Taking care of yourself and your health is so important when you’re starting a family. No matter what path to parenthood we take, making certain we are in the best shape we can be and addressing any of our own health concerns to either be “pregnancy ready” or “parent ready” for when we expand our family are wise investments. This is especially true if it helps us conceive!
One area of focus that is helpful to look at is diet and nutrition. Vitamin D is nutrient that is sometimes overlooked but as you’ll see below, it can be an instrumental tool when it comes to reproductive health, feeling good in general, pregnancy and many various aspects of our physical wellbeing. Let’s review why making sure you’re getting enough D in your diet makes sense.
Vitamin D is needed for general health and to maintain strong bones. It regulates the calcium in your blood, bones and supports your muscles and allows the brain and body to communicate with one another through your nerves. It also aids in your immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses. Vitamin D also can help in conceiving but be essential in having a healthy pregnancy.
Not having the vitamin D you need can also negatively impact a pregnancy. It can increase your risk of anemia, pre-eclampsia which can result in an emergency caesarean birth. The March of Dimes even lists vitamin D as one of its top six nutrients to assist with a baby’s growth and development during your pregnancy by giving him or her what it needs for its bones and teeth to develop.
Ideally, everyone would soak up their vitamin D from the sun but that depends not only on where you live but what season it is. Vitamin d can be found in some foods like liver, fortified breakfast cereals, margarine, cheese, and egg yolks but it can also be taken in supplement form. However, you should not take any vitamins without speaking to your doctor and getting the exact recommended amount.
If you’re someone who works or is frequently indoors, lives in a place that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight, you tend not to eat a balanced meal or a diet that doesn’t include food rich in vitamin D such as fish or dairy; you may be vitamin D deficient. Many do not get enough sun exposure to maintain a normal vitamin D level throughout the year. Few foods are naturally rich in vitamin D, so it is also difficult to get enough vitamin D from your diet. Common symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency are:
There was a study in 2012 that was called Infertility Unit of the Fondazione Ca' Granda at Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico that discovered women with sufficient levels of vitamin D were nearly twice as likely to conceive compared with those who had decreased levels of vitamin D. Two additional studies that have also shown vitamin D is associated with higher pregnancy rates including one study that showed those with a normal vitamin D level were four times more likely to get pregnant through IVF compared to those who had a lower vitamin D levels.
Some studies have shown that women who have lower levels of vitamin D are associated with low AMH, PCOS and uterine fibroids. Vitamin D assists in the production of the anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), which is the measure of a woman’s ovarian reserve. Increasing your Vitamin D intake can potentially improve your egg quality, which would help your chances of conceiving.
Vitamin D is a factor when it comes to male fertility. Research has shown that it can impact men’s testosterone levels, and, similar to a woman’s egg quality, it can impact the quality of his sperm. In a study from 2017 from European Society of Endocrinology, there was evidence that taking vitamin D supplementation could improve semen quality, fertility outcomes and could be beneficial for couples undergoing IVF.
In 2011, a study was presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Annual Meeting where it was suggested that low vitamin D levels may negatively affect ovulation. This study was done by Yale University researcher Dr. Lubna Pal. They did a small study involving approximately 67 women with problems ovulating and they found what they felt to be a significant link between low vitamin D and an ovulation issue. There have also been some studies done around PCOS, which can cause ovulation issues and whether it’s linked to low levels of vitamin D concerns. Overall, there doesn’t seem to be anything completely conclusive in this area so it’s best you speak to your doctor on what he or she recommends.
Infertility is a medical condition that affects your reproductive system and can prevent the ability of conceiving. “Unexplained Infertility” is when there is no clear cause of infertility can be determined.
When it’s unclear what your diagnosis is, you and your doctor should discuss several options. Since, as you can see, there have been numerous studies showing that vitamin D can not only impact both male and female fertility, it’s worth looking at you and your partner’s blood work to take a look at whether you may vitamin D deficiency. If so, it may be worth trying in correlation with fertility treatment to see if it can help.
In addition to all of the studies we’ve mentioned, according to the University of Birmingham in 2017, British researchers found that women with typical levels of vitamin D were 34 percent more likely to have a positive pregnancy test and approximately 46 percent more likely to achieve a clinical pregnancy and a third more likely to have a live birth than women with low levels of vitamin D. Again, when you can’t find a diagnosis, looking at every angle and trying different things may help increase your chances whether you’re trying to conceive naturally or pursuing IVF.
Whether you feel you may be vitamin D deficient or not, speaking to a reproductive endocrinologist about your fertility concerns and general health is always a good idea. And of course, if you have any family building questions, we are always here to help. Feel free to contact us at any time!
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.