What supplements or vitamins should I take to increase fertility? Learn about the best natural remedies to help women conceive with their partners.
Supplements and Vitamins to Increase Fertility
Do we really need to begin planning fertility a year ahead of time? Isn’t three months enough? What are the best supplements to take? How about prenatals? These are all valid questions. We will go through the top fertility supplements for you, baby, and partner, alongside optimizing genetics for your baby. One of the many gifts of helping you navigate infertility or conceiving naturally is that many natural fertility protocols increase the chance of you having the healthiest baby possible and being the healthiest parent possible. With these choice points and pauses, you have a chance to heal the planet through gifting the world with your healthy baby.
Preconception + Planning
What do I mean by creating the healthiest baby possible? Our genes are not static, they change with lifestyle, stress, and environment. And we have many genetic variations with SNPs (I’ll spare you what that stands for;) and mutations. The best lifestyle modifications for having a healthy baby include healthy physical activity, nutrition, stress management, smoking cessation, and screening genetics early. One genetic test that doesn’t share your information with the government are Ben Lynch’s Test for genetics. It also has great advice on how to heal your genes, especially when paired with the book, Dirty Genes. There are three key periods of genetic imprinting:
- fetal development
So what better time to begin shifting your next generations genes for the better than while planning to have a baby? It turns out that as you begin to prepare the baby room in your body and home, that most of the shifts you make are also contributing to healing the environment. In indigenous societies, women are water keepers. And we as women, develop amniotic fluid that mirrors the oceans salinity and water content. There are many rituals to prepare women to become mothers. As we move into our more fast-paced society, we need to lean into natural medicine and raise our environmental standards of health to maintain fertility. The first step to that is cleaning up your genes so that your baby and their children’s children have a chance to carry the healthiest genes possible from your family.
MTHFR is a common genetic mutation / SNP that can cause your body to have trouble converting inactive B vitamins to active B vitamins. B Vitamins are in charge of every detox pathway, energy production pathway, and cell repair process. There are some simple solutions to choosing your prenatal in case you are a carrier of this gene. Choose prenatals with methylated B vitamins such as Methylfolate, Methylated B12 and choline.
Sperm and eggs have a four month maturation window, in which the genetics will be determined for your baby-to-be. The quality of your baby-to-be is dependent on your nutritional status, environmental exposures, and stress – all of which supplements can help. The following influence epigenetics:
- Folic Acid
- Vitamin B12
- Iron + Zinc
The following list helps repair damaged sperm and eggs and protects them against further oxidative stress.
- Vitamin A, C, E
- Zinc + Selenium
- Omega 3 fatty acids
The following list breaks down the vitamins and reinforces the significance of taking a high quality prenatal or preconception supplement. I recommend taking these for at least four months before trying to conceive, as they are necessary for one of the three core stages of genetic imprinting.
- Vitamin A is a fat soluble antioxidant necessary for egg health, production of both female and male hormones, supports the endometrium, and is known to increase sperm motility, morphology, and protect from oxidative stress.
- You need both retinol and beta carotene, but be sure to not exceed 10k IU a day of retinol (generally around 2.5k IU is recommended)
- Food as medicine: Dark leafy greens, yellow fruits and veggies, eggs, fish, meat
- B Vitamins
- B1, Thiamin is linked to anovulation when deficient
- B2, Riboflavin is crucial for estrogen metabolism
- B3, Niacin blood flow
- B5, Pantothenic Acid is involved in fetal development
- Food as medicine: Sweet potato, salmon, strawberries, legumes
- B6, Pyridoxine is involved in progesterone production and estrogen metabolism. In fact, in human studies, deficiencies have been linked to infertility.
- Especially helpful in women with fluid retention, PMS and is a major remedy for nausea during pregnancy
- PCOS remedy, can lower prolactin
- Testosterone production, promotes zinc absorption
- B9, Folic Acid is essential for DNA + RNA formation and fetal development
- Essential for egg maturation for a healthy ovulation
- Improves sperm health; in one study in which men were given folic acid and zinc, sperm counts increased by 74%
- Increases FSH receptors on ovaries for a healthy ovulation
- B12, Cobalamin is essential for DNA + RNA production and for spinal cord development
- Increases sperm count, mobility, and morphology
- An essential supplement for anyone who is stressed and/or vegetarian
- Vitamin C is essential for hormone formation and ovulation and also protects sperm DNA
- Is a key component in follicular fluid (where your eggs hang out) and of the corpus luteum (empty egg sac that makes progesterone)
- Assistive in Iron absorption
- Vitamin C deficiency is associated with miscarriage, brain tumors in children, and spontaneous membrane ruptures.
