinc can also improve the production of sperm. It could also increase the motility of your sperm and the morphology – the shape of the sperm. Both motility and morphology can affect the chances of sperm reaching the egg in time to fertilise it.
Low levels of folate can indicate a low level of sperm production. As for women, it can be useful for men to take a folic acid supplement when trying to conceive. They can also try adding natural sources of folate – such as kale and broccoli – to their diet.
Does Vitamin E increase sperm?
Sperm production is a delicate process and can be hindered by the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals are organic molecules that form in the body during oxidation. For this reason, antioxidants are important to protect sperm from damage. Vitamin E actually refers to a family of eight antioxidants, so is a great source of protection.
You can increase your Vitamin E intake by adding Vitamin E rich foods into your diet. These include plant based such as sunflower oil and corn flower. You should also try and eat nuts and seeds and green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli.
Does Zinc help men’s fertility?
Zinc is another vitamin that helps boost male fertility. Taking Zinc supplements can improve sperm motility and production. In a 2008 study at Kuwait University, Zinc was proven to help improve the motility of sperm in a group of men who previously had immotile sperm.
The body does not store Zinc so it’s important to keep it topped up every day. You can take Zinc supplements to increase your levels or try to include more naturally occurring Zinc in your diet. Zinc can be found in meat, legumes, shellfish, nuts and seeds.
You can find more information on vitamins for fertility – for both men and women – on the Adia Health platform. Join today for a wealth of information on nutrition, lifestyle and fertility, to help you on your journey to parenthood.