12 Scientifically Supported Supplements for Female Fertility. Your Significant Other Will Love #7!
Learn Which Nutrients Have Scientific Evidence for Their Efficacy in Helping You Conceive
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Before we go into a thorough and detailed explanation about infertility and its natural nutrition solutions, here are a few products you might find useful for your condition:
Female Fertility Booster - For women who are aiming to conceive in the near future.
Naturally Balanced - For women with hormonal imbalance and PCOS.
Menopause Max - For women with Perimenopause and Postmenopause Symptoms
For in-depth review of women infertility, its causes, and solutions, here is the full article.
Let's start with...
Getting pregnant can be a painfully long process. According to the CDC, 10% of women face infertility. While I'm sure everyone reading this article is painfully aware of what infertility is, I think some of you will be a little surprised. Infertility is defined as a disease of the reproductive system which results in a failure to achieve clinical pregnancy after 12 months of trying (or six months for women 35 or older). Women who do manage to get pregnant but lose that pregnancy due to miscarriages or other pregnancy complications can also be considered infertile.
While the solutions that are typically offered to you by a fertility doctor are; Artificial Insemination (e.g. IVF), Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART), surgery, drugs and other procedures, there is one thing that is typically left out: Supplementation. Most people underestimate the power of both the body and the mind, once they receive the necessary amounts of nutrients. I will outline in this very detailed and fact-based report, in addition to the solutions that supplementation gives to women suffering from infertility, the benefits of these specific ingredients for the future health of the baby as well.
Vitamins play important roles in cell metabolism. In the female body, energy metabolism and fertility are tightly connected and reciprocally regulated. If you’re trying to conceive then satisfying the vitamin needs of your body is your first priority.
1. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is one of the most useful vitamins for women suffering from infertility (especially due to PCOS). It’s main importance is in regulating hormone levels (specifically the two hormones which are crucial for conception: progesterone and estrogen). This accomplishes two things: increases female fertility and raises the chances of actually getting pregnant.
Progesterone & Fertility
The former is caused by Vitamin B6’s ability to harmonize progesterone levels. This, in turn, strengthens your cycle’s luteal phases. As most of you know, your luteal phase is the time between when you ovulate, and when you get your period. It is also the time in which your endometrium is turned into a nice soft bed in which a fertilized egg can implant, and a baby can grow. And what amazing thing is responsible for this? That’s right: Progesterone. Vitamin B6 makes sure that your progesterone levels are optimal so that; your luteal phase is long enough (helps you get pregnant!) and your endometrium is soft enough (helps you stay pregnant!)
Please note: This is especially important for women suffering from luteal phase defect (LPD).
Estrogen & Pregnancy
The latter is attributed to Vitamin B6’s success in stabilizing estrogen levels, which consequently increases your cervical mucus. I’m sure every woman who has been having a hard time getting pregnant has heard cervical mucus being mentioned frequently in TTC (trying to conceive) forums or message boards on the Internet. And the reason for this is its critical role in conception. For those of you who aren’t familiar, in simple terms, cervical mucus nourishes, protects, and speeds up the sperm (while it’s in the woman’s body) so that it can fertilize the egg. Estrogen is the hormone which stimulates cervical mucus and, therefore, helps in getting you pregnant.
2. Vitamin B12 (Methylcobalamin)
While infertility can be caused by numerous factors, B12 deficiency is one element that is often overlooked as it does not get the publicity and, therefore, the attention that it deserves.
“Vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with infertility. Pregnancy may [still] occur in the presence of B12 deficiency but may be associated with recurrent early fetal loss.”
---Hematologist Michael Bennett, M.D
The deficiency could interfere with your fertility levels, and therefore ability to get pregnant, as well as result in a failure to successfully carry a baby full-term.
Ovulation & Fertility
The former has been noted by several studies, each concluding that a likely symptom of B12 deficiency is irregular ovulation or in severe cases, anovulation (a failure to release an egg altogether). Abnormalities in reproductive tract cells are also a high possibility. This causes the lining of the uterus and cervix to extend, and you could be diagnosed with cervical dysplasia.
Estrogen & Miscarriages
Other studies imply a strong connection between a lack of B12 and abnormal estrogen levels, which interfere with fertilized egg implantation. This occurs due to minimized endometrium lining in egg fertilization, increasing the chances of miscarriage.
