Whether you’re hoping to get pregnant in the next few months or the next decade, chances are you’ve wondered about your fertility. After all, an estimated one in eight couples has difficulty conceiving, according to the CDC.
While these infertility rates have held steady for the last several decades, something else about the process has changed: People are choosing to delay having children. “The fastest-growing population of child bearers are women in their late 30s and in their 40s,” says Mark Trolice, M.D., an infertility specialist at Florida’s Fertility Care IVF Center. And since a woman’s egg reserve naturally declines more rapidly after age 30, she’s more likely to experience fertility struggles.
That said, there are a number of other culprits behind issues with fertility, including hormonal conditions like PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), endometriosis, and fibroids. (On the flip side, men’s health troubles contribute 40 to 50 percent of couples’ fertility issues, according to Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences research.)
There are myriad treatments available to help people conceive these days. There are also a number of nutrients women can focus on to support their fertility. Here are six supplements worth considering.
Because of its ability to reduce the risk of certain birth defects, folate (or ‘folic acid,’ its synthetic form) is found in pretty much all prenatal vitamins. “Not only does [folate] support the formation of DNA and RNA, but it also protects those genetic codes within the baby,” explains Nicole M. Avena, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
If you’re considering getting pregnant, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that you take 400 micrograms of folate daily for at least three months before trying to conceive.
Want to load up through food? Great sources include spinach, beans, peas, and lentils.
CoQ10, a.k.a. Coenzyme Q 10, occurs naturally in the body and acts as an antioxidant. “CoQ10 is beneficial in helping the body repair from free radical damage caused by our environment and gives mitochondria, the powerhouse of our cells, a rejuvenating boost,” says naturopathic doctor Michelle Sands, N.D., founder of Glow Natural Wellness.
Research has found CoQ10 to support healthy blood pressure and overall heart health, as well as aid in preserving fertility. In women with diminished ovarian reserve, CoQ10 has also been found to improve response to IVF, according to a study published in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. (In men, meanwhile, CoQ10 has been shown to promote sperm concentration and motility, according to the International Journal of Reproductive BioMedicine.)
The recommended supplement dose is 250 milligrams daily. You can also find naturally-occurring CoQ10 in fish, organ meats (such as heart and kidneys), and wheat germ.
Women tend to be deficient in this essential mineral, which promotes proper growth and development, and produces the oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in your blood. While non-pregnant women need 18 milligrams of iron per day, pregnant women require 27. “This helps a pregnant woman make more blood to carry oxygen to her baby,” explains Trolice.
If you’re looking to support your fertility, meeting your iron needs may help. In fact, one study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology found that women who took iron had a lower risk of fertility-related ovulatory issues.
You can get your fair share of iron through both supplements and food. Lean beef, poultry, legumes, fortified cereals, and prune juice are all good sources, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
4. Vitamin D
Known as the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ vitamin D is essential for the body’s immune balance. It also works with calcium to help create strong bones and teeth, notes Trolice.
For women, vitamin D deficiency may contribute to conditions that affect fertility, like PCOS, according to research published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research. “Women with low vitamin D levels may also be up to five times more likely to have menstrual cycle disorders,” says The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Brittany Michels, R.D.N.
Read More: 7 Signs You Have A Vitamin D Deficiency
To ensure you’re getting your 15 milligrams (600 IU) a day, consider supplementing. (This is especially important if you don’t spend much time outdoors in the sun.)
Though hailed for its immune-boosting properties, zinc also plays an important role in fertility, notes Avena. “Zinc helps maintain chromosome pairs and supports the proper balance of estrogen and progesterone, two essential hormones for female fertility,” she says. “In women, lack (or low levels) of zinc can even contribute to a miscarriage.”
FYI: Zinc matters for men, too. “The tail and the outer covering of sperm are made from zinc,” says Avena. “Zinc can also improve sperm motility and their overall quality and viability. So, having zinc in a man’s diet essential for good sperm health.”
The National Institutes of Health recommends that adult women consume eight milligrams of zinc daily. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should consume 11 and 12 milligrams, respectively.
6. Omega-3 fatty acids
Increased consumption of omega-3s has been linked to improved outcomes for women undergoing IVF, according to a study published in nutrients. “This nutrient is also key during pregnancy,” says Sands. “It is correlated to decreased premature labor and has positive effects on fetal brain development.”
You can find omega-3 fatty acids in nuts and seeds, eggs, and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, cod, and sardines. If you don’t eat at least two four-ounce servings of fish each week, consider supplementing.
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