As a functional nutritionist my top recommendation is always to heal your body, your hormones, and your fertility with food first. However, because life happens and we can’t always have total control over what we eat and what nutrients our body absorbs, I also believe it’s important to include specific, targeted supplements as part of a healthy lifestyle, especially if you’re trying to conceive or already pregnant.
What you eat is directly incorporated into cells and used for every single process in your body. Choosing to eat real, whole, nutrient-dense foods should always be your first priority when it comes to getting the essential nutrients your body (and your hormones) needs.
H O W E V E R I am also a realist and know that this isn’t always possible .
AND I also know that our soils are nutritionally depleted, making it even more difficult to obtain all the nutrition we need from food alone.
AND many women have compromised gut health which prevents proper absorption of nutrients from food.
AND we’re surrounded by toxins day in and day out that compromise our body’s ability to assimilate and utilize all the nutrients we need from the food we eat.
My opinion is that supplements can be your personal “insurance policy” against endocrine disruptive things that you’re doing (knowingly or unknowingly) that are throwing your hormones off balance.
Whether you’re trying to…
The right supplements can definitely help you take your health to the next level.
Today I’m going to share the top supplements I recommend to my clients who are trying to conceive or are already pregnant.
But first, I want to talk about a supplement you should definitely NOT be taking … that your doctor may have recommended.
If you’ve been taking folic acid, STOP NOW. For a ton of info on why, read my blog on Why You Shouldn’t Take Folic Acid, but the short version is that synthetic folic acid is not normally found in foods or the human body. While it can be converted into usable forms of folate, that conversion is limited, and unabsorbed folic acid blocks receptor sites for naturally occurring folate. An overabundance of folic acid in the body has been linked to poor detoxification ability and miscarriages. Not only that, but folic acid does not cross the placenta like natural folate, meaning that if you do become pregnant, your baby will not benefit from the folic acid you’re taking anyway. Unfortunately, most prenatal multivitamins use synthetic folic acid instead of natural folate because it’s cheaper.
So what are my top supplement recommendations for conception and pregnancy?
The prenatal that I recommend for all my trying to conceive, pregnant, and breastfeeding mamas is the Designs For Health Prenatal Pro Packets which contain folate in a bioidentical, bioactive form: 5-methyltetrahydrofolate. I recommend starting these packets as soon as possible before getting pregnant. This prenatal multivitamin contains potent levels of all necessary vitamins and minerals that play a part in the intricate building and creation of your baby’s entire system including body proteins, structural compounds, red blood cells and the developing skeletal system. The earlier supplementation begins the better, because women need adequate nutrient stores to meet the greater nutrient demands of a growing baby. You will continue to take two packets per day throughout your entire pregnancy and post-pregnancy, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
Each Prenatal Pro Essential Packet contains:
PrenatalPro multivitamin: this prenatal multivitamin contains high levels of all the necessary vitamins and minerals that play a critical part in the development and formation of baby. I love this prenatal because it contains the correct form of each nutrient so your body can actually properly absorb and utilize the nutrients. Often prenatals (and standard multivitamins) are using cheap forms of the nutrient which basically means you can’t even absorb the nutrients for use in the body! Prenatal Pro also includes NatureFolate, the methylated form of folate which is always advised in place of synthetic folic acid.
OsteoForce multimineral: a unique formula delivering a synergistic blend of minerals necessary to support healthy bone formation in baby, as well as protecting mama’s bone health. OsteoForce provides the minerals calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, potassium and boron, along with vitamins C, D and K – all in highly bioavailable and absorbable forms.
OmegAvail Ultra fish oil: a high potency omega-3 product, providing 600 mg EPA and 400 mg DHA in each two softgel serving. Which leads me to my next critical supplement …
DHA is the most important of the omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy, and is incorporated into the rapidly developing brain during pregnancy and the first two years of infancy, concentrating in the grey matter and the eyes. It’s also crucial to the formation of neurons, which are the functional cells in the brain, and for protecting the brain from oxidative damage.
