Aiding conception with supplements
Although maintaining a good diet is key to achieving a successful pregnancy, there are many supplements that both male and female partners can take to increase egg quality and quantity as well as sperm quality and motility. Again, please bear in mind that I AM NOT A DOCTOR. Please consult with your doctor or a fertility specialist before taking any of the listed supplements. I am merely passing on information that I have gleaned from talking to people and researching internet forums. This should NOT be taken in any sense to mean that I am passing on medical advice.
The protocol that I found seems to have worked for a lot of parents is from a user called Angelbump. One thing I do have personal experience of is that her protocol improves egg quality vastly. But again, please do take note that some of these may not be the right vitamins or supplements for you. Before you start, it is always advisable to speak to a fertility specialist or a doctor familiar with your case to ask whether or not any of the listed medications could have adverse effects. Be warned that this is possibly the longest list of supplements you will ever come across.
The protocol is reproduced below in its entirety verbatim. Notes made by me are in italics.
ANGELBUMP’S FERTILITY PROTOCOL
The first mistake that couples make is assuming that a woman can get pregnant anytime. In reality, the conception window is very narrow – only about 5 days in any given menstrual cycle. Sperm, as a general rule, is said to be able to live up to five days in the vaginal canal, though three days is a more realistic timeframe. The female portion, the ovum (or egg) only lives 24-48 hours. With these numbers, a woman is most fertile in the three days leading up to ovulation, the day of ovulation, and the day after ovulation. The question that poses is obvious,
When does a woman ovulate? If you’d like to subscribe to the old school, they’ll tell you that every woman ovulates on day fourteen of her menstrual cycle. They’re wrong, too. Every woman is different, so why should every menstrual cycle be the same? Some say that the best way to counter that is to just count back fourteen days from the day their next period is expected. Does this have to be so confusing? Not at all. If you’d like to have a good basic idea of when you ovulate, you should get a calendar. On that calendar, mark the date of your next expected period. Next, count backward from that date seventeen days. That will give you the date roughly three days before ovulation. Start having intercourse on that date and continue every other day until twelve days before your expected period. That should give you a reasonable chance at conceiving, but if you want a huge head start on the process, read on.
Cervical mucus is also a good indicator of ovulation. Right after menstruation, there will be little or no cervical mucus. As you approach ovulation, cervical mucus will get thick and extremely moist. During ovulation, you will usually observe what is referred to as “egg white cervical mucus.” This is the most sperm-friendly mucus that a woman can have and it greatly increases the survival of sperm thereby increasing chances of pregnancy. In the case that egg white cervical mucus is never observed, there are products available to increase quality mucus production or even substitute for it. Evening primrose oil is an excellent product for increasing cervical mucus quality.
If you are not using fertility treatment – Buy an ovulation kit to help you know when you are ovulating. As soon as you ovulate, you can stop taking the EPO and start eating the Brazil nuts!
– No caffeine
– No alcohol
– No smoking
Each of the above 3 things reduce your chances by between 10% and 90% – fact.
If you have heavy or ‘clotty’ periods, or blood clotting issues (get this checked out by your GP) ask your fertility advisor about the following:
If you are not allergic to aspirin, ask your GP if it’s ok to take 75mg per day (no more because the stronger it is the less the effect! 75mg as been proven to be just right). It stops minute blood clots from forming in the uterus and staves off killer cells (which can kill the embryo) – Be careful if taking aspirin with EPO and fish oils and Q10 as they all have an effect on blood! Divide doses throughout the day and take your aspirin totally separately to your folic acid because aspirin interferes with folic acid absorption, for example, I take my aspirin just before I got to bed. You can take low does aspirin up until you are 36 weeks pregnant. You have to stop then, as you may go into labour at any time, so you need to have your blood able to clot! Low dose aspirin is available on the shelf in ASDA, Tescos, etc. Avoid drinking tea and other drinks that contain tannic acid (tannin) whilst also taking aspirin. These may be drinks like your decaf green tea, or normal decaf tea – tannin is still in these drinks. A clue to what drinks contain tannin is if you take a sip and your tongue feels ‘fluffy’ – the fluffier, the more tannin in your drink.
