So… the time has come when you’re thinking about starting a family. HealthDoesIt touched base with Dr Marilyn Glenville, one of the UK’s leading nutritionists. She is the author of sixteen internationally bestselling books including Getting Pregnant Faster.
Q: What are the most important nutrients when planning a baby?
Marilyn: Although it goes without saying that a healthy diet is crucial to a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby, many people are unaware that certain nutrients are important when planning a baby. There is now a great deal of scientific knowledge about the use of nutritional supplements and their beneficial effects on fertility and pregnancy. We know from the evidence in the medical journals that certain nutrients increase the chances of a couple getting pregnant and staying pregnant either through natural conception or alongside IVF treatment.
I would suggest the couple take a good multivitamin and mineral designed specifically for fertility, a different one for the man and woman. Plus, vitamin C (needs to be alkaline for healthy cervical mucus so magnesium ascorbate not ascorbic acid) and an omega 3 supplement.
I have found that if a couple embark upon a fertility boosting diet and lifestyle plan for three months before trying for a baby, then their chances of getting pregnant faster increase significantly. The operative word here is ‘couple’. Both the man and woman must make the changes. Both need to participate fully. It is extremely important that you both take all of the steps to change your diet and lifestyle.
It is also important that many of these nutrients are taken three months ahead of conception. This is particularly important for folic acid to help prevent spina bifida and also because it takes approximately three months for the follicles on the ovaries to develop before one is mature enough to release an egg at ovulation.
Women are born with their store of eggs and so although it is not possible to change the number of eggs, it is possible to change the quality, and this is the important point. By improving the quality of your eggs, you are giving yourself the best chance of conceiving naturally and also preventing a miscarriage.
With men, it also takes at least three months for a new batch of sperm cells to mature, ready to be ejaculated. Men produce sperm all their lives so it is always possible to not only improve the quality but also the quantity of sperm by making certain lifestyle and nutritional changes.
We know that certain nutrients increase the chances of getting pregnant and staying pregnant.
Folic Acid and B vitamins
It is well known that folic acid can prevent spina bifida. Folic acid is undoubtedly important, but it is just part of the very important B-complex family of vitamins that are necessary to produce the genetic materials DNA and RNA. Also look for the active form of folic acid, methylfolate in supplements.
Zinc is the most widely studied nutrient in terms of fertility for both men and women. It is an essential component of genetic material and a zinc deficiency can cause chromosome changes in either men or women, leading to reduced fertility and an increased risk of miscarriage.
Selenium is an antioxidant that helps to protect your body from highly reactive chemical fragments called free radicals. For this reason, selenium can prevent chromosome breakage, which is known to be a cause of birth defects and miscarriages. Good levels of selenium are also essential to maximise sperm formation.
Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant and has been shown to increase fertility when given to both men and women. If a woman over the age of 35 is told that her fertility problems are caused by her age, then it is likely that she could benefit from taking both vitamins E and C. These antioxidants have been shown to significantly reduce age-related ovulation decline.
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, and we know that women who take vitamin C while they were doing IVF have a significantly increased pregnancy rate. Vitamin C is important as it can prevent premature labour and helps in the manufacture of collagen which is important for avoiding stretch marks. Vitamin C is also good for men can it help to increase sperm counts by up to a third.
Two amino acids, L-arginine and L-carnitine are particularly important for male fertility. The L-arginine is essential for healthy sperm production and protects the sperm against oxidative damage. The higher the levels of L-carnitine in sperm cells, the higher the sperm count and motility.
Vitamin D helps to balance your immune system which is important in getting and staying pregnant. Vitamin D increases the Th2 response from your immune system which your body needs to maintain a pregnancy. Once pregnant, you should carry on taking a supplement containing vitamin D3 because during pregnancy you are building another skeleton.
Vitamin D is also important for male fertility as low levels of this nutrient are associated with low sperm motility and more abnormal forms.
Co-enzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like substance that is contained in nearly every cell of your body. Because of its role in energy production, it is a significant nutrient for men if sperm motility is poor. It is also useful for men who have a higher proportion of abnormal sperm or sperm with high amounts of DNA damage.
For women it is now thought that co-enzyme Q10 may be helpful for women who maybe have been told they have ‘old’ eggs because of their age and this nutrient could be helpful in improving egg quality.
Take a good supplement designed for fertility and planning a baby, containing all the important nutrients mentioned above including co-enzyme Q10 and vitamin D.
Omega 3 fatty acids
The omega 3 fatty acids are important for both men and women when planning a baby. They are helpful in preventing miscarriage as they help with blood flow to the baby. They have also been shown to help with improving sperm count for men.
A good omega 3 fatty acid supplement should be taken (not cod liver oil because of the vitamin A). Omega 3 fatty acids are crucial for brain, eye and central nervous system development in a growing baby, especially in the last trimester of pregnancy.
The Glenville Nutrition Clinics are all operating remotely at the moment so if you need any help nutritionally go to www.glenvillenutrition.com or phone 01892 515905.