Ever wonder if there’s something you should be getting more of now that you’re trying to get pregnant? Well, there's actually a few things. According to Natalie Burger, MD, a fertility specialist at Texas Fertility Center, good nutrition can help you get pregnant and prep your body for baby. Here are the vitamins you should take:
Newsflash: You and your partner should be getting plenty of zinc. Zinc contributes to ovulation and fertility in women and also semen and testosterone production in men, according to the American Pregnancy Association. “It has been noted that zinc deficiency can correlate with impaired sperm production,” says Burger. The Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health recommends that men receive a daily intake of 11 mg of zinc and women take 8 mg. Oysters have more zinc per serving than any other food, but if the thought of those slimy shells don't appeal to you, you can also consume other zinc-rich foods like whole grains, crab and lobster, beans and dairy products.
This one is a must-have. The American Pregnancy Association recommends that all women of childbearing age consume about 400 micrograms of folic acid a day. Folic acid is a B-complex vitamin that is used by the body to create red blood cells. This vitamin makes extra blood for your body during pregnancy and it decreases the possibility of a neural tube defect (a problem in baby’s spinal cord). Folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin, while folate is the naturally occurring form; both are okay to use. Since baby’s neural tube develops in the first few weeks of pregnancy, it’s important to be prepared. “Both zinc and folate are important in the synthesis of DNA and RNA,” says Burger. “Zinc and folate supplementation may benefit some male infertility cases.” You can get your daily intake of folic acid from citrus fruits, whole grains and leafy greens.
If you’re already taking a multivitamin, you’re in good shape. If you’re not, start taking one now. “In a large study following over 18,000 women who were trying to get pregnant, researchers found a correlation between taking a multivitamin supplement and having a lower chance of ovulation problems,” says Burger.
Studies show that taking supplements of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) may help with both female and male infertility. “Preliminary animal data has suggested that the addition of CoQ10 may improve egg quality in ‘old’ mice,” says Burger. “The correlating human study is ongoing.” There is also evidence that CoQ10 can increase sperm count. According to the Mayo Clinic, CoQ10 is produced by the body and is necessary for the basic functioning of cells. For adults, the recommended daily dosage is 30 - 200 mg in divided doses throughout the day.
Omega 3 Free Fatty Acid
Take this essential fatty acid found in fish oil or certain plant or nut oils if you’re undergoing IVF treatments. Your body can’t make omega 3 fatty acid; you have to get it through food. “Increased omega 3 free fatty acid intake has been associated with improved embryo quality in an IVF study done in the Netherlands,” says Burger.
Start increasing the amount of iron in your diet now if you are not getting enough. Women’s recommended iron intake is 18 mg a day, but pregnant women need around 27 mg daily. Iron is used to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells. If your body doesn’t have enough iron, your body’s tissues and organs won’t get the oxygen they need to function properly. You can normally get this amount in your multivitamin, but you can also find iron in foods like red meat, tofu and dark leafy green vegetables.
Nutrition experts recommend that women looking to get pregnant should consume around 1,000 mg a day, because when you do become pregnant your growing baby will need calcium. Actually, it’s also recommended that all adults between ages 19 and 50 consume that amount of calcium in order to form strong bones and prevent osteoporosis. That’s a crazy amount — even for a multivitamin! You can take a separate calcium supplement or take an over-the-counter prenatal formula. Working calcium into your diet isn’t a bad idea either: Drink lots of milk and eat leafy greens.
Take this vitamin now to head off nasty pregnancy symptoms after you conceive. Research suggests that women who consumed at least 10 mg of vitamin B6 before they conceived reported less morning sickness than those who didn’t.
Pass these to your partner
In addition to zinc and CoQ10, guys who are trying to conceive can also take the following vitamins to boost their fertility:
Taking these supplements like vitamin C and vitamin E may help with fertility. “In a small Spanish study comparing fertile and infertile men, a low intake of antioxidant nutrients was associated with poor semen quality,” says Burger. You can take these vitamins in pill form or consume foods like oranges and strawberries (for vitamin C) and almonds and sunflower seeds (for vitamin E).
“It’s a substance that serves as an energy source for sperm and it plays an important role in sperm maturation and metabolism,” says Burger. “The addition of L-carnitine may enhance sperm motility in some male factor infertility cases.” You can get L-carnitine in supplement form.
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