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What nutrients support fertility?

Prepare Your Body for Pregnancy

Making simple tweaks to your nutrition is one of the best ways to support conception. Aside from eating a balanced, diverse, and whole-food diet – which will, ultimately, lay the groundwork for pregnancy – focusing on specific nutrients will support your reproductive journey even more. Here are the most important vitamins and minerals to focus on.
 

Folic acid

 
Folate (vitamin B9) helps form the neural tube, a vital part of a baby’s nervous system. Supplementing with folic acid (synthetic folate) during pregnancy may reduce the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida (1). 
 
Although you can find folate in green leafy vegetables and fortified foods, government guidelines advise taking 400μg of folic acid from when you start trying for a baby until the 12th week of your pregnancy. We recommend choosing a prenatal health multivitamin that provides folic acid in the most bioavailable form of L-methylfolate, which the body can readily use. 
 

Myo-inositol

 
Structurally similar to glucose, myo-inositol is a vitamin-like compound (known as vitamin B8) that supports how cells communicate. Myo-inositol is considered a good treatment for women with specific health problems and is often recommended when trying for a baby.
 
Buckwheat, beans, cabbage, citrus fruits, nuts, and liver are good sources of inositol. However, taking powdered myo-inositol is the most reliable way to support your intake. 
 

B vitamins

 
The family of B vitamins are active in nearly every metabolic process in the body. While all of them serve a function in the regulation of hormonal activity, vitamin B6 plays an especially critical role. 
 
You can find high levels of vitamin B6 in oats, bananas, peanuts, and poultry, and other B vitamins in peas, nuts, organ meats, and legumes. Still, we recommend taking a quality B-complex with a good spread of vitamins at relevant levels to cover all bases. 
 

Iron

 
Many women of reproductive age unknowingly have poor iron stores, particularly those with heavy periods, which may negatively impact fertility (2). Women who don’t get enough iron are more likely to experience poor egg health, anovulation, and lack of ovulation (3). If you’re worried about your iron levels, ask your GP to carry out a simple blood test.
 
The most bioavailable (readily absorbed) sources of iron include red meat, fish, chicken, and eggs. But you can also find iron in plant-based foods, like green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. While the body can’t absorb the iron from plant-derived sources as well, eating more vitamin C-rich foods at the same meal (tomatoes, berries, and cabbage) can help.
 
Besides increasing dietary iron, many women supplement with iron to cover shortfalls when trying for a baby.
 

Zinc

 
Zinc plays a critical role in fertility and reproduction, making it essential for family planning. Studies suggest zinc helps the maturing of eggs and regulates hormones during the menstrual cycle (4). 
 
You can find zinc in animal foods – oysters, beef, and eggs – and plant-based foods – chickpeas, lentils, tofu, and spinach. If, however, you’re worried about your zinc intake, we suggest taking a supplement as an insurance policy.
 

Selenium

 
Selenium is perhaps best known for its antioxidant qualities. In women, selenium helps protect the ovarian follicles – responsible for the production of eggs – from oxidative damage (5).
 
Beef, poultry, fish, eggs, and beans are great sources of selenium. But Brazil nuts are the most concentrated dietary source. A high-strength supplement will cover your needs if you can’t get enough selenium from food.
 

Vitamin E

 
Like selenium, vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, which may support the normal function of the female reproductive system.
 
Although you can get vitamin E from sunflower seeds, spinach, broccoli, almonds, and peanuts, you may still want to supplement to ensure a plentiful intake.
 

Prenatal multivitamin

 
A comprehensive prenatal multivitamin – packed with the vitamins and minerals outlined above, including 400mg of folic acid in the form of L-methylfolate – can be a brilliant addition to your fertility arsenal. Providing a generous spread of fertility-fuelling nutrients, a prenatal multivitamin is convenient, reliable, and one less thing to think about when you’re trying for a baby.
 
We recommend taking a high-strength fish oil or vegan alternative alongside a prenatal multivitamin. Increasingly, studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids – DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – may play a role in hormone balance and overall reproductive health (6). These essential fatty acids also support a baby’s brain development, so health practitioners often advise women to up their intake three months before they start trying for a baby.
 
Eating 2-3 portions of oily fish (salmon, anchovies, and mackerel) – naturally rich in omega-3 – each week can support your intake of omega-3. However, taking a fish oil supplement may provide a more reliable intake at this time.
 
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can still get DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) from plant-based organisms called microalgae, which is available in supplement form.
 

Find out more

 
If you found this article on supporting fertility nutrition useful, you can find similar guidance on our health blog. Alternatively, please get in touch with our team of expert Nutrition Advisors, who are on hand to provide free, confidential advice.




References:

  1. US Preventive Services Task Force. (2023) Folic Acid Supplementation to Prevent Neural Tube Defects: US Preventive Services Task Force Reaffirmation Recommendation Statement. JAMA. 330(5):454459.

  2. Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, Willett WC. (2006) Iron intake and risk of ovulatory infertility. Obstet Gynecol. 108(5):1145-52.

  3. Sundar J, Madhankumar E, Praneetha A, Kalaiselvi S, Gopinath P et al. (2014) A study on significant biochemical changes in the serum of infertile women. International Journal of Current Research and Academic Review [Internet]. 2(2):96-115.

  4. Hester JM, Carothers A, Diaz FJ. (2021) Role of zinc in female reproduction. Biol Reprod. 104(5):976-994.

  5. Hummitzsch K, Hatzirodos N, Bonner WM, Aitken JB, Russell DL, Lane M, Rodgers RJ, Harris HH. (2015) X-Ray fluorescence imaging and other analyses identify selenium and GPX1 as important in female reproductive function. Metallomics. 7(1):71-82.

  6. Jukic AM.Z, McConnaughey DR, Steiner AZ. (2022) Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and fecundability. Human Reproduction (Oxford, England). [online] 37(5):10371046.





 

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Our Author - keri Filtness

Keri

Keri Filtness has worked in the Nutrition Industry for 19 years. She is regularly called upon for her professional comments on health and nutrition related news. Her opinions have been featured by BBC3, Prima, Vitality, The Mirror, Woman’s Own and Cycling Weekly, amongst others. She has also worked one to one with journalists, analysing their diets and health concerns and recommending changes and additions, where appropriate.

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