Once baby is on the way, a well-known world of dietary changes and prenatal vitamins await you. But what about when we are trying to conceive? Are fertility supplements cleverly marketed placebos, or helpful remedies containing nutrients vital to conceiving and supporting a healthy pregnancy? 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 almost 9 million google hits in under half a second. One website sings the praises of a certain herb where dozens of women swear it cured their infertility, while the next site declares there aren't any studies or a smidge of scientific evidence that suggests that same herb is worth your precious time or money. What's a woman, or couple, to do with all of this contradictory information?
I am 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 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 you'll want to check in with your provider before adding any supplements or vitamins to your diet, especially if you're trying to conceive. They may be dangerous if you take other medications, or have certain conditions. If you get the green light, here's what to look for when choosing a fertility supplement and prenatal vitamin:
1. Folic acide + folate
This should have a minimum of 800 mcg of folate, or folic acid. Folic acid helps to prevent spinal tube defects, and it works best when you start taking it before you get pregnant.
This supplement can help your body repair from free radical damage caused by our environment and gives mitochondria, the powerhouse of our cells, a rejuvenating boost (potential anti-aging supplement, anyone?)
4. Vitamin D
I recommend getting your levels 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.
5. A good probiotic
This should be on everyone's list, trying to conceive or otherwise! Many illnesses start in the gut, and an influx of healthy gut flora helps prevent those. 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 thanks us—and this includes the reproductive organs.
6. Fish Oil
Fish oil provides omega-3s, which are a wonderful anti-inflammatory supplement that is also good for baby's brain and eye development. Unless you are eating high quality, low-mercury fish several times a week, you are likely not getting enough omega-3s for ideal preconception.
While not necessary for conception, I recommend considering this supplement if stress is a factor for you. For most people, magnesium helps decrease stress and improve sleep (you can take it right before bed for maximum benefit).
What it the best fertility supplement?
When choosing 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?
Other ways to boost fertility
Beyond fertility supplements, I recommend making sure the basics are taken care of. This is just as important when trying to conceive. For example, focus on making sure you are properly hydrated, getting all of the nutrients you need, and sleeping for at least seven hours each night.
Set aside time in your day to do something you love that gives you a sense of peace, like exercising or meditation. These stress-releasing techniques will help you get into alignment, physically and mentally, with 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!