Pre-conception Nutritional Supplementation Recommendations

I like to keep it simple.

For the mother

A good quality pregnancy multivitamin and mineral formula

There have not been comprehensive conclusions reached on the optimal amounts of vitamin and mineral supplementation in pregnancy but there is a consensus that nutritional deficiencies are reasonable for fertility problems, pregnancy complications and birth defects. I’m not sure how this explains the large poverty stricken families of developing nations. This in mind I say it’s best to take a broad range of vitamins and minerals at a low to moderate dose.

The formula should not contain any vitamin A because the high amounts of vitamin A commonly found in vitamin formulas can cause all kinds of developmental deformities of the head, heart and brain. Beta carotene is a substance that your body converts to vitamin A and it has been found to be a safe alternative to vitamin A during pregnancy.

A pre-natal vitamin and mineral supplement should contain a daily dose of between 400 and 800 micrograms of folic acid. Folic acid, sometimes called folate, is a B vitamin (B9) found mostly in leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach, orange juice, and enriched grains. Repeated studies have shown that women who get 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) daily prior to conception and during early pregnancy reduce the risk that their baby will be born with a serious neural tube defect (a birth defect involving incomplete development of the brain and spinal cord such as spina bifida) by up to 70%.

The formula should also contain the minerals zinc, copper, iron and calcium to avoid the mineral deficiencies which can cause fertility problems, miscarriage a variety of pregnancy complications and post-natal depressive disorders.

The U.S. National Academy of Science recommends a vitamin and mineral supplement that contains the following:

  • 30 mg iron
  • 15 mg zinc
  • 2 mg copper
  • 250 mg calcium (600 mg for women younger than age 25 and for those whose daily intake of calcium is less than 600 mg)
  • 2 mg vitamin B6
  • 4 mg folic acid
  • 5 micrograms vitamin D (10 micrograms for women who do not drink milk, have minimal exposure to sunlight, or are vegan)
  • 2 micrograms of vitamin B12 for women who are vegan

You will find a good preconception and pregnancy vitamin and mineral supplement in the Natural Transition shop.

Take a fatty acid supplement or eat at least 3-4 fish meals per week

There is now clear evidence that dietary supplementation of omega-3 and 6 fatty acids are essential for normal eye and brain development. In my opinion, this makes essential fatty acid supplementation an important supplement for every step in the reproductive process. Essential fatty acids are also essential for healthy sperm production and egg development.

Fish and flaxseed oils are the best supplements to provide these nutrients. You can get fish oil supplements on their own or get combination fish and flaxseed oil supplement that provides a mix of the different types of omega 3 fatty acids. The combination is best because this will provide a full spectrum of the different types of omega 3 fatty acids. For vegan parents, flaxseed alone can be provide the majority of omega 3’s.

There has been some concern over the safety of taking supplements which contain evening primrose oil, borage or black current seed oil until the very last stages of pregnancy because it is thought that it may cause uterine contractions. There is nothing really to confirm this and there are many women who have safely used these oils in pregnancy but given the safety concerns it may be best to avoid them.

What about fish during pregnancy?

Be aware that there are some fish that contain high levels of a particularly nasty form of mercury which can cause developmental problems in unborn babies.

Eating fish containing mercury can cause raised mercury levels in the mother which can then be passed on to the baby through the placenta. Mercury appears to slow the baby’s development during the early years of childhood.

The risk appears to be particularly high during the third and forth months of pregnancy when the baby’s brain is developing very quickly. The effects of this may not be noticed until developmental milestones are delayed. Memory, language and attention span may also be affected.

Fish to avoid

  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Barramundi
  • Gemfish
  • Orange roughy
  • Ling
  • Southern bluefin tuna

Safer fish

Examples of fish that contain lower levels of mercury include:

  • Shellfish including prawns, lobsters and oysters Salmon
  • Smaller tuna such as yellow fin
  • Snapper
  • Fresh water perch
  • Spanish mackerel
  • Lobster

Basically, the smaller the fish, the lower it will be in the food chain and less mercury it will contain. Mercury levels can also change within the same species depending upon the level of contamination of the area that it lives in.

Studies of the brain development of children whose mothers ate significant amounts of fish with high mercury levels during pregnancy have been carried out in New Zealand , the Faroes and the Seychelles .

The Joint Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) reviewed these studies in June 2003. These researchers recommended reducing the amount of fish known to contain mercury in the diet, for pregnant women. Since this review, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has also begun to review its advice on the consumption of fish during pregnancy. There is no review on these guidelines currently available.

A probiotic supplement

This will help get your digestive system working properly, helping you to get the most from all the good food you are eating in preparation for pregnancy. It will also relive any digestive disturbances and may help with a host of other common health complaints. There have been studies which have confirmed that probiotic supplementation during pregnancy can reduce the incidence of eczema in the first four years of life. This is significant because approximately 46% of all four olds suffer from atopic eczema; probiotic supplementation of the mother during pregnancy close to halved this risk.

Pre-conception supplementation for Dads

A good quality men’s multi vitamin and mineral formula.

Look for a formula that contains a mix of antioxidant vitamins and minerals such as beta carotene, selenium, vitamin C and vitamin E and grapeseed exptract. These nutrients will help to make good quality sperm and reduce the incidence of those that are poorly formed. It will also protect formed sperm from ‘free radical damage’

L-Carnitine is an amino acid that plays a vital role in the process of sperm development, in promoting proper maturation and morphology of sperm, and in ensuring the maintenance of sperm quality and vitality. FertilAid for Men contains more L-Carnitine than other brands of fertility supplements – and in L-Carnitine’s most potent form, as L-Carnitine tartrate.