fertility supplements

Once baby is on the way, a world of dietary changes and prenatal vitamins await you. But what about when you're trying to conceive? Are fertility supplements just cleverly marketed placebos, or are they helpful remedies containing extra nutrients vital to conceiving and supporting a healthy pregnancy? And do you need to start taking prenatals before you actually conceive? Let's break it down.

Do fertility supplements really work?

A quick Google search suggests many prospective mothers have the same question—typing in 'fertility supplements' returns more than 201 million hits. One site sings the praises of a certain nutrient that boosts fertility, while the next site declares there isn't a smidge of scientific evidence suggesting said nutrient is worth your precious time or money. What's a person to do with all of this contradictory information?

I'm often asked if over-the-counter fertility supplements can actually boost a patient's chances of conception, or if they are simply smoke and mirrors. What I tell my patients is that, yes, supplements are worth your time, because what the best fertility supplements actually do is provide you with necessary nutrients that are lacking in today's culture of processed and fast foods.


What supplements should I take to increase my fertility?

Of course, check in with your healthcare provider before adding any supplements or vitamins to your diet, especially if you're trying to conceive. Certain vitamins, minerals or herbs may be dangerous if you take other medications or have certain underlying conditions. If you get the green light from your doctor, here's what to look for when choosing a fertility supplement and prenatal vitamin:

1. Folic acid + folate

Any prenatal supplement should have a minimum of 800 mcg of folate or folic acid. Check to see that your prenatal contains the form of folate known as 5-MTHF, the active form of folate that's easier for your body to absorb.

Folic acid helps to prevent spinal tube defects. It works best when you start taking it before you get pregnant, as the spinal tube is formed within the first four weeks of pregnancy—often before many people even discover that they're pregnant.

2. CoQ10

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), also known as ubiquinone, is an enzyme that can help your body repair damage caused by free radicals (read: stress) and gives mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell (said in a *science teacher voice*), a rejuvenating boost.

Many fertility experts consider CoQ10 helpful for egg health—one study from 2017 showed that having a high level of CoQ10 in the follicular fluid was associated with a higher rate of pregnancy.

3. Inositol

Useful for menstrual cycle regulation and blood sugar stability, inositol is particularly beneficial for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is a common cause of fertility issues. Inositol is a member of the B-vitamin complex and has some evidence behind its use for fertility support: One meta-analysis discovered that subjects taking myo-inositol had a higher pregnancy rate than the control group. However, a Cochrane review study asserted that more research is needed.

4. Vitamin D

Before you start trying to conceive, I recommend getting your blood levels of vitamin D tested, as most of us do not get anywhere near enough sunshine to fill our body's vitamin D quota. Although the reasons are still being evaluated, healthy levels of vitamin D have been linked to improved outcomes in pregnancy. If you're tested and found you have low levels, talk to your doctor about the most effective supplements to try and boost your stores.

5. Probiotics

A good probiotic supplement should be on everyone's list, whether you're trying to conceive or not. Many illnesses start in the gut, and an influx of healthy gut flora helps prevent viruses and bacteria from taking hold. This is especially important if you are taking antibiotics or have had gut issues in the past. When we take proper care of our digestive system, the whole body benefits—and this includes the reproductive organs.

And because pregnancy is by default a state of immunosuppression, building up your immune system before you conceive is a smart idea, so you're stronger going in.

6. Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids are a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient that are well-studied for heart health as well as baby's brain and eye development during pregnancy. Researchers in 2016 also found that omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy significantly reduces preterm births. While your best source of these potent nutrients is via consuming high-quality, low-mercury fish several times a week, an omega-3 supplement can also be helpful for preconception if you're not eating fish regularly. Look for a vegan source from algae, which is better for the environment.

7. Magnesium

Because magnesium is so helpful in regulating the menstrual cycle and is vital to more than 300 different chemical reactions in the body, I recommend adding magnesium to your fertility supplement regimen. Also, if stress is a factor for you, magnesium can be incredibly soothing and balancing. For most people, magnesium helps decrease stress and improve sleep (take it right before bed for maximum benefits).

What is the best fertility supplement?

