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The 7 Best Fertility Nutrients & Foods When Trying to Get Pregnant

 

I’ve been buried in preconception research this past couple of weeks for my workshop, Nourishing Your Fertility. I’m in one of my favourite places when I can do a 360º immersion on a topic, cross-pollinate, distil, alchemise old with new, take research findings and transpose them into practical, actionable steps. I particularly love those moments when it all really comes down to a handful of robust strategies that cover the most amount of bases.

If you and your partner were to do just 3 things to make it much easier for you to become pregnant and reduce the risk of miscarriage and birth defects,  they would be:

  1. Adopt the Mediterranean Diet as your nourishment system of choice.
  2. Take a GOOD QUALITY prenatal multivitamin that includes sufficient iodine, zinc, selenium, methyl folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.
  3. Learn how to identify your fertile window via your cervical fluid.

Nutrition has a significant influence when it comes to reproduction. Three main categories are useful to understand:

Essential Nutrients for Fertility

Essential Nutrients for Fertility

Let’s take a closer look at the role each of these nutrients plays…

7 Essential Nutrients for Fertility

Folate

Folate plays an essential role in DNA synthesis.  Quick biology lesson! DNA is genetic material found in every single cell in our bodies. It is our unique recipe book of information that tells the body how to function. We inherit half from our mum and a half from our dad. The process of growing a baby involves a lot of cells multiplying and growing! For all those cells to be healthy and developed proper DNA synthesis needs to occur.  If this step is not completed, it can lead to complications including neural tube defects (also called spina bifida), cleft lip and learning disabilities in baby. For Mumma, it can be a risk factor for preeclampsia and miscarriage.  In short, it is a very, very important nutrient! 500 – 1000mcg of folate is recommended.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 plays a very similar role to folate. It is essential for proper DNA synthesis and early development of baby. If you’re an omnivore and eat animal products daily, it’s unlikely you have a B12 deficiency. However, if you’re a vegan or vegetarian and have not been supplementing, this is a prevalent deficiency.

If you have any health conditions that impair your ability to absorb nutrients such as celiacs disease, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, you’re more prone to being deficient in vitamin B12. So this is a vital nutrient to be tested before you begin trying to conceive! Testing will guide you on proper supplementation. A quality prenatal should contain 1000 mcg methylcobalamin.

Zinc

Zinc is involved in all areas of fertility. It’s essential for the production of eggs and sperm, hormonal synthesis, as well as early development in a growing baby. I always suggest taking a good quality prenatal for both men and women that has 15 mg of zinc glycinate or more.

Iron

If you have a history of anemia, if you don’t eat much meat, or you’re prone to heavy periods, it is essential to get your iron tested. Having your iron levels replete before trying for a baby is essential, as it is tough to build stores up during pregnancy. Iron deficiency anaemia is a widespread cause of postnatal fatigue, that is avoidable through diet and nutrients.  Most prenatal supplements won’t contain enough iron to recorrect a deficiency – so take it separately as Iron glycinate. Consult a healthcare practitioner for an individualised dosing strategy.

 

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Iodine

Another common deficiency in the west! It’s estimated that 30% of women in the Western world have a mild to moderate iodine deficiency. Iodine is essential for ovulation and is one of the most common preventable factors of mental retardation in babies. Having a urinary iodine test as part of your preconception screen is something I always request in my clinical practice.

A good quality prenatal will typically have 150mcg, which is a standard dose. If you’re deficient, you will need additional iodine. Work with a practitioner with training in nutrition to determine this dose.

Vitamin D

Happily, vitamin D is typically a part of preconception screens these days, as it’s well understood now to be essential for both a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Vitamin D is necessary for ovulation, immune system development in utero for baby, as well as protecting your own bones. Throughout pregnancy, minerals are prioritised to the growing baby, if you have any history of osteoporosis or osteomalacia, you’ll need to take extra care. Look for a good quality prenatal that will have at least 1000IU a day. If you have low vitamin D, you may need to supplement higher.

Selenium

Selenium essential for hormone synthesis, maturation of eggs and sperm, as well as nervous system development in baby. This is not often talked about mineral in the mainstream, but it needs to be as it plays such an important role! Eating 2–3 Brazil nuts a day will give you a nice daily dose of selenium and look for a prenatal that contains 150 micrograms.

 

Selecting a Prenatal Multivitamin

Alongside a lovely, nourishing diet, taking a good quality prenatal multivitamin ensures that you’ve got all these nutritional bases covered. I recommend getting your iron, iodine and vitamin D tested as part of your preconception prescreen tests to guide your dosing of these nutrients.

Not all prenatal supplements are made equal. You want to look out for is a company that uses nutrients in their most bioavailable form, in therapeutic amounts. If you’d like to know my recommendations for good prenatal multivitamin + a step by step preconception plan, download the pregnancy prep checklist.

