With so many options on the market, it can be hard to know where to start when choosing a fertility supplement. To get you started, here are 5 things you need to know about fertility supplements.
Let’s start with the good news: Taking a prenatal multivitamin has been shown to increase pregnancy rates and decreased rates of ovulatory infertility, that is difficulty conceiving due to a lack of ovulation. The evidence shows that taking a prenatal with a mix of vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, every day has the most benefit.
Taking supplements before you conceive, not just while you are pregnant, can also help to increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.
For example, adequate preconception intake of folate, B12 and choline have all been shown to be important in helping to prevent neural tube defects. The neural tube consists of the brain and spinal cord and develops very early in pregnancy. If the neural tube develops abnormally, defects such as spina bifida (where parts of the spine develop abnormally) and anencephaly (where the brain develops abnormally) can occur. Neural tube defects may also lead to miscarriage.
Ideally, you should start taking your prenatal vitamin at least one to three months before conception to get the most benefit.
If you’ve only been told to take a prenatal, you’d be forgiven for thinking they are all about the same. In reality, there is a huge range when it comes to supplements. They all contain slightly different nutrients, in different amounts and even in different types.
Choosing the right form of some nutrients can be the difference between whether or not your body can utilise them or not. For example, some people have an alteration on one of their genes which means they can’t metabolise folic acid as well as the rest of us. So supplementing with another form of folate (5MTHF) may be helpful for them.
Different types of some nutrients can also influence whether or not you have any side effects. Some people find certain types of iron supplements have nasty side effects, like constipation or diarrhoea, whereas others leave them feeling good.
When choosing your prenatal supplement, you need to consider what nutrients are included but also what you want to be left out. More is not always better. Some nutrients (like iron discussed above) can lead to annoying side effects and some can actually interfere with the absorption of other nutrients.
A common example is calcium and iron, which complete for absorption in the gut. So if your fertility vitamin contains both together, you won’t actually be getting the dose of either! Find out if you need to take either iron or calcium and if you need both, make sure you take them at separate times of the day rather than together.
It can be tempting to ask your friends, Dr Google or those on fertility forums for a recommendation for a supplement, but what worked for them, may not be right for you.
If you have been diagnosed with a reproductive health condition, like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), there may be some nutrients that are more likely to benefit you. For example, did you know that up to 85% of people with PCOS are actually vitamin D deficient?
That’s why it’s so important to talk to your own health care providers to find out what fertility supplement suits you. A fertility dietitian will take your whole lifestyle into account when recommending supplements. This includes your diet, lab results, medical history, medications, any fertility treatment and more.
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I help people trying to conceive to ovulate, so they can get pregnant faster.
Tweaking your diet *before* you get pregnant not only improves your cycles and fertility, it also ensures that you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.