As more people are choosing to have children later in life and fertility rates are declining, we are seeing more need for supportive fertility strategies. If you are having trouble conceiving—have not conceived after 12 months of unprotected intercourse if you’re <35 years old, or after 6 months if you’re >35 years old—you should consult with a gynecologist or naturopathic fertility specialist to confirm the cause of infertility. It’s estimated that 30-50% of infertility is due to male factor, so this is not solely a female issue by any means.
Causes of infertility can be related to oxidative stress (which causes DNA damage and inflammation), older age, hormone balance and genetics among other factors. In this article, we’ll discuss the top supplements for supporting low egg/sperm count and quality. Most of these supplements can be useful for general support at any point while trying to conceive (but not during pregnancy), but they are specific to poor egg and sperm parameters. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but these are some of my most commonly used supplements.
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For egg quality. Improves ovarian function and ovarian reserve, promotes follicle growth and reduces follicular atresia. Has been shown to improve AMH levels and pregnancy rates with IVF, decrease rates of abnormal chromosomes and lower miscarriage rates, especially in women over 35. Supports numbers of fertilized oocytes, transferred embryos and better embryo scores in IVF. Best results are with three months of supplementation prior to trying to conceive. This is best used under the supervision of a doctor to ensure it doesn’t affect menstrual regularity.
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COQ10An enzyme required for optimal antioxidant and mitochondrial function. Essential to egg and sperm health. Studies have shown benefit for sperm motility, morphology and density. Animal studies have shown CoQ10 protects ovarian reserve, counteracts ovarian aging and supports embryo development. CoQ10 supplementation has improved response to ovulation induction and decreased odds of chromosomal abnormalities in women ages 35-43. It has improved ovarian response to stimulation and embryo quality in women <35 with decreased ovarian reserve. Can reduce the amount gonadotropin therapy required in assisted reproductive techniques, improve number of retrieved oocytes and fertilization rates, increase clinical pregnancy and live birth rates and decrease miscarriage rates.
Balance your meals. Use MyPlate as a reminder to include all food groups each day.
NACAntioxidant, a precursor to glutathione, NAC has been shown to improve response to Clomid for Clomid-resistant PCOS patients—supports better insulin response, reduces insulin levels. Has been shown to decrease pre-term birth recurrence in women with previous pre-term birth and bacterial vaginosis (a risk factor for pre-term birth). Increases sperm count and motility, decreases abnormal sperm and DNA abnormalities, as well as supports testosterone levels.
Both L-carnitine (LC) and acetyl L-carnitine (ALC), have been shown to improve female fertility, but ALC is preferred for its antioxidant properties and LC for mitochondrial support. They can be used separately or together. Benefits include support for cell membranes of oocytes, prevention of free radical-induced DNA damage and improved energy production in reproductive cells.
Reduces oxidative stress and free radical damage in oocytes and sperm. Has been shown to improve embryo quality and fertilization rates, pregnancy rates and improve progesterone production in infertile women.
Vitamins A, C, E, Zinc, Selenium
Most recommended vitamin/minerals for antioxidant function, mitochondrial support, oocyte development, ovarian health, testosterone production, and sperm health.
CAN I TAKE THESE IF I MIGHT BE PREGNANT?DHEA, CoQ10 and carnitine should not be taken if you think you could be pregnant. Melatonin is not known for sure to be safe in pregnancy, so should not be taken. Dosages for NAC, vitamins and minerals during pregnancy should be approved by your doctor. Dr. Claire Graser is an expert in natural medicine supplements and is the right doctor to guide you.
SFNM is offering a new Women’s Fertility Package ($775) that includes hormone testing, lab interpretation and individualized treatment recommendations to support optimal female fertility! Call us for more info at 415-643-6600. Appointments available with Dr. Claire Graser Tuesday-Friday at San Francisco Natural Medicine.
Try new foods. So many illnesses and health-related problems could be avoided if we just ate more produce. Replace one thing that you would normally eat with a new fruit or a vegetable. Not only does this keep healthy eating interesting, but you also may end up trying something that you didn’t know you liked.
Also read Preconception Advice For A Healthy Baby .Dr. Claire Graser specializes in holistic detoxification, women’s health, hormone balancing, weight loss, anxiety and stress management, as well as abdominal massage to support healthy digestion and detox. Dr. Graser creates comprehensive wellness plans for patients at San Francisco Natural Medicine Tue-Fri, and is currently accepting new patients. Call 415-643-6600 to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consult.