When you're trying to conceive, you may find yourself spending a lot of time doing research into health and fertility, with vitamin supplements being a common recommendation.
But how can you be sure all of the claims are accurate? When the ingredient list is full of jargon language and mysterious nutrients, it can be confusing to think that one tablet can affect pregnancy rates significantly.
But don't worry as we've done the hard yards to research which exact vitamins and minerals are important in preconception to support fertility.
Getting pregnant should be an exciting time, but it can often be confusing and stressful. Developed by fertility specialists, our Conception Checklist is tailored to your stage and lifestyle, and is designed to take the stress out of planning for a family, so that you can enjoy the journey rather than get lost in it.
Do fertility vitamins work?
First things first: Do these supplements actually work, or are we just taking a handful of tablets and hoping for a positive placebo effect?
A recent study in the journal Clinical Medical Insights: Women's Health involved a thorough review of the literature around prenatal vitamins and minerals to ascertain their efficacy, focusing on developed countries like Australia, the US and Europe.
The authors explained that a significant amount of women experiencing fertility problems are usually deficient in a range of micronutrients and are often unaware of this.
In women who are diagnosed as infertile, lower than recommended levels of certain micronutrients have been reported. Women in industrialised countries often have lower than recommended levels of micronutrients (in particular folate, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, iron and selenium).
Environmental conditions like pollution and stress alongside individual behaviours such as smoking add to these 'suboptimal' conditions which can also affect fertility and may be leading to low pregnancy rates or pregnancy complications.
But there's good news. Their research found that micronutrient status is a modifiable factor that impacts female fertility — that is to say, taking supplements is something we can control.
The research suggests preconception dietary supplements can restore the micronutrient status to recommended levels, having a beneficial effect on fertility in both healthy and 'infertile' women.
While fertility issues are very complex and vary from person to person, female fertility supplements were found to assist in terms of reducing the time to conceive and an increased chance of becoming pregnant.
So the long and the short of it is yes, they do work!
The Prenatal by Kin was formulated with clinically-backed ingredients — including methylated folate, which is a more bioavailable form that your body can absorb and use — to provide the absolute best nutrients for you and your baby.
Kin's Prenatal helps boost your immune system, supports thyroid health, energy production and helps keep constipation at bay.
For your growing baby, this vitamin tablet supports healthy brain development, strong bone growth and better calcium absorption.
Not all vitamins and minerals are the same and that's what makes our Prenatal different thanks to the use of bioavailable ingredients which your body can use easily.
Why are certain vitamins important for conception?
It's been long established that good nutrition is important during pregnancy, and it's just as important when trying to conceive.
These vitamins and minerals have vital roles in different stages: For example, adequate folate levels are important for oocyte (also known as an 'immature egg') quality, maturation, fertilisation and implantation.
As well as taking a fertility vitamin, experts recommend having an overall healthy diet to help boost your chances of conceiving and to look after your nervous system. This goes for everyone involved in baby-making — a healthy diet is ideal for sperm health.
So while we are loathed to repeat the 'eat less fried foods, exercise regularly and cut back on alcohol' mantra of wellbeing, all these small things do actually add up in the end.
What vitamins improve egg quality?
You might already know the general benefits of good old vitamin C, but this vitamin has been found to be essential for conception. Vitamin C assists the body in collagen synthesis, which is significant in the growth of the Graaf follicle, ovulation and the luteal phase.
Interestingly, women with endometriosis have been shown to have lower vitamin levels of vitamins A, C and E, which all play a role in female infertility, compared to the general population. If you suspect that you have endometriosis or PCOS, chat to your GP.
Selenium can reduce the damaging effects of free radicals, which are basically waste products from various chemical reactions in the cells of the body. Substances that produce these free radicals are things like fried foods, alcohol, tobacco, certain pesticides and air pollutants.
Selenium also plays a role in thyroid gland function as well as reducing oxidative stress. Studies suggest it may also be involved in influencing the growth and maturation of oocytes, assisting in the growth of healthy embryos.
