Best vitamins for pregnancy
There are several ways to increase your chances of conceiving, and vitamin intake is high on that list. While the benefit of vitamins is no new revelation, the healthy habit of a multivitamin a day is an easy one to let slide. It’s not uncommon for the pursuit of baby-making to become the catalyst for routine vitamin intake.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, now is a good time to understand what are the best vitamins to help you get pregnant. Once you realise the role that supplements can play in not just your fertility but also in helping your baby thrive in utero, you’ll be pumped to jump on the vitamin bandwagon – and stay there for a long time.
Approximately 85% of couples trying to get pregnant, conceive in the first year, leaving 15% of couples to sit outside of that relatively normal conception window. For some couples, of course, they’d rather get things moving quickly and increase their fertility in the hope of getting pregnant sooner rather than later.
The good news is, according to a US study looking into nutritional supplements for improving fertility conducted by Lynn M. Westphal, M.D., Mary Lake Polan, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., Aileen Sontag Trant, Ph.D. and Stephen B. Mooney, M.D, “In many of these cases [where a couple is struggling to conceive], infertility problems are treatable. If low fertility is due to a hormonal imbalance or nutritional deficiencies, nutritional supplementation may play an important role and should be considered a reasonable method of optimising reproductive health”.
Is it safe to take prenatal vitamins when trying to get pregnant?
Prenatal vitamins are recommended when trying to get pregnant. Most prenatal multivitamin options will include many of the vitamins and minerals – and daily recommended doses – that are the suggested intake when trying to get pregnant.
It’s also a good idea to consult your doctor before committing to too many fertility supplements; if you’re wanting to rule out a hormonal imbalance or an iron deficiency, for example, your doctor may suggest a blood test. The results of your bloodwork will be able to inform your doctor about what vitamins and supplements will be best suited to you. The rule of thumb when it comes to vitamin supplements, says biochemical researchers Gretchen Garb Collins and Brooke V Rossi, is moderation.
Collins and Rossi also note the relationship between diet and fertility, emphasizing that supplements alone are not the answer.
Should my partner also take vitamins and supplements to boost his fertility?
Your partner should absolutely consider his vitamin intake because, “Antioxidants seem to improve semen parameters in men”, according to Collins and Rossi. For instance, Zinc has been found to improve the quality of male sperm, while vitamin D has been proven to increase sperm count.
The question is, what are the vitamins that make you fertile?
Here’s our full list of the over-the-counter vitamins – many of which also appear in food – to help you get pregnant…
Why it’s important? B vitamins are thought to assist ovaries in releasing a healthy egg around ovulation. B6, in particular, is believed to increase progesterone levels, which is essential in maintaining your pregnancy once you conceive. Overall, Vitamin B is thought to improve conception rates as well and treat PMS symptoms.
What’s it in? Chickpeas, whole grains, leafy greens, meat and eggs.
Why it’s important? There’s mixed research around the relationship between vitamin C and fertility. What we do know is that vitamin C is immunity-boosting, and promotes iron absorption as well as progesterone production. For women who have luteal phase defect, an issue characterised by insufficient progesterone, vitamin C appears to be one of the vitamins to help get pregnant.
What’s it in? Oranges (citrus foods), mangoes, tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, green and red peppers and sweet and white potatoes.
Why it’s important? A study from of 1,192 infertile women found that 68.6 % of them were vitamin D insufficient which is higher than the average population. Research also suggests that vitamin D improves sperm count for men.
What’s it in? Eggs, fatty fish, dairy and cod liver oil.
Why it’s important? The intake of Vitamin E in women has been shown to shorten a woman’s time to pregnancy. There also appears to be a relationship between healthy sperm and vitamin E in men. So, it’s a win, win.
What’s it in? Sunflower seeds, almonds, avocados, sweet potatoes, spinach and other leafy greens, papaya and dark leafy greens.
Why it’s important? Given that the peri-conceptional period is a time of cellular growth, folate supplementation is recommended to improve pregnancy outcomes. Also, “an adequate intake of essential nutrients, such as folic acid, in the periconceptual period can lower the incidence of neural tube defects”, a US study suggested.