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References & Resources:

Chavarro, J. E., Rich-Edwards, J. W., Rosner, B. A., & Willett, W. C. (2006). Iron Intake and Risk of Ovulatory Infertility. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 108(5), 1145–1152. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.AOG.0000238333.37423.ab

Chavarro, J. E., Rich-Edwards, J. W., Rosner, B. A., & Willett, W. C. (2007). Diet and Lifestyle in the Prevention of Ovulatory Disorder Infertility. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 110(5), 1050–1058. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.AOG.0000287293.25465.e1

Chen, H., Yang, X., & Lu, M. (2016). Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene polymorphisms and recurrent pregnancy loss in China: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 293(2), 283–290. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404–015–3894–8

Gardiner, P. M., Nelson, L., Shellhaas, C. S., Dunlop, A. L., Long, R., Andrist, S., & Jack, B. W. (2008). The clinical content of preconception care: Nutrition and dietary supplements. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 199(6, Supplement B), S345–S356. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2008.10.049

Gaskins, A. J., Mumford, S. L., Chavarro, J. E., Zhang, C.,
Pollack, A. Z., Wactawski-Wende, J., Perkins, N. J., & Schisterman, E. F. (2012). The Impact of Dietary Folate Intake on Reproductive Function in Premenopausal Women: A Prospective Cohort Study. PLoS ONE, 7(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0046276

Puri, M., Kaur, L., Walia, G. K., Mukhopadhhyay, R., Sachdeva, M. P., Trivedi, S. S., Ghosh, P. K., & Saraswathy, K. N. (2013). MTHFR C677T polymorphism, folate, vitamin B12 and homocysteine in recurrent pregnancy losses: A case control study among north Indian women. Journal of Perinatal Medicine, 41(5), 549–554. https://doi.org/10.1515/jpm–2012–0252

Salas-Huetos, A., Bulló, M., & Salas-Salvadó, J. (2017). Dietary patterns, foods and nutrients in male fertility parameters and fecundability: A systematic review of observational studies. Human Reproduction Update, 23(4), 371–389. https://doi.org/10.1093/humupd/dmx006

Schmid, T. E., Eskenazi, B., Marchetti, F., Young, S., Weldon, R. H., Baumgartner, A., Anderson, D., & Wyrobek, A. J. (2012). Micronutrients intake is associated with improved sperm DNA quality in older men. Fertility and Sterility, 98(5), 1130–1137.e1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2012.07.1126

Sharma, R., Biedenharn, K. R., Fedor, J. M., & Agarwal, A. (2013). Lifestyle factors and reproductive health: Taking control of your fertility. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 11(1), 66. https://doi.org/10.1186/1477–7827–11–66

Tersigni, C., Castellani, R., de Waure, C., Fattorossi, A., De Spirito, M., Gasbarrini, A., Scambia, G., & Di Simone, N. (2014). Celiac disease and reproductive disorders: Meta-analysis of epidemiologic associations and potential pathogenic mechanisms. Human Reproduction Update, 20(4), 582–593. https://doi.org/10.1093/humupd/dmu007

Vujkovic, M., de Vries, J. H., Lindemans, J., Macklon, N. S., van der Spek, P. J., Steegers, E. A. P., & Steegers-Theunissen, R. P. M. (2010). The preconception Mediterranean dietary pattern in couples undergoing in vitro fertilization/intracytoplasmic sperm injection treatment increases the chance of pregnancy. Fertility and Sterility, 94(6), 2096–2101. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2009.12.079

Yang, Y., Luo, Y., Yuan, J., Tang, Y., Xiong, L., Xu, M., Rao, X., & Liu, H. (2016). Association between maternal, fetal and paternal MTHFR gene C677T and A1298C polymorphisms and risk of recurrent pregnancy loss: A comprehensive evaluation. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 293(6), 1197–1211. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404–015–3944–2

Zhu, X., Liu, Z., Zhang, M., Gong, R., Xu, Y., & Wang, B. (2016). Association of the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene C677T polymorphism with the risk of male infertility: A meta-analysis. Renal Failure, 38(2), 185–193. https://doi.org/10.3109/0886022X.2015.1111086

Zimmermann, M. B. (2009). Iodine deficiency in pregnancy and the effects of maternal iodine supplementation on the offspring: A review. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(2), 668S–672S. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2008.26811C

The 7 Best Fertility Nutrients & Foods When Trying to Get Pregnant by Clara Bailey, Naturopath and Herbalist 3

Fertility & Conception

June 9, 2021

  1. […] and vitamin D (1000IU–2000IU). If you’re planning to conceive in the next 6–12 months, this blog will guide you on more specifics. And if you’re pregnant, you may like to take a look at this piece I […]

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