Lesley Gilchrist, registered midwife and co-founder of My Expert Midwife explains the importance of good nutrition for men and women when trying to conceive.
When trying for a baby, clinical evidence has found that eating a balanced diet and living a healthy lifestyle is important for male and female fertility but, in practice, getting enough of the right vitamins and minerals through diet alone is very difficult, if not impossible.
Trying For a Baby? Think Nutrition
Ensuring you get the right nutrients before you start trying to conceive not only boosts your chances of getting pregnant in the first place, but can also reduce the risk of complications.
For men, the correct nutrition can improve sperm production, health and movement, as well as erectile function.
What vitamins and minerals do men and women need when trying for a baby?
Despite the importance of knowing which vitamins and minerals can help support you on your journey to trying to conceive, our survey of 2,000 new parents showed that only 54 percent of new mums recognised folate (folic acid) as key for a healthy pregnancy and just 27 percent of new dads surveyed knew that zinc can support male fertility.
Furthermore, 29 percent of men surveyed admitted that they weren’t sure what nutrients were needed to support healthy sperm or fertility.
Lesley Gilchrist, registered Midwife and co-founder of My Expert Midwife said: “There are many vitamins and minerals that men and women need for general health but, when seeking to boost fertility or to support a healthy pregnancy, eating a balanced diet and taking a quality supplement that contains specific nutrients becomes crucial”.
For women, the key nutrients to support fertility and healthy pregnancy include:
- Vitamin D – crucial for bone mineralization and growth. It works with calcium to help the development of the baby’s bones and teeth and also promotes healthy skin and eyesight.
- Folate/Folic Acid – supports the development of the brain, spine and neural tube in your unborn baby. Folate is also beneficial beyond 12 weeks of pregnancy as it contributes to maternal tissue growth during pregnancy. There is some scientific research that suggests that some women have difficulty in metabolising folic acid, and suggests that in its natural form, folate may be better for absorption.
- B group vitamins – supports the regulation of hormonal activity, normal energy-yielding metabolism and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. Vitamin B12 has a role in the process of cell division and normal red blood cell formation.
- Iron – iron is used to make a substance called haemoglobin, which transports oxygen to organs and body tissues. Pregnant women need approximately double the amount of iron that a non-pregnant woman needs.
- Calcium – is used to build healthy bones and teeth.
- Vitamin C – contributes to the normal function of the immune system and the protection of cells from oxidative stress.
- Zinc – contributes to fertility and reproduction, normal DNA synthesis, a healthy immune system, and has a role in cell division.
- Iodine – The thyroid gland uses iodine to produce hormones that support the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system before birth.
For men, nutrients that support fertility include:
- Zinc – plays an important role in sperm production and health, helps maintain normal testosterone levels in the blood, helps improve male libido and erectile function and has a role in cell division.
- Selenium – is vital for normal testicular function. It contributes to normal production of sperm, and normal sperm morphology and motility.
- Co-enzyme Q10 – helps to improve the quality of semen – particularly, sperm concentration and motility.
- Siberian Ginseng – helps to reduce stress, increase energy levels and boost the immune system, and may help increase sperm count.
- Vitamin D – has a role in the process of cell division and production of healthy sperm
- Vitamin C – contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and to normal energy yielding metabolism
- Vitamin B12 – contributes to the normal function of the immune system
Do supplements really work?
Lesley explains: “Clinical trials and research show us that when parents-to-be have good levels of essential micronutrients, the chances of becoming pregnant are increased.
“Taking control over your pre-conceptual health and reproductive well-being means that you have a statistically better chance of conceiving in a shorter amount of time, and of the pregnancy progressing well.
“Taking a high quality supplement containing essential vitamins and minerals, alongside having a healthy diet and lifestyle, means families make a positive start in their journey to parenthood.”
Nutritional needs in pregnancy
Getting the right nutrition is important to support your growing baby and to support you, both physically and mentally. Despite the old saying ‘you need to eat for two’, most women only need around an 250-300 extra calories per day throughout pregnancy. Rather than increasing what you eat, aim to eat the right elements of your diet consistently.
Lesley said: “Take a good look at your diet, and begin by increasing the colour and variety of foods you eat, incorporating lots of fruit and veg.
“Taking a high-quality pregnancy supplement ensures that, alongside your balanced diet, you can be reassured that you are getting the right amount of the essential nutrients.
“Taking the recommended amount of nutrients may reduce your risk of many pregnancy-related complications and lay the groundwork for your baby’s health and well-being into the future, and taking a supplement when trying to conceive means you and your baby will be getting all the nutrients needed from day one.”
What else can I do to make sure I am in good shape to conceive?
Living a healthy lifestyle and giving up bad habits such as smoking and drinking, alongside maintaining a BMI within healthy limits, and having a well-balanced diet are important when preparing to get pregnant.
If you have any medical conditions, take long-term medication or have any concerns about your health, visit your GP, Consultant or Midwife to discuss how this might impact conception or pregnancy.
Lesley explained: “Ensuring that you have the nutrition your body needs is one of the first steps to take when you decide to try for a baby.
We have a good understanding of the nutritional elements that we know help make healthy sperm and of the right conditions to increase the chances of a pregnancy, and taking a good quality supplement that contains all these elements means that you know you are giving your body all it needs. Supplements should not be a replacement of a healthy diet but rather complement a healthy lifestyle.”
My Expert Midwife Pre-conception Supplements for Men & Pre-conception and Pregnancy Supplements for Women
Lesley said: “The best way to get optimal nutrition when trying for a baby is to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet whilst taking a quality supplement.
“We know it can be really challenging to get all the nutrients we need from our diet, so we have combined expertise from a team of Midwives, a Dietitian and a Fetal Medicine and Obstetrics Consultant to create supplements for men and women which provide the essential vitamins and minerals that are needed to support conception and promote a healthy pregnancy, using bioavailable ingredients, and including no unnecessary fillers or mega-doses.”
My Expert Midwife pre-conception supplement for Men is expertly developed by midwives and a dietitian.
The natural, plant based and vegan formula is evidence-based and provides support to optimise male fertility and reproduction, and to safeguard nutrition when trying to conceive. It contains seven essential vitamins and minerals including the recommended levels of zinc and selenium, plus Co Enzyme Q10 and ginseng.
My Expert Midwife pre-conception & pregnancy supplement for women is expertly developed by midwives, a dietitian and a fetal medicine and obstetrics consultant. The natural, plant based and vegan formula is evidence-based and helps to safeguard women’s nutrition.
It contains 400ug of folic acid in the form of folate as recommended by the UK Department for Health for all women trying to conceive and throughout pregnancy. Natural folate is more bioavailable and therefore can be easier for the body to absorb than synthetic folic acid.
It also contains 10ug of Vitamin D, as recommended by the UK Department for Health for all pregnant women, Iron, Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12 & C, Iodine, Zinc and Calcium for overall nutritional support from when you start trying for your baby and throughout your pregnancy.
For more information on pre-conception nutrition for men and women, and nutrition for a healthy pregnancy, please visit myexpertmidwife.com/supplements.