- Is an essential nutrient of collagen production, which keeps mom healthy with a growing belly and breast and at the expansion of hips for delivery
- Dosage over 1000 mg daily can acidify cervical mucus
- Favourite form is liposomal Vitamin C
- Vitamin D is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies I see in lab tests.
- Is known to restore ovulation for women with PCOS
- Deficiency of vitamin D is associated with congenital abnormalities and infertility
- Vitamin E is often an overlooked anti-inflammatory antioxidant.
- Supports Estrogen metabolism, which is great for estrogen dominance. If you are curious you can take my(link to quiz) hormone quiz here.
- IVF rates are higher with men who supplement with vitamin E and it is important component of follicular fluid
- Increases sperms ability to penetrate the egg
- Deficiency is linked to azoospermia, spontaneous abortion, and cystic fibrosis
- Best natural form is d-alpha-tocopherol and mixed tocopherols
- Food as medicine: alfalfa, leafy greens, cold pressed oils, eggs, sweet potatoes, avocado
Essential Fatty Acids are one of the ultimate anti-inflammatory supplements you can take. Not all fish oils are created equal. For brain development and or brain fog, I personally love Designs for Health HiPo FIsh Oil, as the DHA:EPA ratio is equivalent at a 1:1 ratio. Fish oil helps all sperm parameters. Increased dietary intake of Omega 3s is linked to improved embryo morphology with IVF/ICSI. One study of 98 women who took 1 gram of omega-3s from day 3 of their prior cycle had a higher fertilization rate and good quality embryos. 238 Infertile Men who supplemented with omega 3s at nearly 2 grams daily demonstrated a significant improvement in motility and morphology of sperm and had an improved sperm density after 32 weeks (8 months) of supplementation.
Choline is one of the top supplements I look for in judging the quality of a prenatal vitamin and preconception supplements, as it is often left out. It is essential for methylation (turning inactive B Vitamins to active), which strongly influences the genes of your baby. Maternal choline levels are crucial for the baby’s hippocampal development which is associated with memory and the nervous system and these effects persist into adulthood.
I have written less on the following minerals, not to undermine the significance of them. Each mineral is essential for fertility and the health of your child and you.
- Zinc, is essential in fertility for both men and women and helping the placenta form properly
- Key nutrient support of iron calcium folate and zinc demonstrated a pregnancy rate increase from 39.3% to 66,7% and a greater increase in clomid assisted cycles.
- Calcium is crucial for healthy labour and delivery and sperm motility.
- Magnesium, one of the most common mineral deficiencies I see in office, is necessary for healthy hormone production and metabolism
- Iron is one of the most common mineral deficiencies I see in cycling women and is essential for DNA + RNA production, and absolutely necessary as your blood volume increases during pregnancy.
- Manganese is not a common mineral deficiency and necessary in hormone metabolism
- Selenium is essential for healthy thyroid hormones, sperm health parameters
- Beware: Can become toxic if dosed over 100 mcg over a long period of time
- Natural source: 3 Brazil nuts a day
The best way to figure out supplementation dosage is to receive a micronutrient test. When working with infertility, this is one of the top tests I order. Remember, if your digestive system is compromised, you are less likely to absorb nutrients. Other factors include genetic mutations and SNPs, toxicity, poor detox mechanisms (liver, kidney, skin, lungs), stress, and more. There are many other nutrients to consider during preconception and pregnancy including CoQ10 which is an essential antioxidant for sperm and egg health, NAC + Glutathione, L-arginine for blood flow, and probiotics for a healthy gut microbiome and uterine microbiome. As we move into more antioxidants, this table can be helpful in navigating preconception and prenatal supplementation.
|Vitamin A (beta-carotene)||5000 – 8000 IU||Vitamin C||1000 mg|
|Vitamin D||2000 IU *test||Calcium||500-800 mg|
|Vitamin E (tocopherols)||100-500 IU||Magnesium (malate, threonate, bisglycinate)||250-400 mg|
|Vitamin B1||1 mg||Iron (bisglycinate with C)||10-15 mg *test ferritin + iron|
|Vitamin B2||1.1 mg||Manganese||2.5 mg|
|Vitamin B5||3.7 mg||Selenium||100 – 200 mcg *not long term|
|Vitamin B6||50-250 mg||Zinc||2.5 g|
|Folic Acid (consider MTHF)||800 – 100 mcg||EFAs||2.5 g|
|Vitamin B12||100 – 500 mcg||Choline||300 – 500 mg|
Antioxidants to consider for (fe)male factor infertility:
- CoQ10 is an antioxidant that is involved in mitochondrial energy production. The sperm is very rich in mitochondria. In a study of 212 infertile men, 300 mg of CoQ10 was dosed for 26 weeks (6 months), and had one of the greatest effects on motility, concentration, and morphology.
