On my TTC journey I was constantly looking for natural ways to boost my fertility without relying on medication. I will give you some great information here and also ways you can boost your man’s fertility too.
When it comes to fertility vitamins for both men and women there is a lot of choice. You can either take an all in one pre-conception vitamin which contains lots of different things at the ideal doses or you could opt to take just a selection of vitamins individually. There are several vitamins that increase fertility and these vitamin supplements can help fertility by ensuring your hormones are balanced and as well as protecting your eggs and sperm from any damage. They can also increase your mans sperm count and quality. I will go through which vitamins to look out for in a good preconception vitamin when trying to conceive and why. I will also point out which ones your man should be taking.
Fertility vitamins for women.
Folic acid versus folate: When you decide to start trying for a baby you are generally advised to start taking at least 400 micro grams of folic acid everyday and to carry on taking it until you are at least 12 weeks pregnant. By taking this dose of folic acid we are told that it can help reduce the chances of your baby having a neural tube defect called spina bifida by up to 80%. In addition, it is thought to lower the risk of a having a baby with a cleft palate, heart defect and problems with the urinary tract. Folic acid may also assist in the development of your babies brain and encourages normal cell division, DNA production and bone formation as well as helping to decrease the risks of preterm labor, fetal growth retardation and low birth weight.
After some research however, there is actually a better option to taking synthetic folic acid supplements. Folic acid is actually a B vitamin….vitamin B9 to be exact but is artificially produced. Vitamin B9 can also be taken in another form known as folate which is actually what is naturally occurring in certain whole foods. Folate is converted into the active form of vitamin B9 in the digestive system known as 5-MTHF very efficiently. Folic acid supplements are not converted so easily however and some of us find it very difficult to convert. It can then hang around un-metabolised in our blood stream which may have negative effects on our health. The healthiest way to get enough vitamin B9 is not through folic acid supplements but through folate present in certain foods such as avocado, leafy greens and sprouts. If you think you will find it difficult to get the necessary dose through your diet you can try methyl folate supplements instead. I have no idea why this is not informed to women trying to conceive or who are pregnant.
Folic acid and miscarriage: Along with Vitamin B6 and B12, vitamin B9 (folate/folic acid) can help to reduce levels of homocysteine (an amino acid) in the bloodstream. This is very important as having a high level of this amino acid can cause improper blood clotting and can cause a spontaneous miscarriage. Taking folate/folic acid can also help to prevent placental abruption and pre-eclampsia so has so many benefits and they are cheap to buy.
Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 can help to control your blood sugar levels and can help to lengthen the Luteal Phase of your cycle if it is short (luteal phase defect- see section on luteal phase). You should aim for 100mg per day.
Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is needed for DNA manufacture and can improve the quality of your uterus lining ready for the egg to implant. This in turn can help to decrease the risk of an early miscarriage. Taking Vitamin B12 can also help us to ovulate more regularly if your cycles are irregular and can even help women who are not ovulating to ovulate.
Please note: It is best to take Vitamin B6 and B12 in the form of a vitamin B complex to get a good balance of B vitamins. Be aware however that vitamin B complex supplements often contain other vitamins such as vitamin C and Folic acid. You need to be careful not to take too much of a certain vitamin. All the contents are on the back of the bottle.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D enables us to produce the hormones needed for a normal menstrual cycle and a lack of vitamin D can affect ovulation and the balance of your hormones. Several studies found a high percentage of women who were struggling to conceive were deficient in vitamin D.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant which can help conserve the DNA within your eggs.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C helps to balance our hormone levels and can can help to lengthen the luteal phase if you have a short luteal phase or a luteal phase defect. It can also help to decrease the risks of miscarriage and chromosomal abnormalities.
Iron: Women with low iron levels may experience anovulation (when they do not ovulate) and potentially poor egg quality. Taking iron supplements can really boost your fertility and help you ovulate more regularly helping you get pregnant faster.
Selenium: Selenium is an antioxidant which aids in the protection of eggs and sperm against chromosomal damage which is known to be a cause of many miscarriages and birth defects.
