If you're trying to conceive and have a baby, you've probably heard a lot about nutrition and fertility. Dietary supplements can serve as a secondary source of necessary nutrients for anyone, but the best way to make sure your body gets what it needs is through the foods you eat. If you're going to take supplements and you want to get pregnant, some nutrients are essential and others may or may not be helpful. Virtually no individual nutrient has been definitively linked to the benefit of boosting fertility levels, but there are a few that have researchers curious.
According to the American Dietetic Association, antioxidants can help prevent and repair cell damage, so they may have an impact on the quality of your egg or sperm cells. Vitamins C and E and selenium, a trace mineral, are examples of antioxidants which you can readily find in many foods. Supplementing with some nutrients, though, should be done with care. Fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamins A, D, E, and K, can build up in your system and cause serious medical conditions in you or your unborn baby, so you want to check with your health care practitioner or a registered dietitian about the safest amounts to take.
Coenzyme Q10, sometimes also called ubiquinone or CoQ10, is a fat-soluble antioxidant made by the human body. It helps your cells' mitochondria make energy, and its levels are known to decrease as a person ages. Researchers from Italy concluded that oral CoQ10 supplements increased the amount of the substance in semen and improved sperm cell movement.
Women and men may benefit from adding more of the mineral zinc to their diet. In a mouse study published in 2010, zinc was found to be key to the egg cell's final development. And the American Dietetic Association says that zinc deficiency -- along with not enough vitamin C -- in men can cause sperm cells to move too poorly to result in conception.
The amino acid called L-Carnitine, or simply carnitine, is produce by your body with the purpose of helping turn fat into usable energy. The University of Maryland Medical Center says that sperm cells are one of the locations where your body stores carnitine and that low levels of the amino acid may negatively impact sperm count and mobility.
Necessary, But Not For Fertility
Folic acid, also called folate, is a B vitamin that can be deficient in even a typical American diet. Low levels of folate have been linked to birth defects like spina bifida, so you'll find the nutrient in any prenatal vitamin. Studies also lead experts to recommend that women begin taking 400 mcg of folic acid daily before they conceive and then throughout pregnancy for the optimally protective benefit.
Compound Supplements for Women
If you're a woman who's trying to conceive, you want to consider the health of your hoped-for embryo and fetus, as well as yourself. The safest and most reliable multi-vitamin and mineral supplement you can take is a prenatal vitamin. They contain nutrient levels that consistently test as both optimal and not harmful. Several products are on the market that combine nutritional supplements with herbs to promote fertility. The goal of these fertility-focused supplements is helping you achieve and maintain a hormonal balance that backs up the reproductive process.
Compound Supplements for Men
As with the women's version, the special fertility compounds for men also provide a simplified way of taking vitamins and herbs in one supplement. Rather than focusing on hormone balance, the male formulas aim at sperm health, combining vitamins, minerals, other nutrients and herbs that are believed to enhance the shape, movement, and even count of your sperm cells.
Research is ongoing to determine more connections between dietary supplements and fertility, but one thing that is known is you can take too much of a good thing. The American Dietetic Association, Shady Grove Fertility's Dr. Eric Levens, and the Mayo Clinic, among others, recommend you use caution when supplementing your diet. Be sure to read the label and any documented evidence of a product's safety and efficacy before trying it -- especially if you're a woman trying to get pregnant, because not enough is known about potential risks to your unborn baby. Also, men and women who are going through fertility treatment should notify their health care specialists about any supplements in their diet. Even the makers of fertility compounds avoid recommending their products to female patients who are using certain types of medications.
- "Fertility & Sterility"; Coenzyme Q10 treatment in infertile men with idiopathic asthenozoospermia: a placebo-controlled, double-blind randomized trial; G Balercia, et al.; May 2009
- Futurity: What's zinc got to do with fertility?
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Carnitine (L-carnitine)
- FertilAid: FertilAid for Men Clinical Study
- FertilAid: FertilAid for Women Supplement Facts