Like selenium, zinc has antioxidant properties to help reduce the effects of free radicals in the body. High levels of free radicals can lead to a range of health issues in men and women, so it's important to pinpoint and supplement a zinc deficiency.
Studies of infertile men have found that zinc and selenium can reduce the effect that free radicals have on sperm quality and sperm count.
Did you know that roughly one in three Australians is deficient in vitamin D? You may already know the role this vitamin plays in conditions like osteoporosis, but it's also super important in conception.
Many studies have found that low levels of vitamin D are associated with female infertility and pregnancy outcomes, as well as playing a role in semen quality and motility. (More on this important vitamin below!)
Folic acid supplements are one of the go-to recommended fertility supplements both before and during pregnancy due to its correlation with helping to prevent birth defects. Folate is part of the B group of vitamins, and is needed to complete the development of the neural tube, which forms the baby's brain and spinal cord in those early few weeks of pregnancy.
It has been found to play a role in conception, too, especially when combined with its friend below, vitamin B12.
Studies indicate that vitamin B12 taken with folic acid daily can assist women trying to conceive, and may improve ovarian function in women trying to improve fertility.
Like vitamin D, it's really common for women to experience iron deficiency even before they have even thought about pregnancy. The menstrual cycle, individual diet and blood flow all affect the way iron is stored and absorbed in the body.
As pregnancy puts you at a greater risk of experiencing anaemia, it makes sense to check your levels early and start topping up while trying to conceive.
Most multivitamin nutritional supplements targeted at women contain iron, and the best fertility vitamins will too.
Iodine is recommended while trying to fall pregnant as well as throughout pregnancy as it plays a significant role in fetal brain development.
A research paper from 2021 found that in a study of 501 women experiencing moderate to severe iodine deficiency, pregnancy was delayed, and the chances of becoming pregnant in each cycle decreased by a whopping 46 per cent when compared to women who had adequate iodine levels.
Interestingly, the percentage was nowhere near 46 per cent in women who had only a mild iodine deficiency. As well as taking a fertility supplement containing iodine, you can obtain this vital nutrient by eating eggs, dairy and looking for iodised salt when stocking up your pantry essentials.
Coenzyme Q10 (known as CoQ10) is an antioxidant that our cells need for proper functioning and creating energy. In women, CoQ10 research is mainly limited to its applications in IVF patients, as studies suggest higher CoQ10 levels are linked to positive IVF outcomes.
CoQ10 may also improve semen quality, as men with higher levels have been shown to have better sperm motility.
Which vitamin deficiency is responsible for infertility?
Generally speaking, vitamin D deficiency is most strongly associated with difficulty to conceive and is correlated with pregnancy loss.
Vitamin D has many beneficial biological effects on the body, including reducing inflammation, stimulating the immune system, increasing the absorption of a range of nutrients, and is positively associated with reproductive measurements and outcomes.
As we mentioned earlier, low vitamin D levels are surprisingly common in Australia. We say 'surprisingly' because sun exposure is one sure-fire way of obtaining this key vitamin — it's even referred to by some as the 'sunshine vitamin'.
But increased time indoors and use of sunscreen can block vitamin D from coming through. So if it's not possible or safe to get direct sunlight (experts suggest early morning before UV levels are high), supplementing is super important.
Studies show (and doctors recommend) that women who are trying to conceive should aim to consume higher than the recommended levels of vitamin D. It takes time for stores of this vitamin to be restored, so getting your levels checked out early is ideal.
What should you look out for when buying prenatal vitamins?
Everyone wants a healthy pregnancy and that starts before you even fall pregnant. As we've indicated above, there is a range of specific vitamins and minerals involved in fertility. When researching fertility vitamins, you want to look for all the above as well as folic acid that is easily absorbed.
The Prenatal by Kin is a prenatal vitamin backed by science, containing highly bioavailable ingredients your body can actually use and absorb to help increase fertility.
It's never too early to speak to your doctor about your individual situation, with blood tests, pre-existing health conditions and prescription medications all playing a role in overall health.
We recommend chatting with your GP for a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist or fertility specialist.
You can also access Kin's video on prenatal vitamins for fertility and find some common FAQs with our experts here.