If you’ve decided to start thinking about planning for a family soon, you’ve probably wondered if you should be taking any supplements? Most women have heard that it’s a good idea to take a folic acid supplement before pregnancy, but they often don’t know why, or what else might actually be relevant. Let’s break it down by delving into Doctor of Chinese Medicine who is well respected for her success working with male and female patients struggling with infertility and author of the ebook Holistic Fertility, Kim Gatenby‘s top 4 supplements and how they can help you conceive a healthy child.
The folic acid in a prenatal multivitamin helps to prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida in your baby. With adequate folic acid (folate is the natural version) in your system in the months leading up to conception, you will have a reduced chance of a neural tube defect occurring. That’s a pretty good reason to supplement! Folate is also readily available in foods such as green leafy vegetables, but the idea behind a supplement is to fill the nutritional gaps when your diet may not be its best. A prenatal multivitamin is also likely to contain other relevant vitamins and minerals such as iron and iodine, which are also critical nutrients in pregnancy that the body needs more of than usual.
2. Fish Oil
Fish oil supplements have numerous positive benefits before conception and during pregnancy such as reducing inflammation and helping to regulate hormones. When your body is in an inflammatory state from poor diet or stress, fertility is often reduced. A diet high in omega 3 essential fatty acids, as found in fish, has also been linked with a reduced risk of endometriosis; while taking fish oil supplements was found to reduce period pain in women who already had endometriosis. If you’re not consuming oily fish like salmon and sardines on a regular basis, a high quality fish oil supplement can fill this nutritional gap.
3. Coenzyme Q10
Now we get to one of my favourite supplements, and one you might be less likely to have heard about before. Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant that our body naturally produces. You’re probably wondering why you need to take it in supplement form if we already make it internally? As we age, we naturally produce less Coenzyme Q10. As an antioxidant, Coenzyme Q10 is useful in fertility because it can help reduce free radicals (they damage our cells and age us), which supports the health of our eggs in women and sperm in men. Think of it like an anti-ageing treatment for your eggs! With more Coenzyme Q10 available to your cells, the mitochondria (energy powerhouse) of your cells function at a higher level, which could help make your little embryo a strong one. This is particularly useful for older mothers, and I also recommend it to the male partners of my fertility patients.
4. Alpha Lipoic Acid
Our last supplement is also one most people haven’t heard of before. Alpha lipoic acid has some similarities to Coenzyme Q10, but also has it’s own unique functions. It’s also an antioxidant, but it’s a special type that can replenish other antioxidants. Bonus! The reason I’ve included it in this list of useful supplements is for the many women who have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). This syndrome can lead to infertility and irregular menstrual cycles. Alpha lipoic acid has been shown to increase the number of menstrual cycles in women with PCOS, as well as reducing insulin sensitivity and improving ovulation rates. Because it’s such a specialised supplement, it’s worth discussing with your doctor whether it’s the right choice for your body.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about my top 4 nutritional supplements for a healthy conception. When starting any new health regimen it’s best to discuss the changes with your doctor to ensure you’re taking the correct supplements for your condition. Hopefully now you will be armed with knowledge to ask the right questions of your healthcare providers. Best of luck with your fertility journey and stay tuned for part two of my fertility special here on Rescu about Lifestyle Changes To Consider.