However, if you diligently take your daily dose of vitamin B12, none of these concerns should bother you and you should consider fertility as just a matter of time. For women who were able to conceive and retain their pregnancy, vitamin B12 is still a vital supplement to take. It helps the baby develop normally, reducing the risks for fetal development problems, abnormalities, autism and other mental issues.
3. Folic Acid
“The beneficial effect on fertility continued to increase as women consumed higher amounts of folic acid… It looks like folic acid is a major player in reproduction.”
--- Dr. Jorge Chavarro, a research fellow at Harvard School of Public Health, Boston
Folic acid (also known as folate or vitamin B9) is a vitamin which is crucial for two main reasons, before and during conception; it increases your fertility rate and lowers the risk of birth defects for your baby. This is the case due to its ability to help grow and protect cells in your body. It is also essential for the development of DNA. This is especially critical during pregnancy, when cells in your body are growing and dividing very quickly in order for your uterus to expand, the placenta to develop, blood circulation to increase, and the fetus to grow. The CDC recommends that you take folic acid supplements every day, for at least a month before you become pregnant, and every day while pregnant. There is no worry of over consumption of folic acid since it is is water-soluble and any excess is flushed out automatically by the body.
Please Note: Folic acid supplementation is a 100% MUST for women, trying to conceive, who suffer from MTHFR Gene Mutation which doesn’t allow them to convert folic acid into its usable form of 5MTHF.
A study, involving more than 18,000 women, concluded that taking a regular daily dose of folic acid supplements improved fertility in women. The data showed that those taking the supplement regularly had a 40% lowered risk of suffering from problems related to egg production (20%, the second biggest cause, of female infertility is as a result of ovulation issues).
Many other studies (including those from the CDC) suggested that folic acid lowers the risk of birth defects by at least 50% and if you've already had a baby with a defect, it can reduce the risk for your next child by as much as 70%. Some defects are fatal and other can leave your baby permanently disabled. They are scary problems, to say the least, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Examples include:
- Neural tube defects (NTDs)
- Heart and limb defects
- Urinary tract anomalies
- Narrowing of the lower stomach valve
- Oral facial clefts (like cleft lip and cleft palate)
These can occur within the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy, before the woman is even aware that she is pregnant. In a survey of women of childbearing age in the United States, only 7% knew that folic acid should be taken before pregnancy in order to prevent birth defects. Furthermore, only 50% of pregnancies are planned and therefore it is important for every women of childbearing age to make sure that she has enough folic acid in her body.
In addition, to minimizing the possibility of birth defects, folic acid also helps prevent;
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Poor growth in the womb
- Pregnancy complications
4. Vitamin D
"Vitamin D [deficiency is] associated with infertility in women."
---Australian fertility specialist Dr. Anne Clark
There is an ever increasing epidemic of vitamin D (more a hormone than a vitamin which affects every cell in your body) deficiency throughout the developed world (doubled from 1994 to 2004) which can largely be attributed to more and more of us spending the majority of the day indoors. Among women of childbearing age, more than 40% lack vitamin D.
In a study conducted by The University of North Carolina, supplemental vitamin D was shown to help get reproductive tissues to optimal functional levels. Research showed that vitamin D receptors were found in the female reproductive system, suggesting that it plays an important role. They found raising vitamin D levels in the body increased the rate of achieved pregnancies by more than 10%. The main reason for this is largely attributed to vitamin D’s ability to regulate hormones.
In fact, a vast amount of research agree that vitamin D affects hormone levels, specifically progesterone and estrogen, which regulate menstrual cycles and improve the likelihood of conception. A major cause of infertility is hormone imbalance (especially PCOS, the most common female endocrine disorder). A 2011 study concluded that “Vitamin D deficiency is associated with multiple metabolic risk factors in PCOS women.” According to a different study conducted in 2010, high doses of vitamin D lowered estradiol and progesterone levels (main causes of infertility).
Furthermore, according to new research, women who take high doses of vitamin D during pregnancy have a greatly reduced risk of complications such as preeclampsia, preterm birth, infection, and the possibility of a c-section.
Minerals are just as important as vitamins. They need one another in order to be absorbed and used by the body. Everything in the body - bones, tissues, nerves, cells, receptor sites, metabolism etc - needs minerals to survive and work properly. Minerals also help keep an acid-alkaline balance (in the women’s body, this directly affects whether or not the sperm reaches the egg).
