Do Prenatal Vitamins Increase Your Chance of Getting Pregnant: What the Science Says

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    Prenatal vitamins contain all the vitamins and minerals you’ll need before, during, and after your pregnancy. But how do you choose from all these supplements?

    Do prenatals help you get pregnant?

    You’re probably aware that prenatal vitamins are an essential component of a healthy pregnancy. But can these vitamins also help you get pregnant? Well, studies regarding prenatal vitamins boosting fertility don’t exist just yet. This lack of research could be due to the various formulations of prenatal vitamins available on the market.

    However, prenatal vitamins are especially helpful for allowing you to reach nutritional goals essential for a healthy pregnancy. These vitamins ensure the intake of key nutrients such as folate, iron, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and others.

    Although there is limited research into prenatal vitamins’ effect on fertility, there is a clear link between diet and female fertility. Diets high in trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and added sugars can negatively affect fertility. Conversely, a diet based on Mediterranean dietary patterns (i.e., rich in dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, plant-based protein, and vitamins and minerals) is known to have a favorable impact on female fertility.

    When to start taking a prenatal vitamin

    This is an important decision you should make in conjunction with your healthcare provider. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends taking a prenatal and eating a healthy diet before you become pregnant. Prenatal vitamins should also be taken throughout a pregnancy, and many healthcare providers suggest that they be continued during breastfeeding or postpartum recovery. Nutrients like folic acid and iron have been found to be essential for the early stages of a healthy pregnancy, as well as healthy prenatal development and pregnancy outcomes.

    “The earlier in the pregnancy the better, as nutrients like folic acid and iron have been found to be essential for a healthy pregnancy.”

    When should I start taking prenatal vitamins if I’m trying to conceive?

    ACOG recommends that you begin prenatal vitamins before trying to conceive. They also note the importance of a well-balanced diet, healthy activity level, and avoiding substances that can have negative effects on fetal development. This approach ensures that your body is sufficiently stocked up on essential nutrients, creating an optimal environment for conception and early pregnancy. Of course, you should talk to your doctor about the best timeline for you.

    The science of prenatal vitamins

    Prenatal vitamins are used to bridge the gap with any nutrients that may be missing from your diet, since nutrient demands increase with pregnancy. While most obstetricians and healthcare providers will recommend a prenatal supplement before, or shortly after, conception, it is important that these supplements do not replace a healthy diet rich in leafy greens, fresh fruit, lean protein, fatty fish, fiber, nuts, grains, seeds, fortified cereals, and healthy fats. The additional micronutrients in prenatal vitamins are usually intended to be taken pre-conception, during pregnancy, and throughout breastfeeding.

    What are inside prenatal vitamins?

    While prenatal vitamins may look like any run-of-the-mill multivitamin, they are actually made specifically for pregnant humans and typically contain approximately 20 nutrients and minerals to support the body’s increasingly changing needs. Your prenatal vitamin will likely contain folic acid, vitamin B12, fatty acids like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – an omega-3 important for brain development – calcium, choline, and magnesium. They are usually available in capsule form and, though sold over the counter, should always be taken only after consulting your physician.

    Benefits of prenatal vitamins

    Prenatal vitamins contain all of the vitamins and minerals a person needs before and during pregnancy. They provide iron, which supports the development of the fetus and placenta; folic acid, which helps prevent neural tube defects; and, among others, DHA, which is important for brain development. They also contribute to the baby’s nervous system, skin, bones, eyes, and lungs. As for the pregnant person, prenatals can support their immune system.

    Are there any foods that can complement the benefits of prenatal vitamins for fertility?

    Absolutely! As we mentioned earlier, prenatal vitamins are not meant to replace a healthy diet. There are a number of foods that can complement the benefits that prenatal vitamins offer.

    First and foremost, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are highly recommended. Omega-3s are essential for the healthy development of the baby’s brain. One of the best sources of omega-3s is fatty fish. However, it’s important to avoid heavy metals that can be contaminated in certain fish. Additionally, foods rich in folate, such as legumes, asparagus, and leafy greens can help with the growth and development of the fetus.

    Another important nutrient is the mineral choline. Choline plays a vital role in the growth of the placenta and fetal brain development. It becomes even more crucial during the third trimester. Prime sources of choline include fish, beef, poultry, and eggs.

    Lastly, your body has a higher need for iron during pregnancy. Iron necessary for the production of red blood cell formation and hemoglobin production. Iron-rich foods include fortified breakfast cereals, oysters, white beans, beef liver, and lentils.