What’s it in? For fertility, folate supplementation is recommended over dietary intake. Women should be advised to take 800 mcg a day of folate when trying to get pregnant and throughout pregnancy. Folic acid is also in beans, orange juice, leafy greens and fortified cereals.
Why it’s important? Beta-carotene helps regulate hormones, and may even prevent early miscarriage once you’re pregnant.
What’s it in? Carrots, cantaloupe, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli and kale.
Why it’s important? While Bromelain digests protein in the body, it’s also thought to assist implantation of a fertilized egg. Therefore, Bromelain is considered an important enzyme to intake right after ovulation.
What’s it in? Pineapples! Pina coladas anyone?
Why it’s important? Choline is a water-soluble nutrient that helps promote brain health in the baby and mum; low choline levels in pregnant women raise the risk of brain and spinal chord complications in a baby. Professor of neonatology Gary Shaw who ran a study on the relationship between choline and birth defects, said, “As choline levels went up, risk went down.”
What’s it in? While Choline is available in supplement form, Shaw stresses that the best source of choline for female fertility and pregnant women is eating a variety of foods such as: egg yolks, soy, wheat germ and meats.
COENZYME Q10 (CoQ10)
Why it’s important? CoQ10 is an antioxidant and is an energy promoting agent, so it’s often recommended as a prenatal vitamin supplement because it may improve egg quality in women. CoQ10 is especially important for men to be taking because, being an energizer, it’s been linked to sperm count and sperm motility.
What’s it in? While certain foods such as some seafood and meats (heart and kidneys) contain CoQ10, it’s difficult to get the intake needed through diet alone, so CoQ10 supplements are often recommended.
Why it’s important? It’s not uncommon for women to become anaemic during pregnancy – often the result of iron deficiency. Moreover, low iron levels prior to conception may actually contribute to a lack of ovulation. So, a high-iron intake is recommended when embarking on baby-making.
And it’s a good idea to stay on top of your iron intake throughout your pregnancy because, if you are able and choose to breastfeed, iron deficiency may also become a risk after birth.
What’s it in? Meat, eggs, fish, beans, tomatoes, beets, broccoli, spinach, pumpkin and whole-grain cereals.
OMEGA FATTY ACIDS
Why it’s important? Omegas are essential because we can’t produce them naturally in our body; these nutrients help ovarian follicles release eggs, increase blood flow to the uterus and balance out your hormones. Preliminary studies show that they may also assist with fetal brain development. Because not all multivitamins include omega-3s, you might want to add them to you fertility supplement list.
What’s it in? Flax seeds, flaxseed oil, mackerel, cod, sardines, salmon, anchovies, herring, walnuts and eggs from chickens that are fed omega-3s.
Why it’s important? Selenium is great for helping estrogen metabolism in women – and helps defend against free radicals that might contribute to diminishing the quality of your eggs. Selenium is also recommended for men in aiding sperm motility.
What’s it in? Brazil nuts, leafy greens, whole grains and fish.
Why it’s important? Vitex agnus-castus is a herb used to optimise luteal phase function. Clinical studies in Europe used Vitex successfully to restore progesterone balance and improve fertility. “In one study, 39 of 45 women treated with Vitex tincture (40 drops) demonstrated increased progesterone levels, with 7 becoming pregnant within 3 months”, Lynn M. Westphal, M.D., Mary Lake Polan, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., Aileen Sontag Trant, Ph.D., and Stephen B. Mooney, M.D said. In another study, among 67 infertile women, those treated with a homeopathic Vitex demonstrated increases in spontaneous menstruation, shorter cycles, earlier ovulation, improved progesterone levels during the luteal phase and more pregnancies, the researches said.
Vitex has also been shown to reduce PMS symptoms and other menstrual cycle irregularities.
What’s it in? Vitex agnus-castus is a herb that can be ingested in liquid, capsule and tablet form and is also available as a tea.
Why it’s important? Especially important for men, Zinc boosts the general quality of sperm while improving sperm motility.
Women trying to get pregnant should also take zinc. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked low levels of zinc to early miscarriage.
What’s it in? Oysters, fish, meat, eggs, poultry, wheat germ and pumpkin seeds.
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