Zinc: Zinc works with several hundred different enzymes in your body to keep everything working normally. If you have insufficient levels of Zinc then your levels of estrogen and progesterone can be thrown off balance which can negatively affect your fertility. In addition, studies have shown that low levels of zinc can lead to an increased risk of early miscarriage.
Evening primrose: Evening primrose oil capsules can increase your cervical mucus if taken between your period and ovulation. It contains a fatty acid that can be converted into prostoglandins which can increase cervical mucus. The advice I read however is to stop taking evening primrose oil after ovulation as it can cause mild uterine contractions which is not what you want when you want a fertilised egg to attach to the uterine lining. If you chart your temperatures then you can pin point the day you have ovulated and stop taking them accordingly. Sperm are nourished and can last longer in healthy cervical mucus but if your cervical fluid is scant then the sperm may not survive to make the journey up to your fallopian tubes so taking a supplement to increase the amount and quality of your cervical mucus can greatly increase your chances of conception. The advise I have read, is to take 500mg three times a day (1500mg per day) for the first cycle and if your cervical mucus is not increased then you can up it to 1000mg three times a day during your next cycle.
Coenzyme Q10 : Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) can improve both male and female fertility. It is present in every cell in our body and helps to provide energy inside our cells for e.g. cell division. Fertilization and embryo development requires high amounts of energy within cells and as we age our natural levels of CoQ10 decreases. This can increase the risk of mistakes during cell division which can lead to a greater risk of a non-viable embryo. Supplementing your levels is a great way to boost your fertility as it also acts as an antioxidant which may help to slow down the natural reduction in our fertility as we age by protecting our reproductive system. CoQ10 starts off as ubiquinone and then is converted within the cell to the more powerful and potent Ubiquinol. Ubiquinol is the most biologically active form as it doesn’t need to be converted by the body and this is what you should take. The daily dose is 100 mg per day.
Fertility vitamins for men.
Folic acid and male fertility: We usually think of folic acid/folate as something the women should take but folic acid can boost male fertility by improving the sperm count and the genetic quality of your mans sperm. Encourage your man to take your folate/folic acid vitamin daily when trying to conceive. He can stop after you are pregnant.
Vitamin E and male fertility: Vitamin E can increase sperm quality and motility and can help to conserve the DNA within the sperm cell.
Vitamin C and male fertility: Vitamin C can boost sperm quality and helps to prevent damage to the sperms DNA. This in turn can help to reduce the chances of a chromosomal abnormality and miscarriage due to a none viable embryo. It can also help to increase sperm motility by preventing them from clumping together.
Vitamin B12 and male fertility: Vitamin B12 has been shown to improve sperm quality and production.
Selenium and male fertility: Selenium is an antioxidant which aids in the protection of sperm against chromosomal damage which can lead to a miscarriage or birth defects. It is essential in the production of sperm and men with a low sperm count are likely to be deficient in selenium.
Coenzyme Q10 and male fertility: Studies have shown that men who take CoQ10 supplement have an increase in sperm motility and sperm count.
Fertility vitamins – which ones to choose?
Prednacare are probably the best known pre-conception multi vitamin for women and are reasonably priced. You can get 1 month supply for around £6 which isnt bad considering the vast array of vitamins they contain. You can also get a conception multi-vitamens for men too and prednacare do a great pre-conception vitamin for him and her in one pack. Below are some options for you and your partner.
Options for women
Pregnacare Vitabiotics Conception- 30 tablets – one months supply for £7.39 (was £10.16).
Seven Seas Trying for a Baby 28 tablets – 4 weeks supply for £4.48.
Zita West Vitafem – 90 Caps – 3 months supply for £14.60 (was £22.50).
Babystart FertilCare Fertility Vitamins – 30 tablets – one month supply for £5.99.
FertileCM can increase the quality and quantity of your fertile cervical mucus. This supplement claims to do the following:
- Helps to build a healthy uterine lining for implantation.
- Helps to thin your cervical mucus and provide a positive environment for sperm within the vagina.
- Contains L-Arginine which increases cervical mucus production
It contains vitamin c, calcium, L-Arginine, N-Acetyl L-Cysteine, lactobaccillius acidopilus and grape seed extract. You should aim to take 3 capsules daily (1 at each mealtime) and to stop once pregnant.
