If you’re struggling to conceive, we know you’ll try pretty much anything to improve your chances of getting pregnant. One key area of interest is diet. There is now a great deal of scientific knowledge about the use of nutritional supplements and their beneficial effects on both male and female fertility. Dr. Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritionist in women’s health and author of best selling book Getting Pregnant Faster has shared her advice with us on how nutrition can be used to aid conception and help prevent miscarriage.
Supplements are necessary because even with the best intentions, it is not easy to get sufficient nutrients from your diet alone. The independent Food Commission’s Food Magazine highlighted in 2005, that comparing fruits and vegetables from the 1930s to the 1980s, modern fruits and vegetables were depleted in minerals by an average of 20%, with the level of zinc dropped by 59%. In 2006, the Food Commission looked at the mineral content of meat and dairy from the 1930s and found that the mineral depletion overall was significant.
Nutrients for Conception
So what are the nutrients you need, and how will they help you?
It is now known that folic acid can prevent spina bifida. Folic acid is undoubtedly important, but it is just part of the very important B-complex family of vitamins that are necessary to produce the genetic material s DNA and RNA. Together with vitamin B12, folic acid works to ensure that the baby’s genetic codes are intact.
Zinc is the most widely studied nutrient in terms of fertility for both men and women. It is an essential component of genetic material and a zinc deficiency can cause chromosome changes in either men or women, leading to reduced fertility and an increased risk of miscarriage. Zinc is found in high concentrations in the sperm and is needed to make the outer layer and tail of the sperm and is, therefore, essential for the health of sperm
Selenium is an antioxidant that helps to protect the body from highly reactive chemical fragments called free radicals. For this reason, selenium can prevent chromosome breakage, which is known to be a cause of birth defects and miscarriages. Good levels of selenium are also essential to maximise sperm formation. Blood selenium levels have been found to be lower in men with low sperm counts.
Essential Fatty Acids
These essential fats found in oily fish, nuts and seeds have a profound effect on every system of the body, including the reproductive system and they are crucial for healthy hormone functioning. For men essential fatty acid supplementation is important because the semen is rich in prostaglandins, which are produced from these fats. Men with poor sperm quality, abnormal sperm, poor motility or low count, can have inadequate of these beneficial prostaglandins.
Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant and has been shown to increase fertility when given to both men and women. With men, vitamin E helps to increase fertilisation rate. If a woman over the age of 35 is told that her fertility problems are caused by her age, then it is likely that she could benefit from taking both vitamins E and C. These antioxidants have been shown to significantly reduce age-related ovulation decline.
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, and studies show that vitamin C enhances sperm quality and also seems to stop the sperm from clumping together (agglutination) making them more motile. One study has shown that women taking the drug clomiphene to stimulate ovulation will have a better chance of ovulating if vitamin C is taken alongside the drug.
This is an amino acid found in many foods and the head of the sperm contains an exceptional amount of this nutrient, which is essential for sperm production. Supplementing with L-arginine can help to increase both the sperm count and quality. Note: People who have herpes attacks (either cold sores or genital herpes) should not supplement arginine because it stimulates the virus.
This amino acid is essential for normal functioning of sperm cells. According to research, it appears that the higher the levels of L-Carnitine in the sperm cells, the better the sperm count and motility.