No Artificial Sweetener. Although there has been a great deal of debate, studies have found that artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, may be linked to cancer and decreased fertility. Aspartame has been linked with miscarriage. So avoid, or be very wary of Sugar free, diet, ‘no sugar’ foods and drinks. (Especially in 2WW). I have not had any throughout treatment and pregnancy. Full stop.
Avoid Vitamin A in supplements and foods that are high in vitamin A, such as liver, but Beta Carotene is a pigment in plants that is converted into vitamin A in the body naturally. The corpus luteum is very high in beta carotene, so it may be cardinal in the regulation of the reproductive cycle hormones. The Corpus Luteum is the yellow-pigmented glandular structure that forms from the ovarian follicle following ovulation. The gland produces progesterone through the second half of the menstrual cycle and into early pregnancy, which prepares and supports the uterine lining for implantation. Progesterone also causes the half-degree or more basal temperature elevation noted after ovulation. If the corpus luteum functions poorly, the uterine lining may not support a pregnancy. If the egg is fertilized, a corpus luteum of pregnancy forms to maintain the endometrial bed and support the implanted embryo. A deficiency in the amount of progesterone produced (or the length of time it is produced) by the corpus luteum can mean the endometrium is unable to sustain a pregnancy. This is called Luteal Phase Defect (LPD). It may be beneficial for some ladies to take Beta Carotene because of this.
Something to note in relation to Multi vitamins:
These can be great, but can contain Vitamin A which is a no no. You may be wondering why you should take all these things separately and not just settle for a multi vitamin? The answer is simple; a multi vitamin could not contain all of these things in the quantity you need. It is a bit of a bind and time-consuming sourcing all these separate supplements, but the extra time invested is worth it for the desired result. Imagine, a lot of people out there take a multi-vitamin anyway and they are not trying to get pregnant like you. Multi vitamins have the basic RDA as recommended for people NOT trying to conceive. People with fertility issues need to have a ‘boost’ more than a multi-vitamin can provide.
N.B. Most vitamins, ESPECIALLY B-vitamins are WATER SOLUBLE and therefore your body will get rid of what it doesn’t need via your urine! Don’t dwell on the figures too much, ie: 1MG, 1.5MG… know that you are TAKING ALL AT OPTIMUM levels and the rest your body will disperse with – it is NOT an exact science [this list].
6 glasses of water minimum along with all the other drinks! Really, yes – really!
(NB (Editor’s note): My experience is that you should try to drink at least 3 litres of water a day and 500ml to 1 litre of milk a day)
IMPROVING HER FERTILITY
EVENING PRIMROSE OIL
Take Evening Primrose Oil (High Strength) from first day of period for 14 days, then stop at ovulation and DON’T take for another 14 days or until your period comes again. EPO can cause your period to start, that is why you only take it up until ovulation, not after. It’s a stop and start supplement not to be taken permanently. If pregnant, don’t take. But keep using this procedure until you do become pregnant! Evening Primrose Oil is a herb that is often used specifically to help increase cervical mucus. Evening primrose oil is an essential fatty acid that is also an anti-inflammatory. Evening primrose oil will not only help to increase cervical mucus, it can also help to increase the quality and effectiveness of cervical mucus, and produce more “egg-white cervical mucus.”
Good quality cervical mucous can help the sperm reach the egg easier. It can make the uterus a less ‘hostile’ place. Taken over time, it can help reduce the narrowing of vessels and promotes blood flow. If you are not trying naturally, i.e.: having fertility treatment, then you can take throughout your treatment non-stop, but PLEASE stop in the 2WW, as it can bring on uterine contractions and therefore make you bleed/have your period.