FertileCM (90 Capsules) – One Month Supply for £26.25 (was £27.60).
Efamol Woman Pure Evening Primrose Oil 500mg (90 Capsules) – £10.65 (was £10.99).
Evening Primrose Oil – Premium Quality 1000mg (200 soft gels) – 200 days for £15.50p.
Swanson Ultra 100% Pure & Natural Ubiquinol (100mg, 60 Soft gels) – £21.28 (WAS £22.21).
Options for men:
Wellman Vitabiotics Conception (30 Tablets) – One month supply for £7.45 (was £10.15).
Babystart FertilMan Fertility Vitamins for Men (30 Capsules) – one month supply for £9.99.
Zita West Vitamen (30 Capules) – one month supply for £15.09 (was £17.49).
Your partner could choose to take these vitamins you like individually but that would be less cost effective in the long run.
Alternatively you can by yours and your partners in one pack.
Pregnacare Vitabiotics His and Her Conception, 60 Tablets – one month supply for £12.95 (RRP £18.35).
Fertility Herbs are a great way to boost your fertility and can be used by the body to prepare for pregnancy. Fertility herbs can help to improve certain fertility problems by balancing hormones in particular. They work differently to medication but when used alongside a balanced diet and gentle exercise they are still very effective in improving your fertility. Herbs are a natural alternative to medications as they are plant parts which contain nutrients that can bring about similar effects. They do take a bit of time to take affect but if you are patient then going down the natural route is a great option. They help by supporting your body with the end goal being to get your body working properly on its own eventually. Herbs do not have the same side effects as medications but should not be taken at the same time as any fertility medication.
Fertility herbs for women:
There are many herbs that increase fertility but having done lots of research there are several that come up over and over again. I have listed below the ones I tried and I believe they really helped me to get pregnant.
Dong quai and fertility:
Dong quai can increase your fertility in a number of ways. It can improve blood circulation to your uterus and helps to tone and strengthen the uterus at the same time. It is rich in iron and through hormonal control it can regulate your cycles. Dong quai can also be used to help with conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis. Dong Quai increases blood supply to the pelvis and is known to help bring back an absent menstrual cycles and it can also help to ease the pain cramps that come with your period. It is best ingested in liquid form and the daily dose is 30 drops twice a day in a some water.
Warnings – Most advice says to stop using Dong Quai once you become pregnant and to not use it during your period so I used it between the end of my period and just after ovulation. My cycles were quite long so I was taking it for a few weeks but if you have normal length cycles it may mean you only need to take it for 10 days or so each cycle. If you are on blood pressure medication then seek advice from your GP before taking it and also stop using it if you are having any operations.
Maca root and fertility:
Maca root supports hormonal balance as it has positive effects on the endocrine system. This system is what controls hormone production and function within our bodies. Studies have shown that Maca root can improve fertility in both men and women as it acts like a tonic for the hormone system. It contains many different minerals and nutrients and can support the function of the pituitary gland (which controls hormone output of the sex organs), adrenal gland and thyroid glands. It can help to balance our estrogen and progesterone levels which is very important as having higher or lower levels of these hormones at the wrong time can affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant. It may also help to reduce anxiety and stress, decrease blood pressure and help to balance our iron levels. Maca is available in a powder, capsule or drops but I found the capsules to be the best option and the advised dosage is 500-3000 mg in the morning so it does not affect your sleep at night. You may experience a bit of spotting or a change to your cycles at first but this is a positive sign that your hormonal system is becoming more balanced. You should stop taking Maca root once you get pregnant as there have been no scientific studies on its effects on pregnancy.
Raspberry leaf tea and fertility:
The benefits of drinking raspberry leaf tea for fertility are vast and it is like a tonic to prepare your body for pregnancy and labor. Raspberry leaves contain many vitamins such as Vitamin A, B complex, C, and E as well as iron, calcium, potassium and phosphorus. Red Raspberry leaves can help to prevent hemorrhage so can help protect against miscarriage, bleeding during childbirth and healing post birth. It can also help women who are suffering from endometriosis. It acts as a tonic for the uterus helping to tone the uterine muscles. This can improve uterine health in general which can help to prevent miscarriage due to a weak uterus. Toning the muscles can also help to prepare for labor, to bring about strong progressive contractions. It can also help with nausea during early pregnancy.
