We know that vitamins are essential for keeping our bodies working properly -- they help regulate the body's functions and keep everything operating smoothly -- so it seems logical that they would play a role in one of the body's most complicated processes: reproduction. But can taking certain vitamins actually increase the chances of getting pregnant and having a successful birth? In other words, can they increase fertility?
While most studies on the link between vitamins and fertility are inconclusive, some findings do suggest a connection between getting healthy amounts of certain vitamins and the ability to conceive.
One of the vitamins most commonly linked to fertility is vitamin C. Vitamin C is sometimes recommended for women trying to conceive because it can increase the level of the hormone progesterone. Progesterone does several things: It helps regulate the menstrual cycle, it can help thicken the lining of the uterus and it can reduce anxiety [source: Covington]. Synthetic progesterone -- progestin -- is often given to women who are having difficulty conceiving or carrying a baby to term. Some naturally good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, broccoli and green peppers.
Like vitamin C, B vitamins have also been linked to raising progesterone levels and regulating the menstrual cycle. One particular B vitamin, folic acid, or vitamin B9, is frequently recommended for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Folic acid helps ensure that a baby's spinal cord develops properly and can reduce the risk of certain birth defects. This important vitamin is something you'll find in most prenatal vitamins, and it can be found naturally in fruits, beans and leafy vegetables.
Some studies have also found links between insufficient levels of vitamin D and infertility. The good news is that vitamin D is easy to come by in dairy products or by simply spending some time in the sun -- exposure to sunlight causes the body to manufacture vitamin D.
As we know, making a baby takes a contribution from both a woman (an egg) and a man (sperm), so the ability to produce a baby can depend on the fertility and health of both the man and the woman. Not sure what vitamins you need to improve fertility? Try a multivitamin.
On the next page, we'll take a look at what scientists have found out about vitamins and their impact on male fertility.