There’s a large body of evidence supporting the importance of DHA during pregnancy. In countless observational studies, positive associations between maternal DHA levels during pregnancy and behavioral-attention scores, visual recognition, memory and language comprehension in infancy were found. Unfortunately, Americans on average consume only 5 ounces of fish per week, and up to 14 percent of women of childbearing age consume no fish at all – despite the fact that DHA is essential to proper brain development. So especially if you don’t eat fish (and even if you do!) make absolutely sure you’re getting plenty of Omega-3 in supplement form.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant found in every cell of the body. It is needed in the preconception phase to support egg and sperm quality. CoQ10 also supports energy production, protects cells from damage, and supports metabolism. Levels of CoQ10 in the body decline with age, starting around the age of 30. Supplementation is often needed to maintain optimal levels.
CoQ10 is essential for healthy mitochondrial function, and here’s a cool fact: the ovaries are one of the most mitochondrial rich sites in the body, helping to ensure not only healthy ovum formation and ovulation, but a genetically healthier fetus. Numerous studies have found CoQ10 to be beneficial for women with fertility challenges, and two studies found that lower CoQ10, whether blood levels or in the cervical cells themselves, is associated with a higher risk of cervical cancer.
CoQ10 is also imperative for male fertility health as it improves sperm motility and is especially useful for men with poor sperm quality. CoQ10 is necessary for a healthy sperm cell membrane and energy (forward movement). It is also protective of sperm cells and protects the important genetic codes they carry (DNA) for creation of a healthy child.
Start taking a probiotic now! There are possible complications associated with pregnancy that may require you to take an antibiotic, which can destroy the microbiota in your gut biome. Taking probiotics will not only help replace your gut flora if that happens, but a healthy gut biome bolsters your immune system, which may prevent you from contracting an infection requiring an antibiotic in the first place. A healthy gut flora also helps cultivate, preserve and protect your baby’s microbiome.
My favorite probiotic is ProbioSpore, a broad-spectrum probiotic blend of 5 Bacillus spores that have been clinically shown to maintain healthy gut barrier function and overall immunity. Start with 1 capsule daily and work up to 2 capsules daily over a 7 day period. Continue on 2 capsules per day. You can additionally use probiotics in the form of a vaginal suppository a few times weekly while trying to get pregnant—insert the capsules at night before bed; they will dissolve while you sleep.
Studies show a significant correlation between low Vitamin D levels and low fertility. One study measured vitamin D levels in women undergoing IVF and found the odds of pregnancy were four times higher for women with high vitamin D levels compared to those with a vitamin D deficiency. Another study found that in the group of women with the highest vitamin D levels, 47% became pregnant, while among women with low vitamin D levels, the pregnancy rate was only 20%. Another more recent IVF study revealed a higher fertilization and implantation rate in the group of women with higher vitamin D levels. Healthy vitamin D levels also dramatically reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and high blood pressure. You will also feel happier, calmer, and more in balance when your vitamin D levels are in the optimal range of 50-80 ng/ml.
Not only does magnesium allow the body to absorb calcium, it also regulates the pituitary gland, which in turn regulates hormone levels. The pituitary gland regulates the production of FSH (follicular stimulating) and LH (luteinizing) that in turn regulate the production of estrogen and progesterone. When you’re not getting enough magnesium, your body will produce less of the hormones that keep your reproductive system in good shape. Boosting your magnesium can help to heal PMS, PCOS, adrenal fatigue, and many other hormone-cycle related health problems. Magnesium is also incredibly helpful in promoting a good night’s sleep. And the great news is that once your magnesium levels are balanced, the positive changes happen fast!
N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine is a potent compound used to reduce oxidative stress and improves the quality of cervical fluid, improves hormones and ovulation (especially in women with PCOS), and significantly improves egg quality because of it’s antioxidant nature. NAC has also been shown to support women with recurrent miscarriage – “In a controlled study from 2008, 80 participants with a history of recurrent miscarriage took NAC and folate and another aged-matched group of 86 participants took folate alone. Results of the study showed that taking NAC along with folate “caused a significantly increased rate of continuation of a living pregnancy up to and beyond 20 weeks… and was associated with a significant increase in the take-home baby rate as compared with participants taking folate alone.”
