When a pregnant woman shares the good news with her doctor, most likely she will leave the office with a prescription for prenatal vitamins. It’s common knowledge that the right nutrition is key to proper fetal development. And the best way to ensure there are no gaps in nutritional intake is through vitamin supplements.
But most doctors agree that taking the right vitamins before conception can have far reaching effects on the ultimate health of the fetus, as well as promote ideal fertility and reproductive health.
The number one nutrient on every list for pre-conception is Folic Acid. Folic acid has been shown to reduce a woman’s chances of having a baby with neural tube defects by up to 70%. Of all the babies born each year in the U.S. with a neural tube defect, about half the cases are attributed to inadequate folic acid intake by the mother. Since neural tube defects develop 18 to 30 days after conception — often before you even know you’re pregnant — taking folic acid is important before conception and throughout your pregnancy.
Folic acid also has fertility benefits for men and has been shown to increase the quality and amount of sperm. A recent study from Harvard Medical School involving 18,000 women indicates that taking multi-vitamins, particularly ones containing folic acid, can improve chances for pregnancy by promoting ovulation. Some foods also contain folic acid such as leafy, dark green vegetables, dried beans, peas, most berries, whole grains, and certain fortified cereals. But since this nutrient is so crucial to fetal health, a supplement containing a minimum of 400mg is recommended as soon as a woman begins trying to conceive.
Some of the other vitamins that can impact fertility functioning for pre-conception are:
• Vitamin C
Vitamin C is easy to obtain through certain foods but can also be found in many supplements. One study published in Fertility and Sterility in 2003 showed that a moderate amount of supplemental Vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility in women with Luteal Phase Defect, an ovulation disorder that can lead to early miscarriage.
It turns out that Vitamin D, the well-regarded “sunshine vitamin”, is needed to help the body create the sex hormones which regulate ovulation and hormonal balance. Yale University School of Medicine conducted a study of 67 infertile women and discovered that a mere 7% had normal Vitamin D levels. (The same study also found a link between sufficient Vitamin D and the quality of men’s sperm.)
• Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 has been shown to improve sperm quality and production. It also may help boost the endometrium lining in egg fertilization, decreasing the chances of miscarriage. Some studies have found that a deficiency of B12 may increase the chances of irregular ovulation and, in severe cases, stop ovulation altogether. Food sources include: liver, fish, lobster, beef, lamb, cheese and eggs.
Sufficient iron stores are key for a woman on the road to pregnancy. Anemia is not uncommon and detrimental to both fertility and a healthy pregnancy. Most women do not require a supplement, however, and can maintain good iron levels by eating a diet that includes a combination of animal based (heme) and non-animal based iron. Lean meats, shrimp, salmon, eggs, peanut butter, raisins, figs, and beans are just a few good sources.
There are an overwhelming number of vitamin options available today with the majority containing a long list of nutrients intended to support a woman throughout her entire pregnancy. They range from traditional tablets and capsules, to chewable and liquid options in a variety of flavors.
While opinions differ among experts on which prenatal vitamin formula is best for preconception, all seem to agree that women trying to become pregnant should choose a high-quality supplement that includes folic acid. And it should be taken in conjunction with a healthy diet.
Women trying to conceive don’t have to choose traditional vitamins made for the entire pregnancy ride. PregPrep has developed an innovative, streamlined prenatal just for preconception. It melts on the tongue and is part of its Make That Baby Kit. All the products in the kit are designed to deliver essential, comprehensive support for fertility and help maximize a woman’s chances for pregnancy.