Vitamins play a key role in any diet, but they are especially important for women and men who are trying to conceive.
Vitamins help to regulate the hormones in your body, and they can also help to improve the quality of your eggs or sperm quality.
Some studies have even shown that certain vitamins or minerals can even help to increase the chance of conceiving and helping your overall reproductive health.
In this article, we will discuss the importance of vitamins and minerals for the fertility of both men and women, and we will also recommend some specific ones you need to consider taking if you and your partner are trying to get pregnant.
What are micronutrients?
Micronutrients are essential nutrients that are required in small amounts by your body for proper growth, development, and function.
These nutrients include vitamins and minerals, and they are vital for many different processes in your body. While macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are needed in large quantities to maintain energy levels and support bodily functions, micronutrients are only needed in small amounts but they can be just as essential for good health.
A lack of micronutrients can lead to serious health problems for your baby, including birth defects, mental problems, and blindness although there are numerous others too.
Micronutrient deficiencies are especially common in developing countries, where diets may be lacking in essential nutrients.
In developed countries, deficiencies are more likely to occur if you have a poor diet or certain health conditions that make it difficult to absorb nutrients from food.
You can usually get the micronutrients you need by eating a varied and balanced, healthy diet. However, you still may need to take supplements to ensure that you are getting enough of these essential nutrients.
What are vitamins?
Vitamins are organic compounds that your body needs in small amounts to function properly.
There are 13 essential vitamins, and these can be divided into two groups: water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins.
Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in your body and need to be consumed daily.
These include all of the B vitamins and vitamin C. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your body's fatty tissue and do not need to be consumed as frequently and include vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K.
Although your diet will most likely suffice for your nutrient needs, you may require supplements which is especially true if you have certain health conditions or have trouble absorbing nutrients from food.
Vitamin deficiencies can lead to a number of health problems, including anemia, bone problems, and even death.
Minerals are inorganic compounds that are required by your body for proper growth, development, and function.
There are two types of minerals: macrominerals and trace minerals. Macrominerals are needed in larger amounts and include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur.
Trace minerals are needed in smaller amounts and include iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, selenium, molybdenum, and fluoride.
Like vitamins, your diet will likely provide you with the minerals you need but certain health conditions or poor diets may necessitate the use of supplements.
Minerals differ from vitamins in that they are derived from inorganic materials like water and soil while vitamins are derived from organic materials such as plants and animals.
How do vitamins and minerals play a role in fertility?
Both vitamins and minerals play a vital role in supporting fertility for both men and women.
For example, zinc is necessary for the production of sperm, while selenium is important for eggs to mature properly.
Folic acid is critical for preventing birth defects, and iron helps ensure that there is enough oxygen in the blood for a developing baby.
While a balanced diet is the best way to get the nutrients you need, you may need additional vitamins or minerals to ensure you are as healthy as possible for conceiving a child.
What are the best vitamins to take for fertility?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question as the best vitamins and minerals for fertility will vary depending on your specific needs.
However, some of the most important nutrients for fertility include:
Zinc is a mineral that is necessary for sperm production and in your body it also aids in cell division, boosting your immune system health, metabolism function, and wound healing.
It is found in animal products such as meat, poultry, and seafood, as well as in beans, nuts, and whole grains.
Selenium is a mineral that is important for eggs to mature properly and for maintaining a healthy reproductive system. In particular, it is known to help the ovarian follicles which develop and release the eggs.
It may also help with preventing a luteal phase defect which is when your ovaries do not release enough of the hormone progesterone which helps the uterine lining strengthen in between menstrual cycles.
There was a study published in 2017 that showed selenium helped with overall sperm health including sperm morphology (shape of sperm cells), motility (movement), viability (how many were able to conceive with an egg), and an increased sperm count. It can be found in tuna, halibut, sardines, Brazil nuts, ham, and shrimp.
One of the most frequently taken prenatal supplements for women for a healthy pregnancy is folic acid which is also known as vitamin B9.
Your folic acid intake is important for the development of the neural tube and can help to prevent neural tube defects (birth defects) of the brain and spine such as spina bifida.
Folic acid is also beneficial for the fertility of men as it helps with the health of sperm. Notably, folic acid is the synthetic form of folates, which are vitamin B9 and folic acid can only be synthetically derived for vitamins or supplements.