5. Magnesium (Oxide)
“Magnesium is essential for the functioning of more than 300 different enzymes in the body...living without adequate levels of magnesium is like trying to operate a machine with the power off.”
---Dr. Christianne Northrup, board-certified OB/GYN, Women’s health expert
Magnesium is vital for the body to function in the most basic level. It assists in maintaining healthy blood pressure, balancing out blood sugar, keeping heart rate steady, and relaxing muscles. However, this is a nutrient which has proven to be essential for, far beyond simple health and into lasting implications to, both your overall fertility and the eventual development of a healthy fetus.
In regards to the former, a deficiency of magnesium has been directly linked to female infertility. According to Dr. Sher from Stanford, her research showed that within a period of three months magnesium supplementation produced an impressive 32% pregnancy rate in previously infertile women. The possible causes for this outstandingly reassuring statistics are outlined below.
Did you Know? 20% of women suffer from magnesium deficiency?
Fallopian Tube Spasm
Firstly, "Magnesium deficiency can cause spasms in a woman’s fallopian tubes, preventing egg implantation." says Dr Carolyn Dean MD ND.
Secondly, also known as “the hormone of pregnancy”, magnesium ensures that the right amount of blood flows to the uterus.
Thirdly, it regulates hormone levels, specifically progesterone, which is important for a healthy menstrual cycle and the production of eggs.
Blood Glucose Levels
Finally, it harmonizes fluctuating blood glucose levels, which lead to inflammation and damages the ovaries.
A small trial was conducted, which studied the effects of magnesium supplementation on twelve women with unexplained infertility - or early miscarriage. They concluded that "All 12 previously infertile women have produced normal healthy babies all conceiving within eight months of normalizing their RBC-Mg levels."
Important to Note: Women who suffer from PCOS and diabetes should definitely watch out for magnesium deficiency and always err on the side of caution.
In regards to the latter, magnesium plays a major role in your baby’s overall health. According to Dr Carolyn Dean MD ND, taking regular doses of magnesium supplementation, throughout pregnancy, helps “Prevent complications and reduce your risk of miscarriages, preeclampsia, premature births, fetal growth retardation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).”
6. Zinc (Citrate)
“Understanding zinc’s role may eventually help us measure the quality of an egg and lead to advances in fertility treatment.”
--- Alison Kim, OBGYN Fellow at Northwestern University
Trying to conceive? I have one word for you: Zinc. It’s a crucial component of DNA and a deficiency can cause chromosome changes which leads to infertility and an increased risk of miscarriage.
Unfortunately, many people are sorely lacking this amazing mineral. 12% of people in the US are zinc deficient. The main reasons are due to poor soil health, over cooking and heating of food (lowers Zinc by 50%), stress, exposure to pollution, alcohol and smoking. All these factors lower our supply of zinc in the body and ultimately, if left untreated, may lead to zinc deficiencies.
A Zinc deficiency by itself will, in most cases, not result in infertility. However, Zinc is a key factor in making many parts of the reproductive system work properly. Without it, your cells will not divide properly and you will experience estrogen and progesterone imbalances, all of which will result in improper functionality of the reproductive system.
This will manifest itself in 4 major ways.
Firstly, the production of eggs will be adversely affected since a woman’s body needs a certain amount of zinc to produce mature eggs that are ripe for fertilization.
Follicular Fluid Levels
Secondly, follicular fluid levels will plummet. Without enough fluid, an egg will not be able to travel through the fallopian tubes into the uterus for implantation.
Thirdly, protein metabolism will be inhibited, lowering the quality of the eggs.
Lastly, hormone regulation will be damaged. Zinc harmonizes estrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels throughout the entire menstrual cycle. Deficiencies will lead to hormonal imbalances, ovarian problems, and irregular periods.
Furthermore, according to the CDC, low levels of zinc is directly linked to miscarriage in the early stages of a pregnancy. It reduces the risk of fibroids (a tumor in the uterus) and can actually help shrink the tumor if it has already formed.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which plays a crucial role in almost all biological processes. They carry out many important bodily functions e.g. cell structure. A large proportion of our cells, muscles, and tissues found in the reproductive system are made up of amino acids.
Commonly referred to by scientists as the ‘miracle molecule’, L-arginine has inspired more than 10,000 medical citations written by researchers, investigating its effects on female fertility. According to a study, the regular taking of L-arginine supplementation, resulted in 33% of women, previously diagnosed as infertile, to conceive naturally.
