What are the best supplements for female fertility?
If you’re currently trying for a baby, there are a few things you can do to prepare your body. This includes increasing your intake of certain vitamins by taking supplements or changing your diet.
Vitamins to take when you’re trying to conceive
The NHS recommends two specific supplements for women who are trying to get pregnant:
- Folic acid
- Vitamin D
If you’re taking these supplements and eating a varied and balanced diet, you should be getting all the nutrients your body needs to conceive a healthy baby.
The most important pregnancy supplement is folic acid. You should take this when you’re trying to get pregnant, and in the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy.
Folic acid is a man-made version of vitamin B9, also known as folate, which helps the body make red blood cells. Normally, we get folate through our diet by eating green vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, cabbage and peas, as well as chickpeas and kidney beans.
Getting plenty of folate/folic acid is really important both before and during pregnancy. This is because it helps prevent certain types of birth defect, like spina bifida.
How much folic acid do I need when I’m trying to conceive?
The NHS recommends that you take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid each day when you’re trying to get pregnant. You should keep taking this amount every day until you’re 12 weeks pregnant. While you’re taking folic acid, you should keep eating foods rich in folate as part of a balanced diet.
Some women who have an increased risk of birth defects will need a higher dose of folic acid, typically 5 milligrams (mg). Your GP will tell you if you need this higher dose.
Vitamin D helps keep the bones, teeth and muscles healthy, and is an essential nutrient for everybody, not just pregnant women. Our bodies produce vitamin D when sunlight hits our skin. We can also get it in our diet, by eating foods like oily fish, eggs and red meat.
Normally, between March and October, we should be able to get enough vitamin D by spending time in sunlight each day. Outside of these months it’s a good idea to take a vitamin D supplement.Shop vitamin D
How much vitamin D do I need when I’m trying to conceive?
Pregnant women don’t need to take more vitamin D than other people. The recommended daily dosage for a supplement is 10 micrograms (mcg).
Even if you’re taking vitamin D supplements, you should still try to get outside in the sun and eat foods that contain vitamin D. Just make sure that when you’re spending time in the sun you protect your skin to prevent burning.Shop suncare
Other supplements for when you’re trying to conceive
Eating a healthy, varied and balanced diet means you shouldn’t need to take any supplements other than folic acid and vitamin D before or during your pregnancy.
However, if you can’t get the right foods in your diet, you might end up short on key nutrients like iron, vitamin C and calcium. In this case, your GP might advise that you bulk out your diet with certain foods:
- Iron can be found in red meat, kidney beans, chickpeas, nuts, dried fruit and fortified breakfast cereal
- Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruit, peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli and potatoes
- Calcium can be found in milk, cheese, yoghurt, spinach, and fortified foods and drinks
It might also help to take supplements for these nutrients, particularly if you’re finding it hard to get everything you need through your diet.
If you’re taking supplements, just make sure you don’t have more than the recommended daily dose, unless told otherwise by your GP:
- Iron supplements – no more than 17 milligrams (mg)
- Vitamin C supplements – no more than 1,000 milligrams (mg)
- Calcium supplements – no more than 1,500 milligrams (mg)
Supplements for vegan women
If you follow a vegan diet, it can be a good idea to take supplements or eat fortified foods, whether or not you’re trying to get pregnant. Sometimes it can be hard to get essential nutrients like calcium, iron and vitamin B12. Learn more by reading this article: Supplements and vitamins vegans can take.
Foods to avoid when you’re trying to conceive
There aren’t any specific foods to avoid when you’re trying to get pregnant. Instead, you should focus on eating a healthy, varied and balanced diet.
One thing to consider is that having a very high or a very low BMI (e.g. over 30 or under 19) might make it harder to conceive. Your GP might recommend trying to lose or gain a bit of weight if you’re having a hard time getting pregnant. This means you may want to adjust your diet to reduce or introduce certain food groups.
Once you’re pregnant there are a few different foods you’ll need to avoid. Eating foods like unpasteurised dairy products can cause infections that can be harmful to your baby. Learn more by reading this guide from the NHS: Foods to avoid in pregnancy.
I’m struggling to get pregnant. What should I do?
Getting pregnant doesn’t always happen as soon as you start trying. It might take up to a year, or longer, of having regular unprotected sex – this is where you’re having sex every two or three days without using any contraception.
The NHS advises that you only need to see your GP if you haven’t conceived after a year of trying. At this point, they will want to do an assessment to work out if there are any obvious barriers, or if you might need some treatment.
The main thing is not to panic or lose hope: if you do have fertility issues, there are lots of different treatment options, which you can read about in this guide from the NHS.
Vitamins are food supplement and shouldn’t be used in place of a healthy varied diet.www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/vitamins-supplements-and-nutrition