You’ve seen those pregnant women popping their prenatal vitamins, but did you know that it’s just as important when you’re trying to conceive too?
It’s important to get a sufficient amount of some nutrients before becoming pregnant. A deficiency in folate, for example, during the preconception phase is linked to serious birth defects. By the time you find out you’re pregnant and start taking a prenatal containing folic acid (the synthetic form of folate), it could be too late. Iron deficiency is linked to problems with ovulation, so obviously while you’re trying to conceive you want to make sure you’re getting enough iron. These are just a couple of examples of vitamins you need to make sure you’re getting before you get pregnant.
I spent most of my life not taking vitamins. I’ve always felt pretty healthy and don’t get sick very often, so I didn’t think that I needed to. I also thought that I’d get all the nutrients I needed by eating a healthy diet.
It’s true that by eating a balanced diet of whole foods we can really take charge of our health. I love food and love to cook and eat, so there will be lots of posts from me on the blog about great stuff to eat, and I’ll be sure to share some of my favorite recipes too (so stay tuned!).
But sometimes life gets busy, and despite our best intentions our diet falls short. For this reason it’s really important to make sure that we’re taking a good prenatal multivitamin to help fill the gaps. There are also vitamins that it’s difficult to get through our food, like Vitamin D, and taking a multivitamin gives us a little extra insurance policy.
The Harvard Nurses Study, a landmark study on women’s health, also found a link between taking vitamins and successfully conceiving. The study followed 18,000 trying-to-conceive nurses over an 8-year period and found that the women who took a multivitamin regularly were more likely to conceive that those who didn’t.
Here are some the key vitamins and minerals that are most important, for both men and women, while trying to conceive:
- B6: regulates hormones and blood sugar;
- B12: helps keep ovulation regular, can also help keep the uterine lining healthy for implantation of a fertilized embryo, and, for men, it can help boost sperm quality;
- C: boosts immunity and promotes progesterone production, which is important for implantation;
- D: ensures proper production of sex hormones and reduces inflammation, improving overall fertility;
- E: contains antioxidants and boosts egg health;
- Zinc: helps maintain hormonal balance, particularly of estrogen and progesterone which are so important during the menstrual cycle. Zinc also helps improve sperm quality.
I started taking a prenatal vitamin at the advice of a friend. I also started taking calcium and vitamin D supplements. And now, when I’m asked how I was able to conceive my son at age 42 despite really horrible fertility test results, and starting to take vitamins while trying to conceive is always one of the answers I give. Now I’m no longer trying to get pregnant, but I still take a multivitamin every day.
In choosing a prenatal vitamin, look for a good whole-food vitamin. Make sure the vitamin contains the recommended dosages of vitamins and minerals plus folic acid – no less, no more – and remember that it supplements, not replaces, your healthy diet. It’s still important to make sure you’re eating a heathy, balanced diet of whole grains, fruits and vegetables with little sugar or processed food. When you get pregnant you’ll be eating for two and your diet will be really important, so it’s great to get into the healthy eating habit now.
Lots of love,