Health and Fertility
Nutrition is an important part of health and fertility. Your body uses vitamins and minerals to help keep your body working properly. They are important for ovulation and menstruation, thyroid function, immune system function, energy production, and sperm and egg development. A lack of certain nutrients can lead to risks of infertility, disorders during pregnancy, and birth defects.
Folic acid converts to folate in the body, which plays a role in general sexual health. While there isn’t a lot of research on its impacts on fertility, folate helps in the DNA creation and replication process. This DNA process is important for egg or sperm cell development, which means folate is an important nutrient for fertility.
Folic acid is also a critical vitamin in early pregnancy, as it protects against spine and brain defects in babies. If you’re planning to have a baby, you should take 400 mcg of folic acid every day before you get pregnant and every day after you get pregnant for at least the first 12 weeks. You might need to take a higher dose if you:
- Have diabetes
- Take HIV medications
- Take anti-seizure medications
- Have a neural tube defect
Zinc is an essential mineral needed for normal sperm growth, male sexual health, and the prostate gland. But the research is mixed on zinc supplements.
Some studies say that not enough zinc leads to poor sperm quality and count, but other studies show that taking zinc supplements didn't improve sperm.
There's not a lot of research on zinc and female fertility, but some research shows that low zinc levels are linked to taking a longer time to conceive.
Zinc plays a role in so many processes, it's important to get the recommended amount daily. Men should take 11 grams daily and women should take 8 grams daily.
Selenium is another important mineral for immune function, thyroid function, and protection against oxidative stress. It is also important for making and using testosterone and for sperm quality and function.
Low selenium levels are linked to male infertility. Men should get 55 micrograms daily and women should get 55 micrograms daily and 60 micrograms daily while pregnant.
B12 is an essential vitamin for red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis. Low B12 levels can cause certain types of anemia, birth defects, and infertility. Some studies report that more than half of women with infertility have low B12.
Supplementing with B12 might help during fertility treatments. Women who have higher blood levels of B12 while having assisted fertility treatments also have higher rates of pregnancy and healthy births. The daily recommended intake for B12 during pregnancy is 2.6 micrograms.
Vitamin D is an important vitamin for immune function, healthy teeth and bones, cell growth, and lowering inflammation. The role of vitamin D in fertility is not fully clear, but in women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome, low vitamin D can lead to poor ovary stimulation and infertility. You should get at least 600 international units of vitamin D every day.
Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, a protein that helps carry oxygen from your lungs into your body's tissues. It's important for overall growth, brain growth, and basic cell function.
Not enough iron can cause ovulatory infertility, which happens when you can't conceive because of an ovulation disorder. Studies show that women who took iron supplements had lower rates of ovulatory infertility than those who didn't. Women with heavy periods tend to have lower levels of iron due to blood loss, so supplementation can help restore iron levels.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects against free radicals. Your body makes free radicals as part of its normal processes, but too many free radicals can cause inflammation and damage to DNA. Vitamin C and other antioxidants neutralize free radicals and limit their damage. Studies show that women with endometriosis have lower vitamin C levels than women without infertility. Supplementing with vitamin C might help with infertility, but more research is needed.
Prenatal Vitamins and Fertility
Eating a healthy diet will give you most of the vitamins you need. There are times, though, when you might not be getting everything you need. The birth control pill, for example, causes lower vitamin levels and you might need to take a multivitamin to replenish your body as you prepare for pregnancy.
It's also generally recommended to take a prenatal vitamin if you plan to get pregnant. It should have:
Some vitamins can interact with your medications and certain diseases, and taking too much of some vitamins like iron can also cause health problems. Make sure to talk to your doctor about your health and what is right for you.