By replenishing glutathione stores and neutralizing the effects of oxidants, NAC has been proven to significantly reduce hirsutism, improve insulin sensitivity, balance hormonal parameters (hyperandrogenism) and improve ovulation rates. In a recent study, NAC was even found to improve the efficacy of clomiphene when used as an adjunctive therapy. When compared to metformin, NAC proved equally efficacious at significantly reducing body mass index, hirsutism scores, fasting insulin, HOMA index, free testosterone and menstrual irregularity without the commonly associated gastrointestinal side effects of metformin.
Myo-inositol (MI) and D-chiro-inositol (DCI) – along with alpha lipoic acid, support normal insulin function and cellular metabolism. Proper blood sugar regulation is key to healthy eggs. Alpha Lipoic Acid is a versatile antioxidant that supports energy production, both of which are key to normal egg cell health.
There are many studies in both humans and animals that show the benefits of choline during pregnancy and the risks associated with deficiency : prevents neural tube defects, benefits fetal brain development, supports placental function, and supports maternal liver function. It is extremely important to your baby’s brain development and learning capacity throughout life and is important to be supplementing while trying to conceive, during pregnancy and postpartum.
Pyrroloquinoline quinone is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to support optimal mitochondrial number and function, which are key to normal egg cell health. This product also contains the popular adaptogenic herb, Rhodiola rosea. Rhodiola rosea helps support the adrenal glands. Research shows that Rhodiola rosea is a powerful herb for enhancing mitochondrial energy production and helps defend against free radicals in the nervous system as well as the mitochondria. STOP WHEN PREGNANT.
Acetyl-L-carnitine + L-carnitine are antioxidants that may protect against lipid peroxidation and membrane breakdown, which is vital to mitochondrial structure and egg cell health. L-carnitine specifically supports fat metabolism and energy supply throughout the body to support egg cell health.
L-Carnitine has also been shown to help normalize sperm motility (how well they swim) in men with low sperm quality. L-Carnitine helps sperm to metabolize fats and sugars for energy, and is vital for the formation of sperm cells. L-Carnitine stimulates the natural production of sperm, and the higher the sperm-cell count, the higher the chances for fertilization. Not only does L-Carnitine increase sperm levels, but it also enhances the sperm’s motility and improves the health of the sperm cells. STOP WHEN PREGNANT.
In addition to taking the supplements above, it’s important to also eat a nourishing diet of whole, real foods that you cook yourself, get outside and move your body every day, and reduce your exposure to toxins as much as possible. For more information about exactly how to do that, AND a solid plan of action, check out my 12 week online fertility course, The Fertility Code!
The Fertility Code is the best-kept secret of women who want to take the guesswork out of conceiving, and give themselves every possible chance of getting pregnant quickly and naturally.
Bringing together evidence-based information, science-backed protocols and nurturing practices, this course is your one-stop-shop for getting your body, mind and soul prepared for conception.
This essential fertility course is for anyone who is struggling to get pregnant, or thinking about getting pregnant soon. The course covers allllll the fertility topics: egg quality, ovarian reserve, miscarriage, ovulation, cycle tracking, low progesterone, IVF, prepping for egg retrieval + embryo transfer, thyroid health, toxins, and much more. It covers EVERYTHING you need to know and you can move through the modules at your own pace.
The Fertility Code will give you the tools, protocols, tests, supplements, and more to optimize your fertility health, nourish your body, and give it what it needs to make a baby, and ensure a healthy full-term pregnancy. It has helped hundreds of women get pregnant, and stay pregnant, and it can help you too.
And if you want to get a baseline of your fertility health before getting started, take my free ‘How Fertile Are You?’ quiz! After you complete it, you’ll receive a detailed report from me explaining your results.
If you want more personalized guidance and support, or want to have a more in-depth conversation about your specific concerns, feel free to schedule a 1:1 consultation. I offer 1:1 consultations through the convenience of video conferencing for women and couples with various fertility & hormonal health concerns.
Sarah Jane Sandy is a certified nutrition therapist, and a fertility and women’s health expert. She has helped hundreds of women increase their fertility naturally and go on to have healthy full-term pregnancies. Learn more about her own fertility journey here. To send Sarah a message, complete her Contact Form.