Optimizing your health before trying to conceive can help improve the overall health of your baby. The development of both egg and sperm take approximately 3 months, so this is a particularly critical time to focus on the health of both partners.
In general, your diet should be rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats and minimally processed carbohydrates. You should strive to limit or eliminate refined sugars, alcohol, and processed foods.
Both men and women should consider starting a prenatal or preconception multivitamin about 3 months before trying to conceive. When choosing a prenatal you should be aware that there are more and less desirable forms of several of the vitamins. You want to ensure that the dose is between 2-4 capsules per day. A one a day will not be able to provide the essential nutrients that you require.
Here are some key things to look for:
Taking either folate or 5-methyltetrahydofolate (5-MTHFR) will be better utilized then Folic acid which is synthetic and not as easily converted to its active form. Around 50% of the population has a reduced ability to convert synthetic folic acid to its active form 5-MTHFR if you are one of these individuals not consuming the active 5-MTHFR form can contribute to higher rates of infertility, miscarriage and neural tube defects. For this reason, if I don’t know the genetic status of my patient, I recommend a supplement with the active form of folate 5-MTHFR.
Making sure your iron is at an optimal level before trying to conceive is very important. If iron is low this can impact the ability for your body to circulate both nutrients and oxygen necessary to sustain a healthy pregnancy. Heme iron or iron glycinate forms are both well absorbed and are generally well tolerated causing very little constipation while seeing good improvements in iron levels.
B12 comes in different forms with methylcobalamin being an active form. B12 is a nutrient that is important for neurological development and for DNA replication. Ensuring optimal levels is both important for development of sperm and egg as well as overall health for the baby.
Low vitamin D can contribute to bone loss, depression, sleep disorders, immune deficiencies, and hormonal imbalances. There are also multiple studies that have shown deficient vitamin D can impair the body’s ability to achieve, as well as maintain, a pregnancy. A simple blood test can be run to assess your vitamin D status.
CoQ10 is an enzyme made in the liver that works as an antioxidant and supports your power-house cells called mitochondria, important in both sperm and egg quality. After the age of 30 mitochondrial function begins to decline. There is a connection between impaired mitochondrial function and low CoQ10 availability with age related egg deficits resulting in infertility. A general recommendation for couples over the age of 30 is to take 100mg of CoQ10 twice per day for both partners. There is an important amino acid called L-carnitine that works alongside CoQ10 to allow it to enter the cell to enable CoQ10 to work properly.
There are several other supplements that may be helpful depending on your individual situation. For example there are some important nutrients that can help to optimize hormonal regulation and egg and sperm quality and can be added to a supplement regime based on your individual requirements.