When choosing fertility supplements, be sure to do your brand research. The companies that you want to put your trust in will be reputable and focused on research, quality control and superior ingredient sourcing so make sure you ask your healthcare provider if questions arise. They can help you identify natural versus synthetic ingredients. For example, in prenatal vitamins, folate is naturally occurring while folic acid is a synthetic compound—this means thats the body processes folate better than folic acid. There are subtle but important differences in many supplements, even if the labels have the same claim.

There are a few things to watch out for. Be aware of fillers used by larger companies, such as artificial coloring, GMOs and even hydrogenated oils. Be mindful of all-in-one claims as well, as a supplement that has everything you need in one pill will ultimately end up sacrificing something. As far as I know, there is not a magic pill that contains all of the nutrients needed for fertility.

What is the best male fertility supplement?

Male partners should absolutely be taking fertility supplements during the preconception period to boost sperm quality, as well. L-carnitine and L-arginine have both been shown to increase both sperm count and motility, and zinc boosts testosterone levels in studies. Ask your male partner to talk to their primary care doctor about testing their vitamin D levels, too.

Other ways to boost fertility

Beyond fertility supplements, make sure your self-care basics are a priority:

  • Focus on making sure you are properly hydrated
  • Aim to get as many nutrients as possible from the food you eat
  • Sleep for at least seven hours each night.
  • Set aside time daily to do something you love that gives you a sense of peace, like exercising and/or meditation.

These stress-releasing factors will help you get into alignment, physically and mentally, and help give you the energy needed to create life.

Once pregnant, make sure you see your trusted health care provider to determine exactly what your unique body needs for a healthy pregnancy and joyful baby. Happy conceiving!


Sources:

Akarsu S, Gode F, Isik AZ, Dikmen ZG, Tekindal MA. The association between coenzyme Q10 concentrations in follicular fluid with embryo morphokinetics and pregnancy rate in assisted reproductive techniques [published correction appears in J Assist Reprod Genet. 2017 May;34(5):607]. J Assist Reprod Genet. 2017;34(5):599-605. doi:10.1007/s10815-017-0882-x

Cuciureanu MD, Vink R. Magnesium and stress. In: Vink R, Nechifor M, editors. Magnesium in the central nervous system. Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press; 2011.

Kareva I. Immune suppression in pregnancy and cancer: parallels and insights. Transl Oncol. 2020;13(7):100759. doi:10.1016/j.tranon.2020.100759

Shireman TI, Kerling EH, Gajewski BJ, Colombo J, Carlson SE. Docosahexaenoic acid supplementation (DHA) and the return on investment for pregnancy outcomes. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2016;111:8-10. doi:10.1016/j.plefa.2016.05.008

Showell MG, Mackenzie-Proctor R, Jordan V, Hodgson R, Farquhar C. Inositol for subfertile women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2018, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD012378. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012378.pub2

Zheng X, Lin D, Zhang Y, et al. Inositol supplement improves clinical pregnancy rate in infertile women undergoing ovulation induction for ICSI or IVF-ET. Medicine (Baltimore). 2017;96(49):e8842. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000008842


Check out some of the high-quality, research-backed supplements in the Motherly Shop.

Premama Prenatal Vitamin

Prenatal Vitamin

You know prenatal vitamins are important—but some can feel downright impossible to take or stomach. These are tiny, easy to swallow and packed with all of the good stuff you need to support a healthy pregnancy. Take one of these non-GMO prenatal vitamins per day and you'll get your full quota of premium ingredients including folate, gentle iron, vegan DHA, plus all additional essential vitamins and nutrients.

Premama
$35

Premama Fertility Support For Her Drink Mix

Premama fertility support for her drink mix

Made with folate and myo-insitol along with a dose of vitamin B12, the drink mixes from Premama help optimize your chances of conception and support early pregnancy. Totally unflavored, they dissolve undetected into your favorite non-carbonated drink.

Premama
$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

True
Getty

When you ask any two mamas to share their experience with breastfeeding, you are bound to get very unique answers. That's because while the act of breastfeeding is both wonderful and natural, it also comes with a learning curve for both mothers and babies.

