Supplements and medication
Which supplements do you really need to take to aid fertility?
The supplements you need to conceive
Whilst it’s best for you to get all the vitamins and minerals you need from the food you eat, even the healthiest of female diets sometimes need an extra boost of the vitamins, minerals, supplements and medication you need to conceive and carry a baby. Medical experts recommend that all pregnant women, and women trying to conceive, take between 400 and 800 mcg of folic acid a day. This vital B vitamin does occur naturally in certain foods (such as leafy green vegetables) but all fertility consultants will recommend taking it as a supplement to ensure you get enough of it, regardless of what else you are eating.
Why is folic acid important?
Folic acid helps your body to create new healthy cells and can reduce the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida when taken before and during pregnancy. Folic acid can also help your heart stay strong, whether you are pregnant or not.
Other important vitamins for female fertility
Concentrated vitamin A in liver products is bad for women trying to conceive. But when the body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, it acts as a natural antioxidant.
What foods contain Vitamin A?
- Red peppers
Vitamin D helps our body to absorb calcium and phosphate from the foods we eat. These important minerals are needed to keep bones and teeth healthy. We get most of our vitamin D from just a few minutes of daily exposure to sunlight, and it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone.
What foods contain Vitamin D?
- Oily fish
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Fortified fat spreads
Vitamin B6 is important for the development and maintenance of a healthy immune system and consequently protects against cancer as well as infection. It can help to prevent damage to chromosomes which is obviously crucial at the point of conception. Many women use vitamin B6 for the relief of premenstrual syndrome and irregular periods with some success and it also plays a critical role in fertility.
What foods contain Vitamin B6?
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, so your body is unable to store extensive amounts and must therefore get a regular supply from your diet. This can be difficult for some people, either because they absorb vitamin B12 poorly or because their diet is B12 deficient, especially in the case of vegans.
What foods contain Vitamin B12?
Folic acid is a must-have supplement for all women who are trying to conceive or are already pregnant. An essential B vitamin, folic acid is absolutely crucial for a healthy pregnancy, but it is also one of the vitamins in which we are most commonly deficient. Your body needs folic acid to produce DNA. Folic acid can help to protect an unborn baby from developing spina bifida.
What foods contain folic acid?
- Green vegetables
Selenium is used to make natural antioxidants that help protect your body from free radical damage – very important in the process of cell division. With its protective effect, selenium can prevent chromosome breakage which is known to cause birth defects and miscarriages. A selenium deficiency in women has been linked to a higher risk of miscarriage.
What foods contain Selenium?
- Most wholewheat foods
- Brazil nuts
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that should be an important part of your diet whether you are trying to conceive or not. This key antioxidant is good for your general health and research has shown that extra vitamin C taken by women undergoing IVF treatment may increase the pregnancy rate.
What foods contain Vitamin C?
- Most fruit and vegetables. Citrus fruits are particularly rich in vitamin C.
Omega 3 and 6
Essential fatty acids are important for overall health and regulating hormone production. They are fine in moderation during pregnancy, though cod liver oil should be avoided because of its high concentration of vitamin A.
What foods contain Omega 3 and 6?
- Sunflower oil
- Oily fish (no more than two portions per week)
Medications that damage female fertility
Ibuprofen and aspirin
Taking anti-inflammatory medications regularly will affect your body’s ability to conceive.
The highly concentrated drugs used in chemotherapy can affect your ovaries and cause permanent damage to them.
Medications used to treat psychosis can interrupt your menstruation cycle and cause missed periods.
St John’s Wort
Although technically a herbal remedy, natural mood enhancer St John’s Wort can cause problems for women trying to conceive.
Fat-burning supplements are largely unregulated and affect the body’s natural hormone balance and metabolism.