- This section is under construction, so expect regular changes.
- The information included here is current as of January 2019.
Check with your doctor before taking any supplements. And with many things in life, so is true of supplements; more is not better! Take the correct amount, and no more. You can reach toxic levels with many supplements. Below are some suggestions for educational purposes. Your doctor must be the final arbiter when making decisions about supplements. This list doesn’t include things that I deemed through my research to be questionable in effect, or potentially dangerous. For that, link to my page on supplements you should not take when pregnant.
Most people would not consider water to be a supplement, but many people do not drink enough water in general. When you are trying to get pregnant, or once you have become pregnant, it is very important that you drink plenty of water. Stay hydrated so your cervical mucous can be what it’s trying to be, and so the fluid within your Fallopian tubes is abundant for the trips up and down that your gametes will be taking. For the same reason avoid antihistamines and decongestants that can dry you up. Increased blood volume and metabolism when pregnant means that the requirement for water to nourish yourself and your baby, and to remove waste products increases.
DHEA is produced in the adrenal glands and is a precursor to all steroid hormones including the reproductive hormones Estrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone. DHEA levels on average begin a slow decline beginning around age 30 in women. Some women with diminished Ovarian Reserve, Luteal Phase Deficiency, PCOS or sex hormones that are out of balance for any number or reasons, choose to take DHEA as a supplment. Doing so should be cleared with your fertility doctor first. Caution must be noted that taking DHEA will distort the results of blood tests ordered to look at the levels of your sex hormones, so inform your reproductive endocrinologist before performing blood tests for sex hormones.
Although synthesized progesterone, estrogen, testosterone and DHEA are available and often prescribed, there is a growing movement towards Bio-Identical Hormone Supplements. Your body reacts best to bio-identical hormones, but because drug companies cannot patent a naturally occurring hormone, they synthesize drugs that are similar to the ones in your body, but they are not exact fits. Bio-identical hormones are exactly like the ones found in your body and they are the best fit. They are available without a prescription in gel or cream forms. There is a strong argument to be made for using bio-identical hormones rather that the synthesized forms that come by prescription. Also please be careful when encountering the descriptor “natural”. Natural only signifies that the product comes from a natural source including vegetables and minerals. “Natural” does not mean that the substance is a good fit or will do the job you expect it to do. There are many progesterone supplements that are natural that are not bio-identical that have little effect when used. Please read this online article about bio-identical verses synthesized hormones.
Bio-identical Progesterone is available in a non-prescription gel that is applied to the skin. Progesterone levels are checked with lab work or inferred from an ultrasound of the uterus, and a BBT chart that sags early in the luteal phase suggests a progesterone problem. Although it appears the risks of using the gel are low, you should always check with your fertility doctor before using this, or any supplement.
Iron deficiency anemia occurs in 33 to 43% of pregnancies because as the blood volume increases by 50%, iron has to be available to make the hemoglobin groups within the red blood cells functional. Iron is necessary for the distribution of oxygen to insure the healthy growth and development of the fetus and the placenta Iron deficient anemia is associated with preterm delivery, maternal depression and infant anemia. Iron is also intimately linked to thyroid function and the production of the Thyroid hormones T3 and T4. Higher miscarriage is correlated to low iron, Ferretin and T3 and T4. Pregnant women should not exceed the prescribed amount of supplemental iron as this can lead to constipation, vomiting and abnormally high hemoglobin levels.
Prenatal Vitamins are required to make sure you’re getting the minimum daily requirement of everything for a pregnant woman or one about to conceive. Look for reputable brands that have their product tested for ingredients by third party organizations. Cheaper brands may save you money, but there is the chance you are not getting what you should be, and may be getting stuff that you definitely don’t want. Check with your doctor about supplementing beyond a prenatal vitamin. They are designed to give you everything you need in one package, and further supplementation may be unnecessary or possibly harmful.
B-Vitamins are especially important in reproduction, and you need to get enough every day because they are water soluble and therefore can’t be stored for later use. Whatever your body doesn’t need at the moment, is readily urinated out.
B-Complex is a combination of the 8 below listed B-vitamins, made available in one pill. And if you’re pregnant and feeling run down, a vitamin B boost may be just what you need.
Vitamin B1 thiamin is necessary for fetal brain development.
Vitamin B2 riboflavin is good for developing baby’s eyes, skin, bones, muscles, and nerves, and lowers the risk of preeclampsia for the pregnant mother.
Vitamin B3 niacin is essential for fetal brain development, and will help the pregnant mother with nausea, digestion, and may help reduce migraine headaches.
Vitamin B5 pantothenic Acid plays a role in the production of pregnancy and anti-stress hormones, helps the pregnant mother metabolize food and avoid leg cramps.
Vitamin B6 pyroxidine is important in the development of the fetal brain and is taken to reduce nausea and vomiting. But don’t exceed 75mg a day. Taking above 100mg a day can cause nerve damage and numbness.
Vitamin B7 biotin is important for embryonic growth, and helps the pregnant mother with skin rashes and brittle nails and hair. Pregnancy depletes B7.
Vitamin B9 is also known as folate. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. It is converted to the active form, known as L-methylfolate in the body. L-methylfolate is available as a supplement. Some women genetically lack an enzyme that metabolizes folate due to a mutation in the MTHFR gene. It is recommended that pregnant women take 600 ug of folate every day. Low levels of folate are linked to neural tube defects, which are very serious congenital defects that leave the spine not fully formed and portions of the spinal cord outside of the spinal column. Because neural tube defects can have their origin very early in pregnancy, it is recommended that women of child-bearing age take at least 400ug of folate a day, and women actively trying to become pregnant should take 600ug of folate a day. B9 is also needed to prevent cleft pallet and for the production of red blood cells. Good natural sources of Vitamin B9 include lentils, fresh spinach, kale, broccoli, sunflower seeds and avocado (sounds like a yummy salad!).