In some cases, breastfeeding won't be the right path for everyone. But with the right tools, resources and social support systems, we can make progress toward the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation to continue breastfeeding through the first year of a child's life. After all, breastfeeding helps nourish infants, protects them against illnesses, develops their immune systems and more. Not to mention that mothers who breastfeed experience reduced risk for breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

With National Breastfeeding Awareness Month this month, it's a great time for mamas (and expectant mamas!) to gather the supplies that will support their feeding journey—whether it looks like exclusively breastfeeding, pumping or combo-feeding.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Designed for regular use, this double electric breast pump allows mamas to customize the cycle and vacuum settings that work for them. The 100% SoftShape™ silicone shields on this pump form-fit to a wide range of breast shapes and sizes—which means more comfortable, more efficient pumping. And every pump comes with two complete Dr. Brown's Options+ bottles, giving you everything you need to go from pumping to feeding.

$159.99

Dr. Brown’s™ Breast Milk Collection Bottles

There's no need to cry over spilled milk—because it won't happen with these storage bottles! Make the pump-to-feeding transition simpler with Dr. Brown's Milk Collection Bottles. The bottles adapt to Dr. Brown's electric pumps to easily fill, seal and transport, and they work with Dr. Brown's bottle and nipple parts when your baby's ready to eat. (Meaning no risky pouring from one bottle to another. 🙌)

$9.99

Breast Milk Storage Bags

With an extra-durable design and double zip seal, your breast milk will stay fresh and safe in the fridge or freezer until it's needed. Plus, the bags are easy to freeze flat and then store for up to six months, so your baby can continue drinking breast milk long after you are done nursing.

$9.99

Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump with Options+™ Bottle & Bag

Here's something they don't tell you about breastfeeding ahead of time: While feeding your baby on one side, the other breast may "let down" milk, too. With this one-piece Silicone Breast Pump, you don't have to let those precious drops go to waste. The flexible design makes pouring the milk into a bottle stress-free.

$14.99

Dr. Brown’s® Manual Breast Pump

No outlet in sight? No worries! With this powerful-yet-gentle Manual Breast Pump, you can get relief from engorgement, sneak in some quick midnight pumping or perform a full pumping session without any electricity needed. With Dr. Brown's 100% silicone SoftShape™ Shield, the hand-operated pump is as comfortable as it is easy to use. Complete with Dr. Brown's® Options+™ Anti-Colic Wide-Neck Bottle, a storage travel cap and cleaning brush, consider this the breastfeeding essential for any mama who has places to go.

$29.99

Options+™ Anti-Colic Baby Bottle

With the soft silicone nipple and natural flow design of these bottles, your baby can easily switch between breast and bottle. Clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to the vent, your baby can enjoy a happy tummy after feeding sessions—without as much spit-up, burping or gas! By mimicking the flow and feel of the breast, these bottles help support your breastfeeding experience.

$7.99

This post is sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

7 hacks for simplifying after-school snacks

Prepping delicious and nutritious foods shouldn't take all day.

When you're in the middle of the school year and managing a family, each minute of time becomes very precious. Sometimes that means healthy food choices in the household can take a backseat. But don't stress it, mama. Prepping delicious and nutritious choices for the kids to munch on doesn't need to take all day.

Remember to keep it fun, simple and interactive! Here are tips for simplifying after-school snacks once and for all:

1. Prep snacks on Sunday

This simple trick can make the rest of the week a breeze. Tupperware is your friend here, you can even write different days of the week on each container to give the kids a little surprise every day. I really like storage with compartments for snack prep. Personally, I slice apples, carrots or cucumbers to pair with almond butter and hummus—all great to grab and go for when you're out all day and need some fresh variety.

2. When in doubt, go for fruit

Fruit is always a quick and easy option. I suggest blueberries, clementine oranges, apples, frozen grapes or even unsweetened apple sauce and dried fruit, like mixed fruit. It's fun to put together a fruit salad, too. Simply cut up all the fruit options and let the kids decide how they'd like to compile. Prepped fruit is also great to have on hand for smoothies, especially when it's been sitting in the fridge for a few days—throw it in the blender with some nut milk and voila.

