Want to know which nutrients will help you conceive and get your body ready for pregnancy? All of them! That’s why eating a varied diet is so important. But there are some that are particularly important for baby making:
Folate – deﬁciency is common amongst women who have been on the contraceptive pill and can lead to malformations in the brain and spine where the neural tube fails to close by the fourth week of pregnancy. These are the most common malformations in pregnancy so you should start taking a supplement from now until the end of the ﬁrst trimester[i].
Iodine – crucial for thyroid function so that thyroid hormones can get to work on controlling the menstrual cycle and the actions of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) & Luteinising Hormone (LH) – so basically all aspects of reproduction and achieving fertility[ii]. Deﬁciency is common around the world so a supplement is recommended from now until you’ve ﬁnished breastfeeding.
Iron – adequate levels of iron make sure red blood cells can deliver enough oxygen throughout the body, including to the ovaries and uterus. A deficiency can make the eggs stored in the ovaries to weaken over time and become unviable[iii]. If you have low ovarian reserves, it is so important to make sure the ones that you do have are fighting fit! This may be why traditional cultures often increase animal protein intake for their bride’s-to-be.
Magnesium – deﬁciency is associated with higher miscarriage rates, insulin resistance and even PMS symptoms[iv].
Vitamin B6 – helps to detox the liver and to produce and regulate estrogen and progesterone. It has also been shown to reduce miscarriage and morning sickness[v]. It works in cahoots with magnesium so look out for foods like tuna, spinach and pepitas (pumpkin seeds), which are high in both.
Vitamin B12 – trying to get pregnant when low in B12 can muck up ovulation and implantation, but can also result in neural tube defects and poor cognition in bubs[vi],[vii]. Humans can only absorb the B12 from animal sources (including eggs and dairy). Strict vegans should deﬁnitely consider supplementation if planning on starting a family soon.
Vitamin D – plays many roles in overall health and female reproduction. Vitamin D is shown to be more important for bone density than calcium. Women with high Vit D levels were 4 times (!) more likely to conceive on IVF than women with low levels[viii]. Sunscreen interferes with the production of Vit D in the skin. One research group found that SPF8 completely blocked any production of vitamin D with sun exposure[ix]. There are many studies to show that the slip, slop, slap message can go too far and a moderate amount of sunshine essential to health.
Zinc – if your man is zinc deﬁcient his sperm may not be strong enough to get the job done and if you are low in zinc it can impair ovulation and your menstrual cycle. Zinc is also responsible for healthy cell division and organ formation so when you do conceive it plays a vital role in growing a healthy babe[x].
Antioxidants like Vitamin’s E, C, Co Q10, & Selenium – protect sperm and egg cells from damage from free radicals. Think of free radicals as cells which have started being broken down and are missing a critical molecule. They need to fill that spot so they’re on the hunt for another. If they pair with a healthy cell, they will damage that cell (injuring the DNA, triggering disease or accelerating aging). If they pair with an antioxidant they become nullified. So we want to enlist lots of antioxidants to fight the good fight. Similar to how the good bacteria in probiotics work.
Probiotics – gut health is the cornerstone to overall health. The bacteria that lives within our gut (or the microbiome) outnumber our human cells 10:1. They influence all areas of our health including digestion, nutrient absorption, immunity and inflammation. So you can imagine how important it is to keep these guys balanced and happy. Unfortunately, there are so many factors that compromise good bacteria (like stress, processed foods, pesticides to name just a few) that is why it can be really helpful to find a good quality probiotic.
Plus of course the right amounts of protein, carbs, fat and water.
It can feel a little overwhelming. The meal plans in the Wholesome Inc. Preconception Program are designed to help you get the nutrients you need to prepare your soil for planting. Next week I'll talk about my Top 5 Fertility Boosting Foods so stay tuned.
[i] WHO. World Health Organization: Vitamin and mineral requirements in Human nutrition. WHO Library;
[ii] Medenica, S, Nedeljkovic, O, Radojevic, N, Stojkovic, M, Trbojevic, B, & Pajovic, B 2015, 'Thyroid dysfunction and thyroid autoimmunity in euthyroid women in achieving fertility', European Review For Medical And Pharmacological Sciences, vol. 19, no. 6, pp. 977-987.
[iii] S. Sasikumar, J. Shyam, Sundar, D. Dakshayani, R. Prabavathy, and M. KarthikaInt. J. Curr. Res. Aca. Rev. (2014); 2(2): 96-115. A study on significant biochemical changes in the serum of infertile women. Retrieved from: http://www.ijcrar.com/vol-2-2/S.Sasikumar,%20et%20al.pdf
[iv] Abraham, G., Lubran, M., Serum and red cell magnesium levels in patients with premenstrual tension. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1981, vol. 34 no. 11 2364-2366 http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/34/11/2364
[v] Ronnenberg et al. Preconception B vitamin and homocysteine status, conception, and early pregnancy loss. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2007; 2–9. DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwm078
[vi] Bennett M. Vitamin B12 deficiency, infertility and recurrent fetal loss. J Reprod Med. 2001 Mar;46(3):209-12.
[vii] Molloy AM, Kirke PN, Brody LC, Scott JM, Mills JL. Effects of folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies during pregnancy on fetal, infant, and child development. Food Nutrition Bulletin. 2008 Jun; 29: S101-11; discussion S112-5.
[viii] Ozkan S, Jindal S, Greenseid K, Shu J, Zeitlian G, Hickmon C, Pal L. Replete vitamin D stores predict reproductive success following in vitro fertilization. Fertility and Sterility, 2010;94(4):1314-9.
[ix] Faurschou A, Beyer DM, Schmedes A, et al. The relation between sunscreen layer thickness and vitamin D production after ultraviolet B exposure: a randomized clinical trial. Br J Dermatol 2012;167:391-5.
[x] Ebisch IMW, Thomas CMG, Peters WHM, Braat DDM, Steegers-Theunissen RPM. The importance of folate, zinc and antioxidants in the pathogenesis and prevention of subfertility. Human Reproductive Update 2007;13:163–174.