Will Supplements Help You Conceive? A Pharmacist’s Guide
Words by: Dr. Natasha Stamper, www.fertilitypharmacist.com
Patients who are trying to conceive will most likely consider increasing their daily intake of vitamins and minerals. This is often an attempt to improve basic nutrition and overall health. However, some people are also looking for a holistic fertility boost. One study shows that nearly 1 out of 3 American couples have tried supplements to enhance their fertility.
Why wouldn’t they? Any chance of increasing the odds of a healthy pregnancy is a win in my book. A lot of fertility supplements claim to increase your odds of a healthy pregnancy, but it is fair to wonder if this is backed by hard scientific evidence?
This is a very important question!
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) does not require most supplement companies to prove the effectiveness of their products with clinical studies. Gasp! Did you know this? The problem with not being regulated is that they can make any claims about their products without evidence. Some companies do complete research on their products; however, these may be poor quality studies or result in no clinical health benefits. Due to the lack of regulation, it is very difficult to trust what information is correct in the world of fertility supplements. I have compiled a list of 10 supplements that you may consider adding to your healthy diet that some data implies can improve fertility outcomes. Always check with your provider first about which of these supplements may be right for you.
- DHEA – a steroid hormone (not to be confused with omega-3 fatty acid DHA) that serves as a precursor to testosterone and estrogen. Research has shown that it may stimulate follicular development, improve egg quality, and pregnancy outcomes in women who are “poor responders” to IVF stimulation medications. DHEA should be used with caution! When used at high levels over the long term it can damage the liver and has other undesirable side effects such as acne and hair growth. DHEA should not be taken by women with PCOS because it can exacerbate the condition. Lastly, it should not be used for more than a 3-month treatment period.
- Folic Acid – is included in most prenatal vitamins and may be important for egg quality. It is very important for pregnancy health. Unfortunately, one study showed no increase in fertility in men and semen quality when taking folic acid.
- Melatonin – an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that helps regulate the circadian rhythm. It is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland. New studies suggest that melatonin supplementation taken with Myo-inositol may help to improve egg quality when taken for several months before IVF. Use with caution as melatonin may exacerbate depression, should not be taken with thyroid medications as it can impact thyroid hormone levels, and can suppress ovulation at high doses. Melatonin should also not be taken for more than 3 months without taking a break.
- Myo-inositol (MI) – a vitamin b component of the cell membrane, is a known insulin-sensitizer. It is shown to help patients with PCOS to improve IVF outcomes and possibly improve egg quality.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids (DHA) – may help improve the health of the reproductive system by decreasing inflammation and support the health of our cell membranes.
- Ubiquinol – a more absorbable form of CoQ10, it is an antioxidant that may improve egg quality and chromosomal division.
- Vitamin C – an antioxidant that helps reduce free radicals.
- Vitamin D – a fat-soluble vitamin that may improve IVF outcomes.
- Vitamin E – a fat-soluble antioxidant that may prevent cell membrane damage from free radicals.
Vitamin and mineral supplements may be an option for some couples to help increase fertility success. Always check with your provider first to discuss which supplements may be right for you.
Have you tried any of these fertility supplements? Did you see the results? Comment below to share your success stories.
Words by: Dr. Natasha Stamper
Dr. Natasha Stamper is a clinical pharmacist and online fertility coach. She found her love for all things fertility while living in a remote Alaska village navigating her own IVF journey alone. After many miscarriages, two ectopic pregnancies, and one cervical ectopic she had her two miracle babies. Now with over 12 years of clinical pharmacy experience and her own experiences she is so excited to be helping families all over the globe fulfill the dream of making their family complete. You can find her on instagram at fertility_pharmacist or www.fertilitypharmacist.com