- Carnitine and Acetyl-L-Carnitine dosed at 3g a day have a positive effect on sperm health.
- Glutathione + NAC are strong antioxidants that significantly improve metabolization of hormones, detoxification, and sperm and egg health.
Why are detox supplements in your preconception protocol?
The EWG assessed 200 adult volunteers with no known exposures and found an average of 91 harmful chemicals in their blood and urine samples. Similarly, they found an average of 200 industrial compounds in newborns’ cord blood. This included DDT, dieldrin, perfluorochemicals, brominated fire retardants, PCBs, PAHs, dioxins, furans, polychlorinated naphthalenes, and mercury. In similar studies, it was found that vitamin A, folic acid, b12, and genistein were protective from these compounds.
Two of my favourite preconception supplements:
High-quality prenatals such as NEED include all of these vitamins and minerals + antioxidants to help your baby and you be as healthy as possible during pregnancy and beyond. One quality supplement that has well-researched supplements is FH Pro Fertility, but often this supplement needs to be taken in addition to other nutrients, herbs, and lifestyle changes.
FH Pro for Females contains Essential hormone balancing nutrients along with the best-studied nutrients to support preconception needs for egg health. In a Prospective Clinical Trial, Women Taking FH PRO for Women Experienced a Higher Clinical Pregnancy Rate (54.5%) than the Historical Control Group (31.5%). Inositol is an essential nutrient that is in FH Pro that supports insulin, testosterone production, and egg health. FH Pro has a number of antioxidants necessary for egg health and quality, including melatonin.
FH Pro for Males is a comprehensive supplement packed with antioxidants for preconception and sperm health. In a Prospective Clinical Study, 148 Men Took FH PRO for Men for 90 Days Resulting in Statistically Significant Improvements in Sperm Count, Progressive Motility, Normal Morphology, and DNA Fragmentation. Remember the genetic shift you have to pass down to your baby? With DNA fragmentation being reduced by FH-Pro supplementation, your baby has a chance to be as healthy as possible. Three-month supplementation with FH Pro showed a 38% increase in sperm count, 102% increase in progressive motility (they swim straight to the egg), and a 17% decrease in DNA fragmentation. Pair that with lifestyle, fish oil, and a healthy relationship – you have a much better chance at conceiving a healthy baby.
FH Pro is made without herbs, which is great as it reduces the chance that you are taking any harmful herbs if you conceive faster than expected.
NEED is my favourite prenatal at the moment as it is one of the few with a significant amount of choline and is also prepared with the best bioavailable ingredients. It comes in a vanilla flavoured powder or capsule to reduce your capsule load and the powder is not horrible tasting. With both of these, I suggest taking a probiotic and fish oil separately. You can check out my preconception options here.
If you are older and trying to conceive, I highly recommend NrF2 Renew by Allergy Research Group. It contains a unique combination of herbs and nutrients to help boost AMH and sperm health and aid in detoxification. In animal studies, stimulating the NrF2 pathway helps boost fertility in males and females.
Nicotinamide Riboside is a newly researched supplement to help restore fertility in age-related fertility issues, specifically.
You can find a list some of my top recommended supplements here. Of course, always check with a provider who is well-educated in these, as some may interfere with medications or may not be appropriate for you. And individualised care is always preferred.
Stress and Fertility Supplements
Infertility is one of the leading most stressful diagnoses behind cancer. And, stress can wreak havoc on your body and further delay pregnancy. So not fair.
The literature behind excess cortisol released from adrenals and fertility / fetal development is clear. Cortisol imbalance can affect glucose regulation and cause your sex and thyroid hormones to lead to suboptimal fertility. Cortisol imbalance can also affect fetal brain development, especially in the hippocampus, and may be a risk factor for miscarriage. Because of this, managing your stress physiologically with herbs alongside lifestyle shifts is crucial to preparing the baby room. Adrenal dysfunction/cortisol imbalance can also impair DNA repair to damaged tissues which is crucial for both getting pregnant and maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
Fortunately, many supplements and herbs can help adjust the effect of stress on your body. And there are many mind-body support therapies to help you manage your stress. I personally love somatic experiencing, meditation, being outdoors in the woods, playing, and meditation. Somatic Experiencing and guided meditations and morning routines are offered in my fertility group packages. In fact group mind/body intervention increased IVF pregnancy rates from 43% to 52% in women under 40. And another form of counseling equally benefited men and women in their fertility journey.
