Pregnancy Journey

What vitamins should you take when trying to conceive? Prenatal vitamins to take to boost fertility.

When trying to get pregnant there are so many factors you can’t control, like your genetics, age or menstrual cycle. However, making sure you get the right nutrition is something you can control. Getting the right amount of vitamins could help you conceive and will help you have a healthy pregnancy.

It’s pretty hard to make sure you get all the recommended daily doses of vitamins and minerals even if you have a really healthy diet. Most doctors will recommend taking a prenatal vitamin before you get pregnant for a couple of reasons:

  • First, having the correct balances of some vitamins can help you get pregnant.
  • and second, some vitamins are essential to healthy development in your baby’s first few weeks (weeks 1 – 4).

Therefore, as you don’t know when you’ll fall pregnant and most pregnancy tests are only accurate after 4 weeks, it makes sense to make sure you’re getting the essentials whilst trying to conceive so your baby has everything it needs in those early days.

So how much of each vitamin do you need when you’re trying to conceive?

I’ll go over the important vitamins for conception and baby’s early development below and the recommended daily amounts for each. And I’ve created a handy printout (see below) for you to use when choosing your prenatal vitamins.

Vitamins that help you conceive

Acetyl L-carnitine (ALC) can help if you suffer from PCOS, men can also take this supplement to increase sperm motility. Doses vary from 6002,500mg per day.

B vitamins (other than folic acid) could increase both egg and sperm quality, making successful conception more likely. But more research is needed to back up these claims. Vitamin B12 deficiency however has been shown to cause infertility and increase miscarriage. Either way, B vitamins play an important role in your health so you might as well make sure you’re getting enough. You need 2.5μg of B12 a day.

Vitamin C This one is important for men; it increases sperm quality due to its antioxidant properties as well as increasing sperm count and mobility. No more lazy sperm! Ask your bloke to consider taking 90mg a day, women should take 75mg a day.

Selenium Research has shown that selenium helps to create healthy follicles in the ovaries, these develop and release eggs. So, selenium might help increase your fertility by increasing your egg quality. Selenium is also an antioxidant which can protect against birth defects and miscarriage caused by DNA damage. You want to aim for 55μg a day.

Omega-3 This isn’t a vitamin, it’s a fatty acid that gets transformed into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a molecule that’s important for baby’s brain development. For women, early studies have shown that taking omega 3 /DHA long term can prolong reproductive lifespan (stave off the menopause). For men, Omega-3 is found in sperm and can increase viability and motility, which could help you get pregnant. The most common source of omega-3 is fatty fish. However, there are some concerns over fish containing pollutants such as mercury (very harmful for a baby), other sources of omega-3 include walnuts and flax seeds.

Folic Acid Studies have shown that folic acid increases the chance you ovulate (produce eggs) each month so may help you get pregnant. See below for more information on how folic acid is vital for your developing baby. Take at least 400μg a day.

Do they even work?

The supplements I have mentioned above have been studies and linked to increased fertility. There may be more vitamins or supplements you can take to increase fertility, but be warned ‘fertility-boosting’ drugs, drinks, and oils often come with a large price tag and their ingredients are not always backed by science to prove that they work!

For more ways that you can prepare your body for pregnancy check out this post.

Other Vitamins you should take preconception and in the early stages of pregnancy

Ovulation usually occurs in the second week after your period, this is when you can get pregnant. 2 weeks later when you miss a period you might suspect you are pregnant, but most pregnancy tests won’t be accurate at this stage. A lot of pregnancy tests become more accurate 2 weeks later, by this stage you’re 4 weeks pregnant.

A lot happens in those 4 weeks in baby’s development, their nerve cells and skull start to form and if you don’t have enough of certain vitamins in your body things can start to go wrong with baby’s development before you even know you’re pregnant.

That’s why taking a prenatal vitamin that contains the essentials is so important when trying for a baby. ⬇️ Look for supplements that contain:

Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption it also aids in the development of bones and muscles. Low levels of vitamin D in pregnancy can lead to increased risk of premature birth, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Your levels of vitamin D whilst pregnant may also affect your baby in their later life. Some studies have shown a high risk of type 1 diabetes in babies of women with low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy. The recommended dose varies, but it is suggested you get at least 10μg a day.