If you have the MTHFR mutation, you may not be able to absorb either folates or folic acid properly which can increase your risk of pregnancy complications, miscarriage, and neural tube birth defects.
Folates are found in foods such as leafy greens, broccoli, chickpeas, and asparagus while folic acid is often found in prenatal vitamins.
Iron is a mineral that helps to carry oxygen in your blood and is critical for a developing baby.
A lack of iron can lead to anemia which is when there are not enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. Symptoms of anemia can include fatigue, shortness of breath, and dizziness.
A lack of iron can impact both male fertility and female fertility. Natural sources of fiber include lentils, spinach, and fortified cereals.
Vitamin C is an important vitamin for both men and women when it comes to fertility.
It helps with the absorption of iron in your body and also is known as an antioxidant which can help to protect cells from damage by neutralizing the effects of free radical damage.
Free radicals are molecules that are made during cell metabolism that can cause cellular damage and affect other parts of your body like your DNA, lipids, and proteins, and also increase your risk for disease and cancer.
Vitamin C is found in most citrus fruits, berries, and peppers.
The primary vitamin D intake method is through healthy exposure to sunlight which means using suntan lotion and not overexposing yourself until you burn.
Vitamin D is a vitamin that helps with calcium absorption in your body and is important for bones, muscles, healthy hormones, and immune function. It is also necessary for egg and sperm production.
A vitamin D deficiency can impact female fertility by impacting ovulation and lower vitamin D levels have also been linked to a higher risk of endometriosis which is when uterine tissue grows outside of your uterus.
Unfortunately, low levels of vitamin D are common but there are vitamin D supplements available to provide it if you have a deficiency.
The antioxidant coenzyme Q10, more commonly referred to as CoQ10, is important for both male and female fertility. In women, it helps to protect your eggs from damage, produce more eggs, and also thickens your uterine lining.
There was one study that showed when taken with Clomid, which is also called clomiphene citrate and is a fertility drug, CoQ10 helped to improve the fertility rates in women who suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
CoQ10 levels have been found to also help with sperm motility if you have high levels of CoQ10 in your semen. It can be found naturally in some foods such as organ meats, oily fish, and whole grains.
Acetyl L-carnitine is the synthetic version of the amino acid L-carnitine which is an antioxidant.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are essential for many bodily functions as L-carnitine helps with energy production in the mitochondria which are the powerhouses of cells that produce energy.
It also has antioxidant properties that can help to protect cells from damage from free radicals.
Acetyl L-carnitine has been found to lessen the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis and helps with sperm function by increasing sperm motility and vitality.
The most common food sources for acetyl L-carnitine are beef, chicken, milk, and cheese.
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that is part of the B-vitamin family and is important for many bodily functions. It helps with the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, as well as red blood cell production.
Vitamin B6 has also been found to help with fertility in women as it can lower the homocysteine levels in your blood which have been shown in some studies as one of the risk factors for infertility.
If you are a man, vitamin B6 is often in fertility supplements although there is no link between vitamin B6 and male fertility.
You can find this vitamin in such sources as fish, starchy vegetables, and non-citrus fruits.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fat that is considered to be good for your health and are often consumed via fish oil capsules.
They are often found in such foods as oily fish, nuts, plant oils, and seeds.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also antioxidants and have been linked with a number of health benefits such as a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and cognitive decline although more research is needed.
Their effectiveness for both male fertility and female fertility is uncertain as previous studies have been met with mixed results and larger sample sizes are needed to draw firm conclusions.
There are a few vitamins and nutrients that have been linked with fertility in both women and men.
While more research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of some of them, consuming these via food sources or vitamin supplements may improve your fertility health.
These micronutrients may help with fertility by impacting ovulation, improving egg quality, and also increasing uterine lining thickness among other benefits for women while they may also improve the overall quality of sperm for men.
If you are thinking about starting a new dietary supplement to improve your fertility or have any more questions regarding beneficial fertility supplements, please talk to your doctor or health care provider who may refer you to a fertility specialist.
References and sources:
American Pregnancy Association
Bridget Reed is a Tampa-based content development manager, writer, and editor at GR0; specializing in content related to varying fields including medicine, health, and small businesses. Bridget went to St. Petersburg College and majored in Management and Organizational Leadership.
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