3. Pair snacks with a dip

Hummus is a great dip to keep on hand with lots of versatility or you can grab a yogurt-based dip. Easy and healthy dippers include pre-sliced veggies, baby carrots and multigrain tortilla chips. Plain hummus is a great way to introduce seasonings and spices too—shake a little turmeric, add fresh basil and you'd be surprised what your kids will take to.

4. Have high-protein options readily available

Snacks with high protein, like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs and jerky will fuel kids for hours. One of my favorites is a turkey stick, which is a fun addition to the hummus platter. Just slice into bite-sized pieces. I love cottage cheese because it can go savory or sweet, use as a dip with your prepped veggies, or drizzle pure maple syrup and sprinkle with berries.

5. Always keep the pantry stocked

Monthly deliveries keeps the pantry updated without a trip to grocery store. Many kids are big fans of popcorn, granola and pretzels. We like to DIY our own snack packs with a little popcorn, pretzels, nuts and whatever else is in the pantry so there's always something different!

6. Make cracker tartines

I love the idea of replicating popular restaurant dishes for kids. Here are some of my favorite snack-sized tartines using any crisp bread, or favorite flat cracker of your choice as the base. There are no rules and kids love adding toppings and finding new combinations they love.

  • Avocado crackers: Use a cracker and then layer with thinly sliced avocado, a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese topped with roasted pepitas or sunflower seeds.
  • Tacos: The base for this is a black bean spread—just drain a can of black beans, rinse and place into a wide bowl. With a fork or potato masher, lightly smush the beans until chunky. Spread onto your cracker and top with tomato, cheddar cheese and black olives. Try out a dollop of super mild salsa or some lime zest to introduce some new flavor profiles.
  • A play on PB&J: Smear peanut butter, almond or a favorite sun butter on the cracker. I like to get a mix it up a bit and put fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries and tiny diced apples) and a little bit of dried fruit sprinkled on top.

7. Pre-make smoothie pops

The easy part about meal prep is the prep itself, but knowing exactly how much to make ahead is tricky. Freeze a smoothie in popsicle molds to have a healthy treat ready-to-go snack. They're super simple to make: Add any fruit (I like apples, berries, pineapples and mangoes) and veggies (carrots, steamed beet and wilted kale) to a blender with your favorite nut milk until you have consistency just a bit thinner than a smoothie. Pour into your trusty reusable popsicle molds and then into the freezer to make an ice pop so good they could eat them for breakfast.

Family Foodies

15 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Stomp Racers

As longtime fans of Stomp Rockets, we're pretty excited about their latest launch–Stomp Racers. Honestly, the thrill of sending things flying through the air never gets old. Parents and kids alike can spend hours launching these kid-powered cars which take off via a stompable pad and hose.

$19.99

Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

Tiny thrill-seekers will love this kid-powered coaster which will send them (safely) sailing across the backyard or play space. The durable set comes with a high back coaster car and 10.75 feet of track, providing endless opportunities for developing gross motor skills, balance and learning to take turns. The track is made up of three separate pieces which are easy to assemble and take apart for storage (but we don't think it will be put away too often!)

$139

Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Stepping Stones

Stepping-stones

Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Sand play set

B. toys Wagon & Beach Playset - Wavy-Wagon Red

For the littlest ones, it's easy to keep it simple. Take their sand box toys and use them in the bath! This 12-piece set includes a variety of scoops, molds and sifters that can all be stored in sweet little wagon.

$17.95

Sensory play set

kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$19.95

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Foam pogo stick

Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

$16.99

Dumptruck 

green-toys-dump-truck

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

$22

Hopper ball

Hopper ball

Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

$14.99

Pull-along ducks

janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$16.99

Rocking chair seesaw

Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

$79.99

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$79.99

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$24.75

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

Even 5 hours of screen time per day is OK for school-aged kids, says new study

Researchers found screen time contributes to stronger peer relationships and had no effect on depression and anxiety. So maybe it isn't as bad as we thought?

MoMo Productions/Getty Images

If you've internalized some parental guilt about your own child's screen time usage, you're not alone. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to significant amounts of screen time in children leads to an increased risk of depression and behavioral issues, poor sleep and obesity, among other outcomes. Knowing all this can mean you're swallowing a big gulp of guilt every time you unlock the iPad or turn on the TV for your kiddo.

