There’s a whole alphabet of food supplements out there – from vitamin A to zinc. And there’s good evidence that many of them are beneficial for our health. But what about products specifically marketed as “fertility supplements”? Are they really capable of boosting your reproductive health and helping you conceive?
In this article, we look at nine common ingredients in fertility supplements and whether there’s evidence to suggest they work.
But first, let’s take a step back…
Do fertility supplements really work?
You probably don’t need us to tell you this, but fertility is complex. Reproductive challenges can be related to all kinds of factors: your physical health, age, genes, lifestyle choices. And all that applies to your male partner (if you have one), too, when his sperm is the other piece in your fertility puzzle.
So, the right fertility-boosting treatment or lifestyle change will depend on your situation. And taking a fertility supplement may not be enough on its own.
That said, getting enough micronutrients is vital for a healthy reproductive system, where you regularly release good-quality eggs to be fertilized. So if you’re not getting plenty of these nutrients from your diet, it might help to take a supplement.
Ask your doctor which fertility supplements they’d recommend and in what amount. If you’re already receiving fertility treatment, it’s essential to make sure any supplements you take won’t interact with your medication.
What supplements should I take to increase fertility?
Let’s think in terms of could not should. We’ve put together a list of nine fertility supplements that you could take, if they’re right for you. And there are links to research studies if you want to explore more deeply, too.
That’s vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, and B12. You might already be familiar with B9 as folate, or folic acid in its synthetic version. It’s a supplement that’s important to take during pregnancy because it helps prevent neural tube defects (problems with brain and spine development) in your growing baby.
But if you’re looking for vitamins to help ovulation, the B-complex vitamins might just work for you. A 2008 study found that women who took B-complex vitamins (and folic acid in particular) in a multivitamin were less likely to have reproductive struggles linked to ovulation.
We get vitamin D naturally from sunlight, but we can become deficient if we don’t spend much time outdoors. And having low levels of vitamin D may make it harder for women to conceive – see this 2017 study, for example.
More research is needed to confirm whether the reverse is true: that is, whether taking supplements to raise your vitamin D levels can help boost your fertility.
The last of our vitamins for female fertility is vitamin E. Check out this 2018 study, which suggests that vitamin E is beneficial for women’s reproductive health. Scientists aren’t totally sure how this works, though! Again, further research is needed.
Iron deficiency can really mess with your reproductive health. So if you’re at risk of not getting enough iron in your diet (if you’re vegetarian or vegan, for example), it might be worth taking a supplement. This 2006 study found that taking iron supplements could help prevent ovulation-related fertility issues caused by low iron levels.
Selenium and zinc
Women with lower levels of selenium and zinc may take longer to get pregnant, according to this 2019 study. However, the researchers also found that selenium, in particular, seems to play a role in keeping the follicular fluid that surrounds women’s eggs healthy. So taking a supplement containing these minerals could be helpful if you’re trying to conceive (TTC).
Other supplements to boost fertility
Acetyl L-carnitine (ALC)
ALC contains powerful antioxidants, which are substances that protect your cells from unstable molecules in your body. Researchers found that ALC supplements showed “great promise” for helping women who were struggling to conceive due to conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
CoQ10 is another antioxidant, particularly helpful for women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment. For example, see this 2018 study where women who took CoQ10 before beginning IVF had healthier embryos and a slightly higher pregnancy rate than women who didn’t take the supplement.
DHEA is a “prohormone” – basically, a hormone that helps other hormones, including the ones you need to get pregnant. There’s evidence that DHEA supplements can improve the chances of conceiving via IVF for women with low ovarian reserve.
Fertility supplements: The last word
So, do fertility supplements really work? If you take the right kind of supplement for your situation, in the right dose, the evidence suggests that, yes, it may help you get pregnant. But it’s still just one part of a complex picture.
Chat to your doctor about the best fertility supplements for you. And good luck!