Vitamins and minerals are powerful regulators of female fertility and numerous studies have pinpointed specific nutrients which may help women to up the odds of conception. Even a simple multivitamin has been shown to up pregnancy rates.
Recently, researchers of natural treatments have becoming increasingly interested in how specific nutrients and vitamins in the follicular fluids - in which the egg matures - affect egg quality and pregnancy rates. IVF provides the perfect situation for analyzing the effects of nutrients on fertility because the fluids within ovarian follicles can be analyzed at egg retrieval and tallied with IVF success rates. This kind of research has been done with melatonin, vitamin D, myo-inositol and other nutrients and demonstrates that low levels of various nutrients often correlates with lower IVF success rates.
These novel studies give a different view of infertility proving that nutrient levels, diet and lifestyle choices can be huge factors in infertility. Follicular nutrients may be able to help improve the frequency and timing of ovulation, determine egg quality and promote the ideal hormonal secretions for optimum fertility. Here is a list of some of the nutrient superstars which have been studied to date.
That said, every woman's infertility is different and depending upon your diagnosis, your age and the treatments that you are pursuing; you may benefit from certain nutrients combinations and not others. Nutritional care for fertility is not a one-size-fits-all magic bullet treatment, it can require some care to pinpoint the nutrients that may be best suited to your situation. As with all supplements, herbs and diet changes, it is essential that ask your physician before starting anything new, this is especially important if you are taking medications including fertility medication. Some fertility physicians are very well versed in nutritional aspects of fertility while others are not.
* Vitamin D has been shown to have a powerful effect on increasing the odds of IVF success and has been shown to be important for a healthy pregnancy too. Blood tests for 5-hydroxy-vitamin D can readily check your levels so you can supplement effectively. You should always ask your physician before supplementing new nutritional products. (http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art61663.asp)
* Zinc has been shown to be critical to the rapid development of the egg within the follicle especially with IVF where many eggs are developing at once. Zinc is usually present at higher levels in prenatal vitamins compared to multivitamins which maybe another reason to find a good prenatal vitamin rather than a multi-vitamin. You should always ask your physician before supplementing new nutritional products.(http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art8956.asp)
* L-Arginine has been shown in some studies to boost IVF success rates in 'poor responder patients' but other studies have shown poor results at high doses (16 g per day). L-Arginine and has a special place in pre-IVF nutrient protocols at some IVF clinics - at lower doses (2000 mg per day) - and has been proven to increase uterine blood flow. You should always ask your physician before supplementing new nutritional products.(http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art61104.asp)
* Fish Oil provides DHA which is thought to be important for very early neurological development. Taking fish oil pre-conceptually may allow you to build up good levels of DHA before you conceive. Additionally fish oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory which may to help curb conditions such as endometriosis and has been demonstrated to increase uterine blood flow. You should always ask your physician before supplementing new nutritional products.
* Vitamin C - in small doses of 750 mg a a day - has been shown to correct luteal-phase-defect which is marked by low progesterone in the second half of the menstrual cycle. This treatment boosted progesterone and estrogen levels and resulted in a 25% pregnancy rate within six months in a study published in Fertility and Sterility. You should always ask your physician before supplementing new nutritional products.
* Melatonin has been demonstrated in multiple studies to improve egg quality and almost double IVF success rates when taken for 1-3 months at a dose of 3 mg at night prior to IVF. You should always ask your physician before supplementing new nutritional products.(http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art29772.asp).
* DHEA is recommende by many fertility physicians for improving IVF success and egg quality when taken at a relatively high dose of 75 mg per day. You should always ask your physician before supplementing new nutritional products especially a hormone like DHEA. (http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art17793.asp)
* CO Enzyme Q10 - although not backed by human studies - is thought to have a special place in improving egg quality because of it's powerful effect on regenerating the mitochondria - the tiny energy factories of each cell - which are known to be a key factor in age-related infertility. This supplement is recommended by some of the top infertility clinics in relatively high doses, thin 200 mg three times a day! You should always ask your physician before supplementing new nutritional products.
* Myo-Inositol has been the subject of multiple studies because of it's ability to help women with PCOS to restore their fertility. Myo-inositol is also known to improve egg quality which may be especially valuable for the over 35's. Most studies have used a dose of 2 grams twice a day. You should always ask your physician before supplementing new nutritional products.(http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art11781.asp)
* N-Acetyl Cysteine has shown promise for helping women with PCOS when given at a dose of 1.2 grams a day alongside clomid in clomid-resistant women. You should always ask your physician before supplementing new nutritional products.(http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art17645.asp)
* Alpha-Lipolic Acid is another nutrient which has been demonstrated to be helpful to women with PCOS when taken as a twice daily controlled release 600 mg tablet. You should always ask your physician before supplementing new nutritional products.(J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2010 Mar 1;4(2):359-64 Effects of controlled-release alpha lipoic acid in lean, non-diabetic patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. Masharani U, et al.)
* Iron has been shown to reduce the incidence of ovulatory infertility by 50% and is a very common deficiency. Ask you physician to check you ferritin and iron levels to check that you are not anemic.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of nutrients which may help you you conceive faster! There is an incredible variety of nutrients and herbs which have been studied for their effectiveness as fertility restoratives. As with all supplements and herbs it is essential that ask your physician before starting anything new, this is especially important if you are taking medications including fertility medications.
Your diet is of course the best source of nutrients for optimum fertility, simply following the USDA recommendations to consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily is a good start. Having a very varied, plant-rich diet which contains low-glycemic fruits, vegetables with ample plant proteins, good quality fish, meats and egg, and low-glycemic whole grains may make a tremendous difference to your antioxidant intake. Avoiding foods to which you are sensitive may boost fertility too. Be sure to ask your physician or dietitian before making any radical dietary changes.
Whether you are trying to conceive naturally or are using assisted reproduction, diet and nutrition is a factor which can definitely work in your favor, sometimes dramatically upping the odds of conceiving.
This article is for informational and educational purposed only and is NOT a substitute for medical or nutritional advice for which you should consult a physician or dietitian.
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