An essential amino-acid, L-arginine is a key player in a number of physiological functions. The main one, which is absolutely essential for conception, is the regulation of blood circulation which helps redirect it to the genitals, uterus, and ovaries. The supply of oxygen-rich blood flow is one of the most important elements in reproductive health.
Blood flow is vitally important in the reproductive organs as it increases its functionality and improve the chances of conception. Heightened blood flow in the uterus creates a better environment to allow the implantation of a fertilized egg while better blood circulation in the ovaries allows for optimal egg production.
In addition, the increased blood flow to the reproductive organs improves the production of cervical mucous. Issues regarding abnormal cervical mucous levels is a major factor in female infertility, affecting 5% of the women. There are some women who fail to produce enough cervical mucous and others who produce too thick a mucus for sperm to travel through. L-arginine regulates the cervical mucus, balancing it for optimal output.
Nitric Oxide Levels
Furthermore, the body uses L-arginine to raise nitric oxide (NO) levels. Research shows that this results in healthy inflammation levels which help prevent uterine fertility issues (e.g.fibroids, endometriosis and PCOS). Inflammation is well known to negatively impact conception and implantation.
Finally, as I promised: the special treat for everyone. L-arginine increases libido, once again through increased blood flow, in both men and women. In men, an increased blood flow to the penis can result in more frequent and sustained erections. In women, increased blood flow to the genitals can lead to increased sexual arousal and orgasm. Don’t forget: A healthy libido plays an important role in conception.
Antioxidants protect cell membranes and DNA from being damaged by free radicals. A main cause of infertility is a weak reproductive system which includes organs, tissues and fluids, all of which have cells that need to be protected.
8. Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
“A moderate amount of supplemental vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility”
---Cited from a 2013 study published in Fertility and Sterility
There is a clear and definitive link between Vitamin C deficiency and female infertility. Vitamin C aids all stages of; preconception, pregnancy and childbirth.
According to a 2013 study published in Fertility and Sterility, vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility in women, by 25% within 6 months, with luteal phase defect (LPD). Research shows that vitamin C also increases progesterone in the body, which helps regulate menstrual cycles, thicken the lining of the uterus and improves ovarian function. In a further study done with women unable to conceive due to ovulation issues, after a few months 40% began to ovulate and 21% later became pregnant.
Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
Furthermore, according to Dr. Tori Hudson, ND, vitamin C supplementation strengthens capillaries, which has been shown to reduce heavy menstrual bleeding (a known cause of infertility in women). According to a study, 87% of women suffering from heavy menstrual bleeding, stopped experiencing this issue after regularly taking vitamin C supplements.
In addition, vitamin C increases cellular immunity and decreases autoimmune progression and fatigue. This helps reduce the risk, and spreading, of endometriosis and uterine fibroids. It also reduces the risk of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, birth defects and premature rupture of the membranes in pregnancy.
9. Vitamin E
Our body, including the reproductive organs and the egg, is made up of trillions of cells. Vitamin E is in charge of cellular health, without it the body cannot reproduce.
Fun Fact: The most active form of vitamin E is called Alpha-tocopherol. The term tocopherol combines the two Greek words tokos (“offspring”) and phero (“to bear”). Tocopherol literally means “to bear children”.
In a study, vitamin E was shown to increase IVF treatment succession rate by 50%. Furthermore, it increases cervical mucus, which is essential for helping sperm to stay alive for several days at a time, increasing fertility. Moreover, an increase in vitamin E intake helps prevent ovulation decline (a major cause of infertility in older women).
According to a study published by Fertility and Sterility in April, 2010, Vitamin E supplementation increases endometrial thickness for women (in 52% of the cases) with thin uterine lining (Less than 8mm). It also raises uterine radial artery (uRA) blood flow in 72% of patients, leading to a stronger uterus. Both conditions increase the chances of miscarriage. It also prevents egg defects and increases overall egg health. This lessens the chances of birth defects and miscarriage.
Vitamin E reduces oxidative stress and improves cell membrane physical characteristics. It is especially important for women suffering from PCOS. Furthermore, it is equally vital for those who have diabetes as the vitamin is well known to improve insulin action. Furthermore, according to several double-blind clinical studies, vitamin E normalizes hormone levels of PMS and FBD patients and alleviates symptoms.
