We asked Lesley Gilchrist, registered midwife and co-founder of My Expert Midwife to give us the low-down on the fertility supplements you need to take when trying to conceive.
Scientific research has found that eating a well-balanced diet, containing all the elements of the food pyramid, is important to maximise reproductive health for men and women. However, even with the healthiest diet, getting enough of the right vitamins and minerals can be very difficult.
Getting yourself and your body into a healthy state before you start trying for a baby not only improves your chances of conceiving but also reduces the risk of complications when pregnant. For men, ensuring the body has the right balance of certain vitamins and minerals can improve their sperm health, motility, and production, as well as their sexual function.
What are the key nutrients needed to support preconception and nutrition (for men and women)?
Lesley said: “Knowing which nutrients you need to support pre-conception and pregnancy can help support you on your journey to trying to conceive, but our survey of 2,000 new parents showed that only 54 percent of new mums recognised folate as key for a healthy pregnancy and just 27 percent of new dads surveyed knew that zinc can support male fertility. Furthermore, 29 percent of men surveyed admitted that they weren’t sure what nutrients were needed to support healthy sperm or fertility.”
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There are many nutrients that men and women need for general health but, when seeking to promote fertility and, in women, support a healthy pregnancy, eating a balanced diet and taking a supplement that contains these essential vitamins and minerals becomes paramount.
Fertility supplements for women:
- Folic Acid (Folate) – supports the development of the brain, spine and neural tube in your unborn baby. Folate is also beneficial beyond 12 weeks as it contributes to maternal tissue growth during pregnancy. There is some scientific research that suggests that some women have difficulty in metabolising folic acid, and suggests that its natural form, folate – through diet or supplementation – may be better for absorption.
- Vitamin D – is essential for appropriate bone mineralization and growth. It works with calcium to help the development of the baby’s bones and teeth. It also promotes healthy skin and eyesight.
- B group vitamins – contributes to the regulation of hormonal activity, normal energy-yielding metabolism and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. Vitamin B12 has a role in the process of cell division and normal red blood cell formation
- Iron – iron is used to make a substance called haemoglobin, which transports oxygen to organs and body tissues. During pregnancy, women require additional iron—approximately double the amount that a non-pregnant woman needs
- Calcium – is used to build healthy bones and teeth
- Vitamin C – contributes to the normal function of the immune system and the protection of cells from oxidative stress
- Zinc – contributes to fertility and reproduction, normal DNA synthesis, the maintenance of normal skin, and has a role in cell division
- Iodine – The thyroid gland uses iodine to produce hormones that support the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system before birth.
Fertility supplements for men:
- Zinc – is crucial for normal fertility and reproduction in men: it plays an important role in sperm production and health, helps maintain normal testosterone levels in the blood, and helps improve male libido and erectile function and has a role in cell division
- Selenium – is a vital mineral for normal testicular function. It contributes to normal spermatogenesis (production of sperm), and normal sperm morphology and motility
- Co-Enzyme Q10 – helps to improve the quality of semen – particularly, sperm concentration and motility.
- Siberian Ginseng – helps to reduce stress, increase energy levels and boost the immune system, and may help increase sperm count
- Vitamin D – has a role in the process of cell division and production of healthy sperm
- Vitamin C – contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and to normal energy yielding metabolism
- Vitamin B12 – contributes to the normal function of the immune system
Do fertility supplements really work?
The simple answer is yes. Through multiple clinical trials, research, and scientific advances we now know that when the human body has good levels of essential micronutrients it increases the chances of conceiving. Investing in a good fertility supplement and taking control over your pre-conceptual health and reproductive well-being means that you have a statistically better chance of conceiving in a shorter amount of time and of the pregnancy progressing well.
How else can I prepare my body to support pre-conception?
The well-known basics for both men and women of giving up smoking, reducing alcohol intake, maintaining a healthy exercise regime, keeping their BMI within healthy limits and having a healthy well-balanced diet are even more pertinent when preparing to get pregnant. If you are concerned about a particular aspect of your health or well-being, take any long-term medication or have an underlying condition, it is a good idea to visit your GP, consultant or midwife to discuss how this might impact conception or pregnancy.
Lesley explained: “Ensuring that you have the nutrition your body needs is one of the first steps to take when you decide to try for a baby. We have a good understanding of the nutritional elements that we know help make healthy sperm and of the right conditions to increase the chances of a pregnancy, and taking a good quality supplement that contains all these elements means that you know you are giving your body all it needs. Supplements are never a replacement of a healthy diet but rather complement to a healthy lifestyle.”
Nutritional needs in pregnancy
Getting the right nutrition is important to support your growing baby and to support you, both physical and mentally. Contrary to the old saying ‘you need to eat for two’, you in fact only need (on average) about an extra 250-300 kcals per day throughout pregnancy. Rather than increasing the amount you eat- it is about eating the right elements consistently.
Lesley said: “A good place to start is to increase the colour and variety of foods. Taking a high-quality pregnancy supplement ensures that, alongside your balanced diet, you are safe in the knowledge that you are getting the right amount of the essential nutrients. Taking the recommended amount may reduce your risk of many pregnancy-related complications and lay the groundwork for your baby’s health and well-being into the future.”
Lesley continued: “The best way to get optimal nutrition when trying for a baby, or when pregnant is to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet whilst taking a quality supplement. We know it can be really challenging to get all the nutrients we need, so we have combined expertise from midwives, a dietitian and a fetal medicine and obstetrics consultant to create supplements for men and women which provide the essential vitamins and minerals that are needed to support conception and promote a healthy pregnancy, using bioavailable ingredients, and including no unnecessary fillers or mega-doses.”
My Expert Midwife pre-conception supplement for Men
These essential vitamins and minerals for men’s preconception have been expertly developed by midwives and a dietitian.
The natural, plant-based and vegan formula is evidence-based and provides support to optimise male fertility and reproduction, and to safeguard nutrition when trying to conceive. It contains seven essential vitamins and minerals including the recommended levels of zinc and selenium, plus Co Enzyme Q10 and ginseng.
My Expert Midwife pre-conception & pregnancy supplement for women
Our pre-conception pregnancy supplements have been expertly developed by midwives, a dietitian and a Fetal Medicine and Obstetrics Consultant.
The natural, plant-based and vegan formula is evidence-based and helps to safeguard women’s nutrition. It contains 400ug of folic acid in the form of folate as recommended by the UK Department for Health for all women trying to conceive and throughout pregnancy. Natural folate is more bioavailable and therefore can be easier for the body to absorb than synthetic folic acid. It also contains 10ug of Vitamin D, as recommended by the UK Department for Health for all pregnant women, Iron, Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12 & C, Iodine, Zinc and Calcium for overall nutritional support from when you start trying for your baby and throughout your pregnancy.
For more information on the best fertility supplements, pre-conception nutrition for men and women, and nutrition for a healthy pregnancy, please visit https://myexpertmidwife.com/pages/supplements
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