Top 5 Foundational Supplements for Prenatal Care
At Acubalance Vancouver, one of the many ways we support women along their fertility journey is by helping them come up with a customized supplement and fertility herbal program that is tailored to their specific needs. However, I believe that all women who are trying to conceive can benefit from a foundational prenatal supplement program. Here is a list of all my favorites to start taking if you are thinking about creating or expanding your family.
BROAD SPECTRUM PRENATAL: The first building block is a high-quality prenatal vitamin. Many women ask me if they can just eat a healthier diet and forego the prenatal. I say that eating a balanced diet (check out the Acubalance Fertility Diet here) is incredibly important but the alarming fact is that the nutrition content in our food has been steadily declining for the past several decades (Davis, 2009). For this reason, I advise women to do both - eat your veggies AND take your prenatal! The important thing to look for here is to make sure that the supplement has good bioavailability (you don’t want to be taking expensive vitamins only to have them go straight through you!) and that it is a good source of folate/methyl folate and not folic acid. (Dr. Kali MacIsaac chats about the important difference between folate and folic acid here).
FOLATE MTHF: Folate is necessary for fetal brain and neural development which is happening in the first trimester. Most prenatal have folate already in it, but not always at the therapeutic dosage so you may need to take a separate folate supplement. We offer genetic testing to determine if folate in your vitamins may actually be impacting you negatively and if you need to take FOLATE MTHF.
OMEGA 3’s: Having sufficient essential fatty acids helps combat inflammation, improves circulation, and supports fetal brain development. Fatty acids make up the membrane outside of the egg so it is important to keep that protective layer nice and strong to preserve the integrity of the egg.
Many brands use synthetic vitamins and their cleaning process can render the oil-poor quality. You can contact us to find out the omega 3's we recommend.
COQ10: This is the heavy hitter when it comes to egg quality. It’s probably been a while since your high school biology class so let’s do a quick refresher. Egg quality comes down to a magical little structure found in our cells called mitochondria that operates as a fuel pack. Eggs are particularly rich when it comes to mitochondria boasting 200-500,000 in each egg. This means there are at least 100x more mitochondria in eggs than there are in any other cell in the body. Why is this important? Embryos need healthy mitochondria because the early life of an embryo is incredibly energy-expensive. Fertilization happens in the fallopian tube and the embryo’s cells start multiplying. From there, it makes its way down to the uterus where it will turn into a blastocyst, implant and create a placenta. Each stage of cell development as it is multiplying is incredibly energy-expensive. Once the blastocyst implants in the uterus, it is able to survive off the resources it is drawing from you, but until then, it has to survive all on its own. Supporting healthy mitochondrial health is a bit like charging the battery packs for your embryo to live on in the first crucial days of its life. There is a ton of research coming out about the benefits of CoQ10 and fertility that I’ve linked to below:
The rate of aneuploidy (abnormal embryos) was 46.5 % in the CoQ10 group compared to 62.8% in the control. This further translated to a clinical pregnancy rate of 33% for the CoQ10 group and 26.7% for the control group (Bentov, et al 2014).
High follicular fluid CoQ10 levels were associated with higher graded embryos and higher pregnancy rates (Akursu, et al 2017).
Pretreatment with CoQ10 improves ovarian response to stimulation and embryological parameters in young women with poor ovarian reserve in IVF-ICSI cycles (Xu, et al 2018).
Since Co Q10 is important for egg quality we have taken extra care in choosing a brand that has been shown not only to be high in absorption but also has been used in the Co Q10 fertility studies. You can contact us to find out the Co Q10 brands we recommend.
VITAMIN D: Did you know that 40% of Canadians are deficient in Vitamin D? For fertility, we ideally like to see Vitamin D levels to be at least 150 nmol/L. This is because this vitamin plays an essential role in implantation. A meta-analysis (total of 11 studies including 2700 women) showed that you are 33% more likely to have a baby from IVF if you have sufficient vitamin D levels (Chu et al, 2018). If you live in Canada, I recommend 2000 IUs per day with modifications up or down after a serum blood test. This is a test is not covered by MSP in British Columbia it is a test we often order for our patients so we will, if you need a higher dosage than 2000 IUs.
Don’t forget that it takes 2 to make a baby! It is just as important for your male partner to be on a supplement program and make lifestyle choices that support healthy sperm development. I wrote about 5 easy changes that a man can do to improve his sperm count and quality in a blog post. I often say that what is good for the egg is also good for the sperm so the good news is that many of the supplements that you will be taking will also be good for your male partner or donor. For male fertility supplement recommendations, please check in with your fertility acupuncturist or naturopath. I’d love to support you on your journey to creating a baby.
To schedule a complimentary 15-minute phone Q&A, please give us a call at (604)678-8600.
Kathleen Lee MTCM, R.TCMP, L.Ac., FABORM