Calcium We all know that calcium promotes strong bones. So, it’s pretty obvious that we need to make sure we have enough calcium in our bodies when baby is developing their skeleton. Early skeletal development occurs by the time the foetus is 7 weeks, but proper bone development doesn’t happen until after this stage. So, preconception vitamins might not contain calcium, but prenatal vitamins often contain around 120mg. The recommended daily intake is 1000mg but remember, you can easily get calcium from your food by eating dairy products and eggs (some veg contains calcium but in smaller amounts).

Iron You need 27mg of iron a day when pregnant as it is used to create red blood cells and move oxygen around your body (and baby’s). You need to ensure you’re getting enough iron in the 2nd and third trimester mostly when baby is doing a lot of growing. But not having enough Iron in the early stages and even before pregnancy can lead to tiredness and feelings of exhaustion. You’re likely to feel tired anyway in the first 12 weeks as making a human is hard work, but make sure that your exhaustion is not due to an iron deficiency. Your doctor can do a simple finger prick blood test if you’re worried.

Folate / Folic acid

This one is ESSENTIAL to take before pregnancy as it prevents birth defects. It has also been shown to increase the chances of getting pregnant!

Folate is the name given to a B vitamin (Vit B9) that occurs naturally in foods. There are different varieties such as L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate these are considered ‘bioactive’ or in a form that is ready to be taken up by the body. Folic acid is also a form of B9 but it’s a synthetic form that is used in vitamins and sometimes foods like bread are fortified with it. We use Folic acid in this way instead of Folate because folic acid is more heat stable, this means we can put it in supplements etc. without it breaking apart during the process.

Folic acid has been well studied and we know that women who have sufficient folic acid in their bodies often conceive faster. We also know that folic acid helps prevent birth defects such as Spinal Bifida.

However, recent studies have shown that if you have a mutation in a certain gene (MTHFR) you cannot transform folic acid into its useful form for the body (methyl folate) as easily as other people do, this can lead to a B9 deficiency which is obviously bad for baby and you. Because of this, a lot of supplement providers have started putting the ‘active’ form of folate into supplements, you’ll normally see this on the bottle as ‘L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate’. But the problem with this is there have not been as many studies on these types of supplements. We don’t know if taking a supplement with L-5-methylfolate instead of folic acid can prevent birth defects. So, you may want to consider this when choosing a supplement.

There are ways to get the natural form of folate though! Many foods contain folates such as eggs, kale, broccoli, fortified breakfast cereals, peas, avocados and asparagus.  You need 400-600μg a day!

A word of warning about Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for the maintenance of your eyes and night vision as well as baby’s eye, organ and skeletal development. It’s really important that you have enough vitamin A in your diet right from the beginning of pregnancy as your baby’s bones and organs are developing. But excess vitamin A is something you MUST avoid; studies have shown that consuming more than 10,000 IU (3000 μg) of vitamin A per day can cause severe birth defects and increase the chance of miscarriage.

The measurements on vitamin bottles can be confusing, they often use a blend of micrograms (mg) and international units (IU). Internationals units are a standard for measuring biological substances like vitamins, the value in micrograms which we’re more used to seeing is different depending on what substance you’re measuring! So, unfortunately, a bit of maths is sometimes involved when trying to figure out just how much is in a product.

1 UI of vitamin A = 0.3 μg

So, for Vitamin A the recommended max of 10,000IU means you should have no more than 3000 μg per day!

Some prenatal vitamins do contain vitamin A, so be careful you don’t overdo it.

To make things super easy for you I’ve created this print out for you to keep handy when you’re looking for prenatal vitamins to take before and after conception.

If you’re interested in what prenatal vitamins I chose – I went for ‘Seven Seas Prenatal Vitamins Trying to Conceive’. Seven seas do a 3-stage range of prenatal vitamins for the different stages of pregnancy (trying to conceive, pregnancy, and follow on for breastfeeding) and each contains a slightly different blend of vitamins and different amounts of each. ➡️

Get them here.

If you’re unsure what prenatal vitamins to pick, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

You can follow my pregnancy journey on YouTube here.

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