Whether you’re trying to conceive or are starting to think about it, chances are you’ve gone down the Google rabbit hole and found loads of overwhelming info. Though there’s lots to know about planning for pregnancy, it’s helpful to focus on the basics to start: make a few lifestyle changes, learn the basics of ovulation and timing if you’re trying via intercourse, and get your prenatal vitamin routine in check.
While a healthy diet can provide many helpful nutrients, getting therapeutic doses of certain antioxidants and nutrients can enhance egg quality and keep your hormones running smoothly. It’s ideal to start taking a daily prenatal three months before you start trying in order to build up enough nutrients in your system and to impact eggs, which take about 90 days to mature. Not sure what to take? Read on for the best prenatal supplements to support your fertility.
One of the first things any doctor will recommend is getting your daily recommended amount of Folic Acid (400 to 1,000 mcg), which can also be found in the bioavailable form of 5-methyltetrahydrafolate (5-MTHF). These are both forms of Folate, which is used to make our DNA and assist cell division—an essential process for a developing embryo. Folates are also necessary to prevent defects during neural tube formation. This is critical for baby’s early brain and nervous system development.
Known as the “sunshine” vitamin, Vitamin D is actually much more than a nutrient. It acts as a hormone with receptors located in almost every tissue in the body. You might know it for its role in preventing seasonal affective disorder (A.K.A. the “winter blues”) and for supporting bone health, but this vitamin-hormone plays a special role in fertility, too.
Vitamin D assists with the development of ovarian follicles (that’s where eggs live before you ovulate) and may improve thickening of the uterine lining. Research has actually seen a seasonal change in pregnancy rates that correspond to when Vitamin D levels are the highest. And studies have found that having concentrations greater than 75 nmol/L led to more positive pregnancy tests and live births. To reach adequate levels, guidelines recommend supplementing with 800 to 1000 IU daily while trying to conceive and during pregnancy. Maternal Vitamin D status will also support baby’s bone development, so it’s important to keep levels optimized.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s, including EPA and DHA, have anti-inflammatory actions in our body, but they are also used to make our sex hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and progesterone. These essential nutrients cannot be made naturally by the body so they have to come from a supplement or the diet. Foods rich in Omega-3s include fatty fish like sardines, anchovies, mackerel and salmon, but it can be hard for some people to get these in the diet on a regular basis. It’s recommended to get at least 200 mg of DHA while trying to conceive and during pregnancy, and supplementation is a great way to hit that target.
In patients undergoing IVF, having higher concentrations of Omega-3 Fatty Acids has been associated with a greater chance of pregnancy and live birth. And we need those essential fatty acids during pregnancy, too: They’re used for baby’s brain and nervous system development, as well as for cell-to-cell communication and gene regulation.
Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant and a key molecule in the pathway that pumps out cellular energy. Known as a “mitochondrial support” supplement, it helps ensure that your eggs are packed with enough energy to help the embryo survive and thrive after it’s been fertilized.
Our natural levels of CoQ10 decline around when we hit 30, so this supplement is key if you’re over that age or have lower ovarian reserve. Common and safe doses range from 100 to 600 mg per day. (P.S. Have a partner with sperm? CoQ10’s antioxidant actions can improve sperm concentration and health as well.)
N-Acetyl Cystine (NAC)
NAC is a potent antioxidant that also promotes detoxification. It can protect eggs (and sperm!) from oxidative damage (havoc caused by environmental stressors and more). Meanwhile, its effects can also increase the quality of cervical mucus during the fertile window. This is important as cervical mucus helps the movement of sperm as they journey up towards the egg. It also helps maintain a proper environment for sperm survival. Daily doses that have been used in fertility studies range from 600 to 1,800 mg.
This hormone does more than just keep you in a deep sleep cycle. Melatonin has major antioxidant effects and is found in the ovaries as a way of protecting your eggs. Its multiple actions include regulating the production of key hormones such as LH and FSH, overall improving egg development. Researchers have seen positive outcomes in IVF studies as well: Compared to no Melatonin treatment, those who supplemented with 3 mg before bed in an IVF cycle had a greater amount of high quality embryos, and increased pregnancy rates of 19.6% versus 10.2%.
With its anti-inflammatory and DNA-protecting effects, Melatonin supplementation may be well-suited for those trying to conceive in their thirties and beyond to enhance egg quality. And while you can already find bioavailable forms and optimal doses of Folate, Vitamin D, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, CoQ10, NAC and more in Bird&Be prenatal vitamins, soon, you’ll be able to add Melatonin to your personalized formula, too.
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