Supplements are having a moment right now, especially for women trying to get pregnant, but how do you know what you should take and which brands to buy?
First and foremost, you can’t out-supplement a poor diet. Food is the best source of vitamins and minerals. You can’t go through the drive-through every night, then binge on potato chips and popcorn and beer, but pop a handful of pills and expect your body to be healthy and functioning at its best. They’re meant to supplement— not replace—a healthy diet.
But let’s be real—your diet won’t be perfect all the time, the soil in which we grow our produce is often depleted of key nutrients, and many have gut issues so we can’t always properly absorb all the nutrients we eat. Supplements can be a great way to fill those gaps. But before you rush out to the grocery store and haphazardly throw things in your cart, we need to talk about how to choose quality brands.
When buying supplements, quality matters. I don’t recommend you just pick up whatever’s on Amazon or even what your local pharmacy or grocery store has to offer. Cheaper brands might have a form of the vitamin that’s difficult for your body to absorb and use, some have toxic fillers or binders, and others don’t have a high enough dose to be therapeutic. If you’re going to spend the money on supplements, it’s important to choose high-quality brands so your body can actually utilize them, instead of just making expensive urine.
The NHS only recommends folic acid for women who are trying to conceive, however, there are two supplements that I feel are beneficial for most women who are trying to get pregnant, as well. We’re discussing these supplements more below.
A Quality Prenatal Vitamin
It’s never too early to begin taking prenatal vitamins. Many doctors recommend all women of childbearing age take a prenatal vitamin, whether they are trying to conceive or not.
Look for one that has 17 mg of iron, 150 mcg of iodine, and 450 mg of choline, as pregnancy can deplete the body of these key nutrients. Also, to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, aim for at least 400 mcg of methylated folate (folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, look for folate over folic acid as it’s more easily absorbed by the body). For women who have a BMI over 30, the recommended folic acid intake is 5mg.
A surprising number of the population is deficient in vitamin D. Studies are showing that beyond immune health, vitamin D may be a powerhouse for reproductive health as well.
One study found that women with optimal vitamin D blood results were able to get pregnant quicker compared to women with low vitamin D. Adequate vitamin D levels can also help with insulin sensitivity, which is important for those with PCOS. In addition, vitamin D has been shown to inhibit uterine fibroid growth and reduce further growth of endometriosis. When trying to conceive with assisted reproductive methods like IVF, patients with the highest levels of vitamin D in the follicular fluid are four times more likely to conceive compared to patients with the lowest vitamin D levels.
It’s important to note that because Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it can build up to toxic levels if you take too much. That’s why I always recommend asking your doctor to check your vitamin D levels before beginning a supplement. Also, look for a supplement with D3+K2, as the K2 aids absorption.
Those two supplements are a great starting point for almost everyone. After that, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to supplements. You should focus on what specific nutrients your body needs and fill that gap. By paying attention to your body’s cues, you can find out how best to support it.
Do you have heavy periods? Ask your doctor to test your ferritin and iron to check for anemia. Have you been diagnosed with PCOS? Myo-inositol is showing to be a game changer in the management of PCOS symptoms. Struggling with gut issues? A probiotic can be great for that.
Using OvuCore can also help identify what nutrients your body might be lacking. OvuCore tracks your core body temperature, which can give you clues about how well your reproductive hormones are functioning throughout your cycle.
For example, if your cycle data shows a short luteal phase—the part of your cycle between ovulation and your next period—you might benefit from a B6 supplement. Keeping track of your cycles with OvuCore can help you see if you’re making progress toward fixing those issues.
Please always talk to your doctor or healthcare professional before beginning a supplement.
About the Author
Robin is a childbirth educator, doula, traditional midwife and fertility coach at Making Mommies. She started the Mind Body Fertility Program (MBF) to help couples struggling to conceive. MBF helps women overcome infertility naturally by identifying the root cause and get pregnant faster through gentle nutrition, lifestyle, and mindset changes. If you’d like to know more about supplements for getting pregnant, and the best place to order the highest-quality supplements, check out this guide.
- Roy M Pitkin, Folate and neural tube defects, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 85, Issue 1, January 2007, Pages 285S–288S, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/85.1.285S
- Francesco Scaglione & Giscardo Panzavolta (2014) Folate, folic acid and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate are not the same thing, Xenobiotica, 44:5, 480-488, DOI: 10.3109/00498254.2013.845705
- Chang, E. M., Kim, Y. S., Won, H. J., Yoon, T. K., & Lee, W. S. (2014). Association between sex steroids, Ovarian Reserve, and vitamin D levels in healthy nonobese women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 99(7), 2526–2532.
- Mumford, S. L., Garbose, R. A., Kim, K., Kissell, K., Kuhr, D. L., Omosigho, U. R., Perkins, N. J., Galai, N., Silver, R. M., Sjaarda, L. A., Plowden, T. C., & Schisterman, E. F. (2018). Association of PreconcepNon Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations with livebirth and pregnancy loss: A prospective cohort study. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, 6(9), 725–732.
- Teegarden, D., & Donkin, S. S. (2009). Vitamin D: Emerging new roles in insulin sensitivity. Nutrition Research Reviews, 22(1), 82–92.
- Bläuer, M., Rovio, P. H., Ylikomi, T., & Heinonen, P. K. (2009). Vitamin D inhibits myometrial and leiomyoma cell proliferation in vitro. Fertility and Sterility, 91(5), 1919–1925.
- Harris, H. R., Chavarro, J. E., Malspeis, S., WilleÄ, W. C., & Missmer, S. A. (2013). Dairy-food, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D intake and endometriosis: A prospective cohort study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 177(5), 420–430.
- Anifandis, G. M., Dafopoulos, K., Messini, C. I., Chalvatzas, N., Liakos, N., Pournaras, S., & Messinis, I. E. (2010). Prognostic value of follicular fluid 25-oh vitamin D and glucose levels in the IVF outcome. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 8(1), 91.
- Tully DB, Allgood VE, Cidlowski JA. Modulation of steroid receptor–mediated gene expression by vitamin B6. FASEB J. 1994;8(3):343-349.
- V. Unfer, G. Carlomagno, G. Dante & F. Facchinetti (2012) Effects of myo-inositol in women with PCOS: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials, Gynecological Endocrinology, 28:7, 509-515, DOI: 10.3109/09513590.2011.650660
- Formuso C, Stracquadanio M, Ciotta L. Myo-inositol vs. D-chiro inositol in PCOS treatment. Minerva Ginecologica. 2015 Aug;67(4):321-325. PMID: 25670222.
- Randomized, double blind placebo-controlled trial: effects of myo-inositol on ovarian function and metabolic factors in women with PCOS http://www.europeanreview.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/458.pdf