But is screen time really that bad? New research says maybe not. A study published in September 2021 of 12,000 9- and 10-year-olds found that even when school-aged kids spend up to 5 hours per day on screens (watching TV, texting or playing video games), it doesn't appear to be that harmful to their mental health.

Researchers found no association between screen usage and depression or anxiety in children at this age.

In fact, kids who had more access to screen time tended to have more friends and stronger peer relationships, most likely thanks to the social nature of video gaming, social media and texting.


The correlations between screen time and children's health

But those big social benefits come with a caveat. The researchers also noted that kids who used screens more frequently were in fact more likely to have attention problems, impacted sleep, poorer academic performance and were more likely to show aggressive behavior.

Without a randomized controlled trial, it's hard to nail down these effects as being caused directly by screens. The study's authors analyzed data from a nationwide study known as the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD Study), the largest long-term study of brain development and children's health in the country. They relied on self-reported levels of screen time from both children and adults (it's funny to note that those reported numbers differed slightly depending on who was asked… ).

It's important to remember that these outcomes are just correlations—not causations. "We can't say screen time causes the symptoms; instead, maybe more aggressive children are given screen devices as an attempt to distract them and calm their behavior," says Katie Paulich, lead author of the study and a PhD student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Also worth noting is that a child's socioeconomic status has a 2.5-times-bigger impact on behavior than screens.

Weighing the benefits with the risks will be up to you as the parent, who knows your child best. And because we live in a digital world, screens are here to stay, meaning parents often have little choice in the matter. It's impossible to say whether recreational screen time is fully "good" or "bad" for kids. It's maybe both.

"When looking at the strength of the correlations, we see only very modest associations," says Paulich. "That is, any association between screen time and the various outcomes, whether good or bad, is so small it's unlikely to be important at a clinical level." It's all just part of the overall picture.

A novel look at screen time in adolescents

The researchers cite a lack of studies examining the relationship between screen time and health outcomes in this specific early-adolescence age group, which is one of the reasons why this study is so groundbreaking. The findings don't apply to younger children—or older adolescents, who may be starting to go through puberty.

Screen time guidelines do exist for toddlers up to older kids, but up to 1.5 hours per day seems unattainable for many young adolescents, who often have their own smartphones and laptops, or at least regular access to one.

Of course, more research is needed, but that's where this study can be helpful. The ABCD study will follow the 12,000 participants for another 10 years, following up with annual check-ins. It'll be interesting to see how the findings change over time: Will depression and anxiety as a result of screen time be more prevalent as kids age? We'll have to wait and see.

The bottom line? Parents should still be the gatekeepers of their child's screen time in terms of access and age-appropriateness, but, "our early research suggests lengthy time on screen is not likely to yield dire consequences," says Paulich.

Children's health

Mom and gorilla bond over their babies at the zoo: ‘It was so beautiful’

The new mothers shared a special moment at a Boston zoo.

Franklin Park Zoo/YouTube

Motherhood knows no bounds.

When Kiki the gorilla spotted a new mom and baby visiting her habitat at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, she immediately took a liking to the pair. Emmelina Austin held her five-week-old son Canyon to the glass so Kiki could get a better look.

The gorilla spent nearly five minutes happily pointing and staring at baby Canyon.


Emmelina's husband captured the sweet moment on his phone, in a video that's now gone viral.

Mother shares unique maternal bond with gorilla (FULL VIDEO) www.youtube.com

Why was Kiki so interested in her tiny visitor? Possibly because Kiki's a new mom herself. Her fifth baby, Pablo, was born in October.

Near the end of the video, Kiki scooped up Pablo and held him close. The new moms held their baby boys to the glass and shared a special moment together: just a couple of mothers, showing off their little ones.

"When I walked into the zoo that day, I never could've imagined that we would have had that experience," Austin told ABC News. "It was so beautiful, and we walked out just over the moon."

We can't get enough of the sweet exchange. There's something special about sharing your little one with the world. Mothers of all ages, races–and it turns out, species–understand.

Our favorite viral mama + kid videos