Raspberry leave tea can be bought in t bags and can help prepare you for pregnancy when drunk daily for a few months prior to conceiving. You should drink 1-3 cups a day. It also comes in liquid drops or tablets but as the tea is quite pleasant it was the best option for me. Most advice says it is safe to drink during pregnancy but maybe avoid it in the first trimester. I stopped drinking it once I got pregnant and then started again when I was a few weeks off my due date.
Vitex and fertility.
Vitex is the most popular and well known herb used to help improve fertility as it helps to balance fertility hormones. It is also known as agnus castus and chasteberry. It gently supports and regulates the pituitary gland which controls many bodily functions including how much of each sex hormone the ovaries should produce. This in turn can help to regulate the menstrual cycle and stimulates us to ovulate more consistently. It does this by increasing the amounts of luteinizing hormone (LH) produced which may in turn also boost our progesterone levels after ovulation. This helps us to maintain a healthy uterus lining for longer (lengthens the luteal phase). Vitex may also support early pregnancy and can help to prevent miscarriage through its beneficial effects on our progesterone levels. Vitex should be taken long term and can take a varying amounts of time to take affect (anywhere from 10days to 6 months). It works by supporting our bodies bringing about long term balance so needs patience. It should be taken once daily in the morning on an empty stomach. The suggested dose is 1000mg a day and you will struggle to by this dose in health food shops in the UK. You will need to buy them online. Vitex should not be used alongside prescription fertility drugs that contain hormones.
Can you take vitex during pregnancy? Information online suggests that it is safe to use during pregnancy but should be stopped after the 3rd month to prevent early milk production. From the third month the placenta takes over the production of progesterone anyway so it is no longer needed. If you fall pregnant it is best to speak to your GP if you want to carry on taking it to be safe.
Cinnamon and fertility
Studies have shown that cinnamon can also help reduce insulin resistance in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This is important as insulin resistance can delay/prevent ovulation and can affect the maturation of the eggs. Women with PCOS are also more likely to have a miscarriage and can make implantation of an embryo difficult. Cinnamon may also help improve the ability of women with PCOS to lose weight and can help with heavy bleeding during your period and can reduce bleeding associated with endometriosis and uterine fibroids.
Daily dose for PCOS is 1500mg but as the capsules only seem to come in 500mg, 1000mg or 2000mg capsules so you could take 3 x 500mg daily. You should stop taking it once you fall pregnant and do not take it if you are on blood thinning treatment such as aspirin or warfarin or if you suffer from stomach ulcers.
Nature’s Answer Dong Quai, Alcohol Free Extract 1 Fl Oz – £11.89.
Maca Root 2500mg Highest Strength – – 180 capsules (6 months supply) for £9.99.
Heath and Heather Raspberry Leaf Tea 50 Bags – £6.15 for 50 tea bags.
Vitex, Agnus castus, Chasteberry – 1000mg Capsules (vegetarian) – 120 tablets for £15.99.
Best Naturals Cinnamon 500 mg – 250 Capsules (83 days) for £10.99.
Fertility herbs for men:
Your partner should use these herbs for at least 3 – 6 months –
Maca root: Maca root may increase a mans sex drive, give him more energy, increase the volume of semen, improve sperm count and sperm motility. Your partner should take 500-3000 mg once a day in the morning.
Tribulus: Tribulus can increase testosterone production in men. It can help with low sperm count, low sperm motility and poor sperm health related to hormonal imbalance. It can also increase a mans sex drive. The suggested dose is 500mg a day up to 1500mg a day if necessary.
Swanson Full Spectrum Tribulus Fruit (500mg) – 90 Capsules) for £8.60.
Maca Root 2500mg Highest Strength – 180 capsules (6 months supply) for £9.99.
If you have any experience with fertility vitamins or fertility herbs please comment below and share your experiences.