If you’re trying to conceive, you may have already looked into taking a supplement to boost your fertility. The market for fertility supplements is big and continues to grow, so knowing where to start can be confusing. From teas, tablets and liquid drops available, there’s many claiming to support fertility and improve outcomes.
Experiencing infertility can be extremely challenging - and at times overwhelming - many women mention that taking fertility supplements is often thought of as an easy and non-invasive way to give themselves the best possible chance when trying to conceive.
But do these fertility supplements actually work?
Here, we share the best women’s fertility supplements and vitamins, why they are important and how they can make a difference to improving fertility and pregnancy rates.
Is it necessary to take supplements for fertility?
Now, more than ever before there is strong evidence to suggest that optimising your nutritional status prior to conception can positively affect reproductive health and fertility. Maintaining overall good health is the best way to promote female fertility, but that does not mean that you should overlook fertility supplements.
To avoid any unfavourable interactions, toxicity or side effects we advise you to always speak to your GP before introducing a new supplement. Not all fertility supplements have gone through rigorous testing or are made equally so do your research.
Although there are many, we have picked only the best fertility supplements and vitamins to help you understand what each can do.
Best fertility supplements and vitamins
1. Folic Acid
Folate and folic acid are different forms of the Vitamin B Complex. Folate is the natural version that is naturally found in foods and Folic acid, on the other hand, is a synthetic form of the nutrient. The most supported by scientific evidence is the use of folic acid supplementation whilst trying to conceive and during pregnancy.
For women, studies have also found that Folic Acid helps with cell metabolism throughout the body, including within your ovaries. Use of a folic acid supplement in women undergoing IVF was associated with better embryo quality and a better chance of becoming pregnant.
One of the main benefits of supplementing with Folic Acid is to avoid development problems (called neural tube defects) by helping a baby's brain, skull and spinal cord to develop properly.
Most women should take (400 mcg) everyday when trying to conceive and continue until you are 12 weeks pregnant. Find out more in our guide to folic acid.
Folic Acid is safe to take whilst breastfeeding. Your doctor or pharmacist will advise you on the correct dose to take, as some women may need higher doses.
2. Vitamin D
The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors. While Vitamin D is important to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy, there is now evidence suggesting that Vitamin D is important for fertility, pregnancy outcomes and breastfeeding.
The UK Government recommends that everyone should take (10 mcgs) daily Vitamin D supplement during the autumn to winter months. Some people may benefit from taking this all year round.
Vitamin D is safe to take whilst breastfeeding.
3. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is needed to form red blood cells and DNA. It is also a key player in the function and development of brain and nerve cells. Vitamin B12 has been linked to increasing fertility in women undergoing IVF or other fertility treatments.
Vitamin B12 deficiency has been associated with reduced fertility.
Vitamin B12 is safe to take while breastfeeding. Your doctor or pharmacist will advise you on the correct dose to take.
Try to build up your iron stores by eating a balanced diet including iron-rich foods when you're trying to conceive. Iron is an essential requirement for healthy blood cells, including placental and foetal tissue.
Iron deficiency anaemia has been linked to a greater risk of complications before and after birth.
Iron supplements are safe to take when you are breastfeeding. Your doctor, pharmacist or midwife will advise you on the correct dose.
Zinc is a trace mineral, meaning that the body only needs a small amount. Zinc is believed to support fertility by regulating hormone functions, cell division and ovulation.
Zinc supplementation should be considered for reproductive age women at risk of zinc deficiency, as studies have shown it may affect normal fertility and healthy pregnancy outcomes.
Zinc is safe to take whilst breastfeeding, however the dose needs to be checked with a GP or pharmacist as too much could be harmful.
6. Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a nutrient that occurs naturally in the body. CoQ10 is also in many foods we eat. CoQ10 acts as an antioxidant, which may prevent or delay cell damage.
There is evidence that CoQ10 supplementation has been shown to improve egg quality and pregnancy rates. The research suggests that Coz10 can suppress ageing and reduce oxidative stress so DNA damage particularly for older women wanting to preserve egg quality.
It’s encouraged to read the label for specific advice on how much to take as there is no established ideal dose. CoQ10 supplements are not recommended for women who are already pregnant or breastfeeding.
We believe there is no silver bullet and that more research is needed on fertility supplements. Many studies have shown that female fertility can be affected by nutrient deficiencies and that supplementation might be an accessible and safe way to improve your chances of conceiving.
Breastfeeding women, like all women, should aim to meet their nutritional needs primarily through healthy food choices.
Fertility supplements should be paired with a nutritious, well-rounded diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, and a healthy lifestyle for best results. Adding fertility supplements to your body may not guarantee a pregnancy, but it can help to achieve your nutritional needs which we can see is important if you're trying to conceive.
Find out more about how your diet can affect fertility by speaking to one of our specialist fertility nutritionists. They can answer any questions you might have as well as providing a personalised nutritional assessment for you and your partner.
Rachael, Naytal Nutritionist
Rachael has been a fully qualified nutritionist for over ten years. She's a specialist in helping advise women on how to eat well in pregnancy and preconception.