10. Selenium (Sodium Selenate)
"Selenium [is responsible for] elevated levels in large, healthy ovarian follicles, [it plays a] critical role as an antioxidant during the late stages of follicle development, helping to lead to a healthy environment for the egg."
---Dr.Melanie Ceko, PhD in chemistry
Selenium is a mineral that acts as an antioxidant by protecting the reproductive system (especially the ovaries) from free radical damage, promoting healthy cell division. This aids the development of healthy ovarian follicles, which are responsible for the production of eggs. Its protective element also aids in preventing chromosome breakage, a known cause of birth defects and miscarriages.
In a double blind trial selenium supplementation doubled female fertility rates to 35%. Other studies showed that blood selenium levels are lower in women with PCOS.
While we should be able to get selenium naturally from the soil where we grow our food, recent environmental problems and poor soil conditions has made this an unreliable source. Instead, supplementation is becoming safer and wiser.
11. Coenzyme Q10 (Ubiquinone)
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), often referred to as ubiquinone, is a source of fuel for mitochondria which converts this nutrient into energy. According to a study published in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility a "decreased energy production [is] related to a deficiency of CoQ10." Energy is critical in the early stages of embryo development as it leads to cell division. CoQ10 has been, therefore, dubbed the ‘miracle nutrient’ as the body requires certain levels of CoQ10 to function properly.
Importance for Mitochondrial Function
The female reproductive system is basically a massive factory which needs enormous amounts of energy to take simple egg and sperm cells and turn them into very complex little humans. CoQ10 is one of the main components that allows for this to occur. Female egg cells, in particular, have more mitochondrial DNA than any other cell in the body. A decrease in mitochondrial energy production leads to a decline in egg health resulting in birth defects, miscarriages, and overall infertility.
A study published in Fertility and Sterility showed that CoQ10 supplementation improved both egg quality and fertilization rates. Research shows that women taking CoQ10 had higher fertilization rates in IVF than women who weren’t taking the supplement. Further research links CoQ10 deficiency with miscarriage.
Furthermore, CoQ10 is an antioxidant and as such protects the eggs from being damaged by oxidative stress due to free radicals. This improves egg health, quality, and quantity. Moreover, numerous diseases, associated with infertility and reproductive dysfunction, are linked to oxidative stress. These include, but are not limited to; endometriosis, unexplained infertility, PCOS, POF, menstrual cycle irregularities, preterm labor, recurrent miscarriage, egg health, sperm health, and motility.
12. N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC)
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a supplement that simulates an amino acid called cysteine, which is in charge of protein structure.
NAC has antioxidant properties which reduces inflammation. Inflammation impacts fertility in a variety of ways. E.g. inflammation of the endometrium causes issues with implantation support and therefore embryo health. A study in 2008, involving a group of 80 women with a history of unexplained pregnancy loss, were treated with NAC. The results was a 200% increased rate of continuation of a living pregnancy up to and beyond 20 weeks. Furthermore, maternal inflammation is directly related to fetal inflammation and therefore, by limiting damage in the mother’s body, the fetus is protected as well, thus lowering the risks of birth defects and pregnancy complications.
NAC & PCOS
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder which causes a lack of ovulation and therefore a difficulty in getting pregnant (the main cause of female infertility). A 2007 study published in the "Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica" journal provided statistical proof of the undeniable benefits of NAC supplementation for women suffering from PCOS. The effects were as followed;
- Increased ovulation rates by 300%
- Raised pregnancy rates by 40%
- Lowered miscarriages by 60%
- Boosted live birth rates by 70%
- Heightened number of mature follicles by 50%
Unfortunately, NAC can’t be directly found in food although the body is able to make limited amounts from the protein that you eat. Therefore, the most effective way to ensure that your body contains adequate levels of NAC is solely through supplementation.
To summarize, we have outlined in this article 12 ingredients that have been statistically proven by studies and research to benefit women suffering from infertility and pregnancy-related issues. However, the vast majority of these ingredients will not be ingested in adequate amounts through foods alone. The only possible alternative that remains is to take supplementation. While these supplements are vitally important for women trying to get pregnant, they are by no means a magic fix and should be combined with proper diet, exercise, and stress-management. When it comes to your ability to have a baby and, even more importantly, the health and wellbeing of your child, you shouldn't take any chances.