ROBITUSSIN OR MUSINEX
If you are trying to conceive naturally, you may wish to try cough medicine – sounds daft, but the theory is right. Robitussin / Musinex works on the cervical mucus and increases your chances of getting pregnant. The sperm can swim up to meet the egg much more easily when your mucus is slippery! Robitussin / Musinex is a popular brand of cough syrup and it might be surprising to consider its relation with fertility. But the fact is that this expectorant is used to loosen and thin mucus of a different kind too, called cervical mucus, in women. Robitussin is only a specific brand and any expectorant that contains guaifenesin as the only active ingredient can be used in its place. Generic versions are most likely available as well. Be sure to carefully inspect the ingredients list to make sure the ONLY active ingredient as guaifenesin. Any other ingredients can diminish the effect you are looking for.
The recommended dose for improving cervical mucus is two teaspoons (200 mg) taken orally three times per day. Recommended dosage is two teaspoons (200 mg) taken orally three times per day. If mucus still appears thick, you can take as the maximum dosage as listed on the label of the cough medicine. Water intake should be increased to encourage cervical mucus production and a full glass should take with each dose of guaifenesin.
If you’re taking Clomid (clomiphene citrate, Serophene) as an ovulation inductor, it may help to know that it can cause hostile mucus in 30 percent or more of women using it. Higher doses of Clomid tend to be more associated with less cervical fluid and a thinner uterine lining, than the 50 mg dose and Robitussin can help to reverse this.
What cycle days should I take Robitussin (cough medicine that only contains guaifenesin as the active ingredient)?
Most doctors suggest taking Robitussin five days before and including the day of ovulation for a total of 6 days during your cycle.This helps provide the optimal environment to help the sperm survive and get to where they need to go.If you take Clomid, waiting until the day after the last Clomid pill is taken before starting Robitussin is suggested.
Also, per day take
Folic Acid, at least 400 mg, but you can take up to 5000 mg (only this must be prescribed by a GP). I took 2 Folic Acid x 400mg per day in addition to the following, some of which already contain extra folic acid, as it is a perfectly safe supplement. New studies suggest folate can increase pregnancy rates, prevent miscarriage and can help sperm to have the correct balance of chromosomes. Avoid drinking tea and other drinks that contain tannic acid (tannin) whilst also taking folic acid or aspirin. These may be drinks like your decaf green tea, or normal decaf tea – tannin is still in these drinks. A clue to what drinks contain tannin is if you take a sip and your tongue feels ‘fluffy’ – the fluffier, the more tannin in your drink.
Coenzyme Q10 2 x 35 mg – promotes blood flow to the ovaries, creates great quality eggs (especially age-related egg-decline), helps prevent miscarriage (so take throughout pregnancy). Be careful when purchasing your Q10: some versions contain other supplements/added ingredients to make it work better, which you may not necessarily want. So check the small print. For e.g.: Tesco Q10 contains Vitamin E, which is fine before pregnancy, but some studies have shown Vit E can/may cause birth defects at high doses. Not sure if there is enough evidence, but you want to make sure you are taking supplements that are right for you. Q10 can also protect sperm from cell damage. CoQ10 (also known as ubiquinone) is in every cell of the human body…
It also reduces the risk of preeclampsia:
(to take especially in 2WW).
1 x 200 ug Selenium – helps promote implantation/helps embryos to stick! Prevents miscarriage (so take straight away and throughout pregnancy). (Especially in 2WW).
1 x 500 to 1000 mg Vitamin C – helps improve pregnancy rates. Helps prevent miscarriage (so take straight away and throughout pregnancy).(Don’t take more than 1000mg per day, which is the best amount – more can cause stomach upset, etc). Vitamin C can also protect sperm from cell damage. (Especially in 2WW).
1 x zinc 15 mg – THE most important fertility supplement! Helps EVERYTHING! Helps prevent miscarriage, too (so take straight away and throughout pregnancy). Zinc helps with implantation. (Especially in 2WW).
1 x iron 14 mg – helps with quality of blood. Helps prevent miscarriage (so take straight away and throughout pregnancy). (Especially in 2WW).
VITAMIN B AND VITAMIN B6 COMPLEX
1 x Vitamin B complex – balances out your hormones and encourages pregnancy (so take straight away and throughout pregnancy).
