As you probably know by now, the journey to conception is a whole-body event. While your ovaries and fallopian tubes are responsible for a lot of the work, so much more goes into getting pregnant. It’s imperative that your entire body is functioning at its highest potential. In order to do this, you may need to change your supplements at different stages while TTC, and then again throughout your pregnancy.
“30% of people don’t eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and the way that we lead our lives in the 21st century doesn’t help. If you’re stressed, eating processed food, eating on the run, and/or drinking alcohol, you’re depleting your body of vital nutrients… And our bodies might not be able to absorb all the nutrients from the good foods we do eat — this may be due to an imbalanced gut or stress. Therefore, supplements can help fill the gaps in everyday diets that might be impacting your fertility,” says nutritionist Rebecca Traylen.
Now let’s take a look at different supplements that are recommended for the various stages of your path to parenthood (and beyond).
Pre-Conception Supplements for Women and Men
Doctors always advise women to take prenatal vitamins when starting their conception journeys, but men are 50% of the fertility equation, too. Ensuring both you and your male partner have the optimum amount of nutrients is one way you can help improve both egg and sperm health.
“Nutrition lays the foundations for healthy eggs and sperm and that, in a real sense, your baby is what you both eat,” says Traylen. “The maturing egg, sperm, endometrium (womb lining), and fetus depend upon nutrients for development. If the diet contains too many environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals — like trans-fats, refined sugars, or excess additives — or is depleted of nutrients, then research shows an individual’s fertility can be significantly affected. Everyone should consider supplemental support, even if they have just decided to start trying.”
If you're wondering where to begin, as a basis both men and women should be taking a quality multivitamin containing a broad range of multivitamins, such as Vitamins D, C, E, and B, as well as the recommended daily intake of Folate (the active form of folic acid).
“Both partners should also take Omega-3, an essential fatty acid that lines all of the cells in our body including the egg cell,” advises Traylen. “DHA and EPA, plus a small amount of zinc, [can] help protect both partners’ DNA from oxidative damage during preconception. It is also important for women to enter pregnancy with sufficient levels of omega-3, as the fetus is completely reliant on the mothers' stores.”
Both men and women should also be taking a Vitamin D booster because it plays a critical role in reproductive health. This is particularly important to take during winter months when sunlight and dietary sources for Vitamin D are low.
In The Thick of It
For some people, pre-conception is a short stage in their journey. For others, it can take quite some time, and each couple’s timeline is different. If conception is taking longer than you’d like but you haven’t yet tried long enough to have a full fertility screening, you can try looking at your lifestyle to see if and where there are places to make healthy changes.
“Supplements can also help in this case, particularly antioxidants, CoQ10 in the form of Ubiquinol, Myo-inositol, and probiotics to support the vaginal microbiome,” explains Traylen. While CoQ10 is a popular fertility supplement for both women and men, it’s important to note that the form Ubiquinol is more absorbable than conventional CoQ10.
If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, or have irregular or absent periods signaling ovulation dysfunction, supplements can also help manage those symptoms.
“Those with PCOS have lower levels of myoinositol, which can impact their menstrual cycle and egg maturation. Supplementing with Inositol & Folate can help support symptoms of PCOS and egg maturation,” says Traylen.
Multivitamins for IVF and IUI
Let’s say things have taken longer than you had hoped, your doctor advises you to undergo a full fertility screening, and it turns out that going through IVF or IUI will be your best chance at conception. If this is the case, don’t forego your supplements!
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In order for women and men to be as prepared for the IVF and IUI processes, they should feed their bodies with essential multivitamins, minerals, essential fats, friendly bacteria, CoQ10, myoinositol, and Vitamin D. Zita West makes it easy by providing male and female Ultimate IVF packs — Female IVF Support Pack and Male IVF Support Pack — that contain these critical nutrients and may help optimize your success rates.
If you've made it to the embryo transfer stage, supplements can even help ensure that your endometrial lining is prepped and ready for implantation, which can be improved through nutrients such as Vitamin E, Selenium, and Manganese. CoQ10 has also been shown to help increase endometrial thickness, as well as a higher fiber intake, which is linked with improved implantation rates.
Vitamins to Take During Pregnancy
Once you are pregnant, you're no longer just nourishing your own body with vitamins and nutrients, but your baby’s as well. Maintaining the proper levels of nutrients throughout your pregnancy can be challenging, especially if you are suffering from nausea or other unwanted symptoms. However, taking supplements that cater to your and your growing baby’s needs is essential.
Getting Started With Supplements
Even if you're maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet while TTC, chances are good that you're not getting the levels of vitamins and nutrients needed for optimal fertility. From pre-conception and male fertility to IUI and IVF, Zita West provides research and evidence for why certain supplements are optimal for specific points on your journey and offer convenient packs every step of the way. Use the code RSTD10 to get 10% off your first order, and as always, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider first.
Brighid Flynn is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia where she lives with her husband and puppy. She is just beginning her journey toward motherhood.