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Are there vitamins that can increase fertility?

We know that eating right and taking a quality prenatal vitamin during pregnancy is important, but can vitamins increase your fertility and help you conceive? See more pregnancy pictures.
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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.

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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.

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For men, three major factors affect fertility, and they're all related to sperm:

  • Sperm count - the number of sperm
  • Sperm motility - the ability for the sperm to move
  • Sperm quality - health and vitality of the sperm

And this makes sense, because a lot of healthy sperm that can move quickly have a better chance at fertilizing an egg.

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Several vitamins have been shown to increase sperm count, including vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E and folic acid. (The minerals selenium and zinc can increase sperm count, as well.) Because a folic acid deficiency is often related to low sperm count or poor sperm quality in men, taking a folic acid supplement can increase the amount of healthy sperm.

Vitamin C and vitamin B12 are good for sperm count, motility and quality. Serious vitamin C deficiencies can sometimes result in damaged sperm, while vitamin B12 is known to promote healthy DNA.

A vitamin that's thought to be especially good for male fertility is vitamin E. One study conducted with men who had high sperm counts but low rates of fertilization found that, when they were given vitamin E supplements for a month, their fertilization rates increased by 10 percent [source: Hudson].

While we don't know for sure if all of these vitamins have a direct impact on helping you make a baby, we do know that overall good health can increase the chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy. And besides, making sure you get the right vitamins and nutrients contributes to overall good health. Combined with a healthy lifestyle, vitamins and proper nutrition can go a long way toward making your body baby-ready.

To learn more about reproduction, fertility and even vitamins, take a look at the links on the next page.

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Sources

  • Anderson, Kirsty et al. "Lifestyle factors in people seeking infertility treatment -- A review." Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. February 2010.
  • Covington, Sharon N. and Linda Hammer Burns. "Infertility Counseling: A Comprehensive Handbook for Clinicians." Cambridge University Press. 2007.
  • Domar, Alice D. and Alice Lesch Kelly. "Conquering Infertility: Dr. Alice Domar's Mind/Body Guide to Enhancing Fertility and Coping with Infertility." Penguin Books. 2004.
  • Hudson, Tori. "Women's Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine: Alternative Therapies and Integrative Medicine for Total Health and Wellness." McGraw-Hill Professional. 2007.
  • Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. "Healthy Sperm: Improving Your Fertility." Dec. 16, 2010. (March 9, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fertility/MC00023
  • Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. "Male Infertility: Alternative Medicine." June 10, 2010. (March 7, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/male-infertility/DS01038/DSECTION=alternative-medicine
  • Motluk, Alison. "Feed your sperm." New Scientist. March 23, 2002.
  • WebMD. "Pregnancy and Prenatal Vitamins." (March 7, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/prenatal-vitamins
  • Smith, Rebecca. "Vitamin D can aid fertility." The Telegraph. Nov. 11, 2008. (March 6, 2011)http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/women_shealth/3434420/Vitamin-D-can-aid-fertility.html
  • Thomas Healthcare, Inc. "Progestin (Oral Route, Parenteral Route, Vaginal Route)." Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Nov. 1, 2010. (March 7, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR602125
  • Warhus, Susan. "Fertility Demystified." McGraw-Hill. 2007.
  • Williams, Maureen, ND. "Vitamin C Increases Fertility in Women with Luteal Phase Defect." Healthnotes, Inc. 2003. (March 10, 2011)http://bastyrcenter.org/content/view/620/&page=

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