In a perfect world, every woman would take a daily multivitamin. We won't fault you if this healthy habit has slipped your mind in the past, but if you're trying to conceive, now's the time to get on the bandwagon for good. Besides, when you see all the baby-making benefits that a few supplements provide, you'll think of them as candy for your insides.
Below is a rundown all the good stuff you should be sourcing from a combination of a multivitamin with folic acid and omega-3 supplements or a comprehensive prenatal vitamin. Happily, you needn't break the bank to get everything your body deserves. "I always recommend generic vitamins to my patients," says Jani Jensen, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and assistant professor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "Expensive vitamins make outrageous promises but they won't result in smarter babies or a better chance of conception."
A proper multivitamin will include the majority of vitamins and minerals that follow. If yours is lacking, we've also listed some great natural food sources that are part of a healthy diet. But before you go overboard on one vitamin or mineral, consult your doc. "Don't automatically start taking additional supplements until you know you're deficient," cautions Sarah Krieger, RD, a nutritionist based in St. Petersburg, Florida, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For example, iron deficiency is usually more common in Hispanic and African American population but women with those backgrounds may already get enough from their diets. "Get blood work done first and talk to your physician or a nutritionist about the best sources for your situation." And don't forget to start your partner on a regimen too. He could see a potent boost in sperm health and motility from a single multivitamin!
What it does: This crucial phytonutrient helps regulate your hormones, possibly preventing early miscarriage once you're pregnant.
Where to find it: Carrots, cantaloupe, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, and kale
What they do: The entire group of B vitamins is thought to aid your ovaries in releasing an egg around ovulation. B6 in particular also increases levels of progesterone, which is necessary to maintain your pregnancy once you conceive.
Where to find them: Chickpeas, whole grains, leafy greens, meat, and eggs
What it does: This group of enzymes primarily digests protein in the body but it's also thought to assist implantation of a fertilized egg. That's why it's especially important to have sufficient intake right after ovulation.
Where to find it: Only in pineapples (great excuse to indulge with a pi?a colada mocktail, no?)
What it does: This immunity-boosting vitamin promotes iron absorption and progesterone production. For women who have luteal phase defect, an issue characterized by insufficient progesterone, increased C appears to promote fertility. In guys, it helps improve sperm health and motility.
Where to find it: Citrus, mangoes, tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, peas, and potatoes
What it does: A water-soluble nutrient that's great for brain health in the baby and mom, choline has also been shown to reduce birth defects.
Where to find it: Egg yolks and cauliflower
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
What it does: Already known to promote heart health, this natural enzyme could be a future superstar supplement for fertility, based on preliminary research. Egg and sperm quality has improved dramatically in animal testing, so much so that it may actually reverse some of the signs of age-related reproductive decline.
Where to find it: Fish; organ meats such as heart, and kidneys; and wheat germ
What it does: Vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, is vital for proper production of sex hormones. Research has shown that infertile women generally tend to have lower vitamin D levels; one study at Yale University School of Medicine found that almost 40 recent of women with ovulatory dysfunction had levels that were actually low enough to be clinically deficient. It also reduces inflammation in the body, improving your overall fertility.
Where to find it: Fortified dairy products, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, cod liver oil, and exposure to the sun (for as little as10 to 15 minutes per day can be helpful)
What it does: Experts believe that good E levels are important because the vitamin is found in the fluid around your developing eggs. (Deficiencies in rats have also been linked to poor fertility.) When taken by guys, vitamin E also helps boost sperm health. It also has powerful has antioxidant properties for both genders.
Where to find it: Avocados, wheat germ oil, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts such as almonds and peanuts, and seeds.
What it does: Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, which is actually a group b-vitamins known as B9. It's a critical supplement for women who want to get pregnant because folic acid helps the baby's neural tube close properly. That happens as early as two or three weeks after conception, when some women may not even know they're expecting. The reason a synthetic supplement is recommended is that few Americans get enough of folate in their diet. Hence, it's important for all women of reproductive age who may become pregnant to take a supplement of at least 400 mcg (micrograms) daily. Taking a multivitamin that contains folic acid is also correlated with less ovulation-related infertility. It's great for your guy as well, as it helps him produce healthier sperm. One study at the University of California Berkeley found that men with highest levels of folic acid in their diet had a greater than 20 percent reduction in the number of abnormal sperm compared with guys who had lower intake levels.
Where to find it: Beans, orange juice, leafy greens, and fortified cereals.
What it does: Because of its physical tolls on the body, pregnancy commonly makes women anemic. Low levels prior to conception, however, may actually contribute to lack of ovulation. But if you have a high iron intake going into the babymaking process, you're more likely to sidestep both ovulatory issues and pregnancy-related anemia. Women who take iron supplements report less instances of infertility; check with your doctor before adding an additional supplement on top of a multivitamin.
Where to find it: Meat, eggs, fish, beans, tomatoes, beets, broccoli, spinach, pumpkin, and whole-grain cereals
Omega-3 fatty acids
What they do does: Essential because we cannot produce them naturally in our body, these nutrients help ovarian follicles release eggs, increase blood flow to the uterus, and balance out your hormones. Preliminary studies show that they may also assist with fetal brain development and IQ. Not all vitamins include omega-3s so you may want to invest in an additional supplement.
Where to find them: Flax seeds, flaxseed oil, salmon, mackerel, cod, sardines, anchovies, herring, walnuts, and eggs from chickens that are fed omega-3s
What it does: Great for aiding sperm motility in guys and estrogen metabolism in ladies, selenium is a powerful detoxifier. It may also help your eggs defend against free radicals that contribute to declining quality of your eggs.
Where to find it: Brazil nuts, leafy greens, whole grains, and fish
What it does: Zinc is a must-have for guys because it helps improve sperm motility and boosts the general quality of sperm. It's equally important for female reproductive health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked low levels of zinc to early miscarriage.
Where to find it: Oysters, fish, meat, eggs, poultry, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds
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