Some of my top choice herbs to help manage stress are:
- Tulsi/Holy Basil is my all-time favourite go-to for those with low stamina and mixed anxiety, depression, and fatigue. When you have the gas and breaks on at the same time, Holy Basil is your bestie.
- Maca is a South American superfood known to help balance stress hormones, build testosterone, and balance estrogen and progesterone.
- Shatavari is a Vedic traditional herb that helps balance stress hormones and builds fertility.
- Licorice helps rebuild your energy stores and all hormones.
- Motherwort (perfect name, eh?) is one of my favourite herbs for anxiety and depression associated with a panicked feeling in the chest.
- Rose is one of my favourite herbs (don’t tell the other herbs ;)) and has a profound anxiety-calming effect and helps build healthy hormones.
- Kava is “the nuclear” stress reliever and should be dosed in moderation. It is the only herb I know to immediately calm you down from a state of panic.
- Lavender is a beautiful calming kitchen herb that helps relieve stress and balance hormones.
- Ashwagandha is helpful for thyroid function and semen production as well as stress management.
- If you test for hormone levels, some bioidentical hormones that are very helpful to rescue you in a time of adrenal dysfunction are:
If you test for hormone levels, some bioidentical hormones that are very helpful to rescue you in a time of adrenal dysfunction are:
You cannot biohack lifestyle.
Remember the pieces of preparing the baby room? This is not just your body, but it is also your home environment. First off, don’t you dream of being the parent that is patient and kind? That enjoys the roller coaster of finding that there is no manual for parenting but experience that you receive in the process? It is nearly impossible to do that dance smoothly. And there are things you can do to make the process smoother for you and your family. I totally understand the need to have a baby. The draw toward it. And often, especially for those of us that have undergone fertility treatments, we tend to get possessed by baby brain. There is no end result with having a baby. And to ride that ride with more grace, love, and compassion, you must give yourself the space and time you need for healing. This includes:
- A healthy sleep, six-eight hours, stressing on the sleep time during the peak release of growth hormone, 10:00 p – 3:00 a.
- Now, this changes with a baby, but at that time, perhaps, co-sleeping or napping with your baby is the time. Food prep, house cleaners, meal trains and preparing for the first 40 days the best you can helps with this.
- A clean home, your cleaning products, your kitchen, your skin care, your food, and your yard.
- A regular mind-body practice assisted by Somatic Experiencing, meditation, healthy outdoor time.
- Filtered water, at least half of your body weight in ounces.
- Healthy daily movement, dancing, weights, riding, running, yoga
- Bonding time with your partner, shake-up date night, and sex. You can find the ideas here in this article. (Link to Intimacy article here.)
- A strong spiritual practice, whether it’s church, prayer, outdoors, or simply quiet time connecting with yourself and something that makes you remember there is more to life than the grind.
- Avoid alcohol and inflammatory foods.
- Eat a Mediterranean diet with around 100g of protein a day, protein can include Collagen supplementation, greek yogurt, fish, chicken, turkey, game meats, beef, and nuts. Read about The Perfect Fertility Diet here.
There are so many factors at play while you are preparing to conceive. Taking four months to prepare the baby room, in your body and in your home, gives you the chance to pass the best genetics to your child possible. Nutrients, detoxification, and antioxidants are essential in your fertility journey for DNA optimisation, and for your own health as you move into the next phase of your life. Choosing quality supplements that contain bioavailable nutrients, without fillers, and that are actually tested for ingredients is a must. Most Costco and Amazon supplements are a waste of time and money. Unexplained infertility can usually be explained with a careful history, evaluation of gut health, toxicity, nutrient status, food intolerances and oxidative stress. Don’t settle for unexplained, go beyond. Despite what your fertility clinic says, there are many nutrients and lifestyle changes well researched that help assist you to bring a happy healthy baby into the world. Please don’t forget… you cannot biohack your lifestyle. You need a village of health practices and support around you during this transition. It is one of the most important shifts for your health you can make at this time, and preconception and conception is when a majority of genetic imprinting happens. You are a gift to the world, your body is not broken; it’s the industry. Fight for your health, and your children’s children’s health. Give them a chance to be as healthy as possible and gift yourself the ultimate healthcare plan as you move into parenthood. Find joy as you prepare your baby’s room. To learn more about natural fertility options, click here to schedule an initial visit.