    How to choose the right prenatal

    There are many prenatal vitamins available to choose from and, as to be expected, not all are created equal. If you already have a preferred brand of supplements, like Care/of, you might want to start there. Care/of’s prenatal vitamin has 23 nutrients in a superior product designed for ease of digestion, a very important issue for a pregnant person. We use the most up-to-date research to include the most effective forms of ingredients, like methylfolate and choline, essential for neural tube, brain, and spinal development. Check with your doctor before beginning a prenatal.

    If you don’t already have a brand preference, ask your obstetrician or friends who have recently been pregnant for recommendations. The most important factors are getting the right amount of essential vitamins and minerals, the levels of absorption and potency, the convenience of the product itself, the purity of ingredients, and the list of non-essential ingredients on the label. Hint: acrylic resin is probably not a healthy choice.

    Look for highly absorbable forms of all nutrients and their adherence to the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Vitamin B12 has an RDA of 2.6 mcg and methylcobalamin is the active form preferred over cyanocobalamin. Bisglycinate and chelate versions of iron have an RDA of 27 mg for pregnant people. Folate, which is preferred over folic acid, has an RDA of 600 mcg for pregnant people. Choline has an RDA of 450 mg for pregnant people, while Vitamin D cholecalciferol’s recommended dosage is 600 IU or 15 mcg.

    Your choice of prenatal vitamins is something you will likely live with throughout your pregnancy, possibly until the end of breastfeeding. If you find that you are having a difficult time digesting your chosen supplement, you might want to try others until you can find something easy on your stomach. You’re in it for the long haul. And remember: Nothing beats a healthy diet, proper hydration, good sleep, and exercise.

    Do prenatal vitamins have side effects?

    If your prenatal vitamin makes you feel nauseous, try taking it with food. If that doesn’t help, try a different brand, preferably one with vitamin B6, which can help with morning sickness and nausea. Iron in your prenatal vitamin can potentially make you constipated or gassy. Increasing fluid intake and eating more fiber-rich foods may help. If not, a supplement with less iron may help, but consult with your healthcare provider first to make sure you are getting enough iron.

    Other ways to boost fertility?

    Healthy lifestyle choices like eating balanced meals of lean protein, high-quality fats, and whole grain carb sources can help to promote fertility. Adequate sleep, regular exercise, reduced caffeine intake, stopping smoking, and reduction of alcohol (which has been proven to deplete essential vitamins) may also be beneficial.

    A Mediterranean diet has proven to have an impact on female fertility. Foods rich in dietary fiber, omega-3 (ɷ-3) fatty acids, plant-based protein, and vitamin and mineral supplements are all excellent nutrition choices. One study suggests adding more vegetarian-based protein sources, while another examines the impact of fish intake. Your diet can play a major role in the microbiome balance in the body. In people born female, the bacterial balance of the urinary and genital tracts, as well as the endometrium, can have an impact on fertility and pregnancy.

    The Bottom Line

    While the direct link between prenatal vitamins and increased fertility is yet to be established, their role in ensuring optimal nutrition during pregnancy is undeniable. They contain a plethora of vitamins and minerals that are essential for a healthy pregnancy. It’s recommended to begin supplementation a few months before trying to conceive, but you should always consult with your healthcare provider first.

    Complementing prenatal vitamins with a healthy diet rich in omega-3s, lean protein, fruit, vegetables, and dietary fiber is recommended. Lifestyle factors – including diet, sleep, exercise, and stress management – are all vitally important for improving your fertility.

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    Laurel Ash, ND
    Laurel Ash, ND: Medical Content Reviewer
    Laurel Ash, ND is a board-certified Naturopathic Physician. She holds additional credentials with a master’s in integrative mental health. Dr. Ash graduated from the National University of Natural Medicine in 2019. Dr. Ash practices in Oregon and Washington where ND’s scope of practice includes primary care. Using the best tools of allopathic/conventional medicine with the holistic tenants of naturopathic medicine has created a powerful force of healing for the patients in her practice. Dr. Ash focuses on combining integrative/functional health modalities with evidence-based medicine. She has experience as a medical reviewer in the holistic medicine field and partners with companies and practitioners to produce science-backed content for readers and consumers interested in holistic medicine. She is passionate about blending the strengths of allopathic and integrative medicine to transform the healthcare industry, empowering people with an understanding of all their options on their wellness journey.
    Jordana Tobelem, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Jordana Tobelem is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys helping others become the best versions of themselves through proper nutrition education. Jordana is passionate about promoting lifestyle changes through nutrition, physical activity, and behavior to create a superior quality of life. She uses her experience in the clinical field of dietetics to provide consulting services to an array of healthcare brands and companies. Jordana loves finding the most current research in nutrition to create meaningful content to share with her clients. Jordana has been a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics since 2018 and also holds certifications in both Personal Training and Health Coaching.