1 x vit B6 10 mg – helps produce progesterone – the pregnancy hormone (so take straight away and throughout pregnancy). Some people get pregnant, but do not produce enough progesterone, so the pregnancy does not continue. So this could be a vital supplement for some ladies. I believe it helped my Gestone (progesterone injections) work better in my body, by helping my body to ‘put’ the Gestone where it was needed! B6 also strengthens the immune system. Taking supplements such as vitamin B6, zinc and magnesium can help to reduce the risk of miscarriage since these nutrients are all required to help the pituitary and ovaries produce the high levels of oestrogen and progesterone needed to secure the pregnancy until the placenta can take over. (Especially in 2WW).
B6 deficiency can lead to a buildup of estrogen in your system causing decreased progesterone production. A proper balance of estrogen and progesterone is essential for conception to occur. Too low a level of progesterone can lead to miscarriage and luteal phase defects (where the time from ovulation to menstruation is shorter than 10 days).
B6 effectively reduces blood estrogen and increases progesterone in the body making you much more conducive to getting pregnant.
B6 can help reduce and prevent the symptoms of morning sickness – even severe morning sickness…
Vitamin B6 can also improve mucus quality. Sperm needs a viable mucus consistency travel through the cervix to get to the egg, and the better quality fertile mucus you have, the easier it is for sperm and egg to meet and hopefully make a baby.
B6 works best when taken with the other B group vitamins as it absorbs better this way. Just 50 mg is usually enough to make positive changes, although if you don’t notice a difference in your luteal phase within two to three months, try increasing the dosage. 100-200 mg is usually recommended by care/health professionals (SHORT term), but…. You need to balance your/any intake of B6 with B12 – it’s important to remember this. B6 can disguise a B12 deficiency/anemia, so make sure you are getting BOTH. B6 can cause (reversible) nerve damage if taken excessively, so PLEASE try to take no more than 50 mgs per day (if taking LONG term), just to be on the safe side! (500 mgs is great during 2WW and if you get a positive, I should think you could take this until week 12 and then taper down, to a more sensible limit, like 100 mg, 50 mg or 10 mg…)
Just to clarify, you can take B6 up to 500 mgs to help produce progesterone in the 2WW, but it’s meant to be a short term thing, because B6 can cause nerve damage, which is apparently reversible. If you are going to increase your B6 from 50/100 mgs per day, make sure firstly, that you are supplementing with some B12 (to avoid B12 anemia/deficiency) and secondly, that the increase is only for the SHORT term! For example, you wouldn’t be on 500 mgs for months on end, just every so often, for example, with your treatment cycle.
The above link is a simple search on google for B6 and progesterone. It is not true to say that there is nothing that can be done to increase progesterone production in your body – that is what I thought only a few months ago.
You must be taking Pregnacare Conception (Pregnacare Plus is for pregnant ladies and also has slightly different ingredients, so take the ‘Conception’ variety, which has proven effect on conception rates)? You can take the Pregnacare Plus when you get pregnant! It is also perfectly safe to take Pregnacare CONCEPTION alongside (up to) 5000 MG folic acid
ROYAL JELLY AND BEE PROPOLIS
Royal Jelly – 3 x 500 mg per day. Helps produce fantastic eggs! Really great for both your fertility. Can increase sperm count!
Bee Propolis – 1 x 500mg per day – acts like a natural antibiotic, gets rid of minute harmless (to us) germs, that may be harmful to a tiny embryo. Evidence suggests in IVF trials at has helped to increase pregnancy rates from 20% to 60%. The pollens also improved the ability of the eggs to withstand the incubation period. Bee Propolis can be beneficial to women with endometriosis.
L-Arginine – I took 500mg per day. L-Arginine helps the embryo(s) implant! Can help with sperm motility and sperm count!
N.B. L-Arginine is sometimes used for preeclampsia – this will assure you that it is still safe to take if you get pregnant – so DON’T WORRY!!! Take until 12 weeks, if you want to. but your DOCTOR will advise you, so take their advice once pregnant!