Vitamin B12 cobalamin is taken as a supplement along with B6 and B9 to prevent neural tube defects. B12 is also necessary for the production of red blood cells.
Homocysteine is available to us through eating meat. High levels of Homocysteine can cause fertility issues, pre-eclampsia, miscarriage, placenta abruptio (when the placenta separates from the uterus), and low birth weight babies. High levels of Homocysteine are coincidental with low levels of B6, B12 and B9/folate. And since high levels of Homocysteine coincide with low levels of B9, high homocystene is associated with neural tube defects. The preventative treatment is to supplement with B6, B9 and B12.
Vitamin D or Calcitriol is involved in controlling the production of Estrogen. Vitamin D controls genes involved in Embryo Implantation. Deficient Vitamin D is associated with lower pregnancy rates. Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of cesarean section, preeclampsia, preterm birth and gestational diabetes. Vitamin D taken by males beginning several months prior to pregnancy attempts has been shown to improve sperm morphology, quality and count, and has additionally been shown to improve the quality of the semen.
The Omega-3 essential fatty acids DHA and EPA are found abundantly in fish oil. These substances are important for fetal brain development. There have been observational studies comparing children born from mothers who supplemented with fish oil, verses children whose mothers had not, and it is suggested that the supplemented group had improved cognitive function. Additionally supplementing with fish oil reduced the chances of preterm delivery. Fish Oil may also help to reduce Cortisol, the “Stress Hormone”. In order to supplement DHA and EPA through diet, pregnant women can consume two to three servings of low-mercury fish like salmon, sardines or pollock per week.
Baby Aspirin is recommended by some doctors because due to it’s anti-inflammatory, vasodilator and anti-clotting properties, it may improve blood flow to the uterus and specifically to the implantation site, where the placenta will form.
Vitex angus castus an herb known as chasteberry, as well as being a Chinese Medicinal herb, Man Jing Zi. This herb is a champion to me because good research has been published certifying it’s efficacy and safety. Vitex has been shown to support progesterone production, and it is suggested that is can normalize the menstrual cycle, the increased progesterone can improve luteal phase defect, and since it appears to temper FSH by promoting LH production at the pituitary, it may treat some symptoms of PCOS.
Cimicifuga Racemosa has been shown to be effective in treating PCOS.
Ashwagandha is an herbal medication in the ayurvedic tradition and has been used for a couple thousand years to treat a long list of medical complaints. It has recently become popular among women seeking pregnancy. But it is strictly prohibited once a woman is pregnant due to the threat of miscarriage, and must not be used during breast feeding.
Epimidium is also a Chinese Medicinal herb called Yin Yang Huo, translated commonly as Horny Goat Weed. This is an herb that increases reproductive health by supporting the kidney yang.
Dang Gui is a Chinese Medicinal herb that has exhibited Estrogen increasing effects and has been used for thousands of years as the chief herb in Chinese Medical herbal formulas for the treatment of infertility and for regulating the menstrual cycle. This herb would be of particular interest to women who have thin endometrial linings due to low levels of estrogen.
Sha Yuan Zi is a Chinese Medicinal herb that has been shown to increase blood flow to the uterus/increase the weight of the uterus. Dang Gui can be used with Sha Yuan Zi for women with thin endometrial linings due to a thin endometrium.
Pretreatment with Coenzyme Q10 was demonstrated in an NIH sponsered study to improve ovarian response and embryo quality in women with decreased ovarian reserve.
L-Arginine is one of 21 amino acids used in our body to make proteins. It is essential – that is it has to be consumed because our body cannot make it, and if your protein intake is low* as sometimes seen in vegetarians, you may be advised to take this supplement. L-Arginine is thought to increase the blood flow through vasal dilation to the uterus, ovaries and genitals. Improved blood flow improves reproductive health through the production of higher quality cervical mucous, healthier ovulatory function, more robust vascularizaion of the uterus for better implantation, and improved blood flow to the genitals as this effects libido. *dietary sources of L-arginine include nuts, lentils, kidney beans, fresh soybeans, egg yolk, meat and dairy products.
Astaxanthin like Coenzyme Q is an anti-oxidant used typically to treat male factor infertility due to oxidative stress. But it’s effects on female infertility due to oxidative stress are beginning to be studied.
Myo-Inositol is a vitamin B complex supplement for fertility, pregnancy and PCOS. It has been used and studied as a supplement to IVF and ICSI, and found to increase prenancy rates in these women, and it has been postulated that it improves egg quality and reduces the amount of fertility drugs normally required for the IVF or ICSI proceedure.
Magnesium plays critical roles in immune, muscle and nerve function. Deficiency of Magnesium is associated with an increased risk og chronic high blood pressure and premature labor.
Ginger (Sheng Jiang) is a Chinese Medicinal root that is commonly used to treat nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy.
Probiotics are believed to increase the digestive health of mothers, and it has been suggested that supplemental probiotics reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, postpartum depression and infant eczema and dematitis.
under review by me:
Selenium protects against oxidative damage, is found in the Brazil nut.
Zinc found in beef, liver, chicken, oysters, nuts and seeds and whole grains.
Tyrosine an amino acidfound in high protein foods such as turkey, chicken, dairy, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, lima beans and avocados.
Essential amino acids.
Antioxidants combat the free-radical damage associated with chronic inflammation.