ALPHA LIPOIC ACID
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) – from H&B, another great supplement for cell division – helps the embryos divide/continue to make cells. Good for egg quality. It enhances the effect of vitamin C. (Especially in 2WW).
Fish oils – High strength fish oils help the ‘quality’ of the blood in the uterus which encourages the embryos to wanna grow there. Make sure the fish oils are from the ‘fish body’ and not the fish’s liver, as the liver type may contain mercury. So NO Cod Liver Oil! There are plenty of fish oils that are made from the body only – check the ingredients. (Especially in 2WW).
These two may be found in your main fertility supplement in any case, but they are worth a mention:
Deficiency may lead to defecive ovulation, and inhibit the synthesis of sex hormones. Manganese competes with iron for absorption. It is advisable to take manganese supplements with protein foods and vitamin C.
We need B1 and magnesium for energy production. Take with selenium, calcium, vitamin B6, and D to aid in absorption. Take with protein foods. Alcohol, tea, coffee, and smoking inhibit absorption. Taking supplements such as magnesium can help to reduce the risk of miscarriage since these nutrients are all required to help the pituitary and ovaries produce the high levels of oestrogen and progesterone needed to secure the pregnancy until the placenta can take over.
N.B. There are a lot of supplements here! I took a batch in the morning with my breakfast and another batch with my lunch to divide it up, as it is a lot to swallow, literally! Once you’re pregnant, you can revise what you need to take. HONEST, I DID TAKE THEM ALL.
I would suggest breaking them up into 2 or 3 batches per day, to make it easy on yourselves and easier on your stomachs! Try the iron separately to your zinc. Take your iron with your vitamin C. Take L-Arginine separately to L-Lysine [due to the herpes & cold sore virus – one can cause it, one can stop it – so TAKE SEPARATELY/ different times of day]. Take aspirin with nothing else.
Other aids include:
DECAF GREEN TEA
Decaf Green tea x 4 cups per day – FULL of antioxidants, so makes the blood in the uterus as fresh as a daisy, gets rid of any bad toxins – take folic acid separately to any tea as tannin interferes with absorption.
Green tea has been linked to spina bifida in one study. This may have something to do with people not taking enough folic acid to surpass the effects, or taking their folic acid at the same time as the green tea, be warned:
Additionally, it may not just be green tea, it could be any tea! But it’s only one study!
A handful of Brazil nuts every day after ovulation and/or embryo transfer – helps the embryos implant (Brazil nuts contain natural selenium). (Especially in 2WW).
Plenty of water – needed to flush out your system and help with blood flow and flush out ovaries of toxins. (Especially in 2WW).
Eat at regular intervals – so your body ‘feels’ a routine. (Especially in 2WW).
IMPROVING HIS FERTILITY
There may be absolutely NOTHING wrong with your partner, there was nothing ‘wrong’ with mine, but he felt he should ‘boost’ his sperm quality, which was already good, so that the resulting ’embryo’ has really good set of chromosomes and all the right ingredients to make a baby – it still does take two.
Your other half can take all of these except maybe for the B-Complex and B6, which are more for women in any case. Zinc, Royal Jelly, Bee Propolis, Folic Acid, Q10 and Arginine are the most important male protocol though – as I know what it’s like getting men to take anything! You could start him off on a few of these and then maybe encourage him to take some of the others I have mentioned. Vitamin E is also good for his sperm. As it is an antioxidant, both of you could take vitamin E up until your pregnancy test, not after.
VITAMIN B6 (PYRIDOXINE) AND ZINC
Together with zinc, B6 is essential for the formation of male sex hormones. A deficiency causes infertility in animals.
Sources: molasses, brewer’s yeast, whole grains, nuts, brown rice, organ and other meats, egg yolks, fish, poultry, legumes, seeds, and green leafy veggies.
Dosage: RNI 1.4 mg per day, but up to 50 mg may be used per day.
Note: Zinc is needed for its absorption.
Folate and B12 are needed for the synthesis of DNA and RNA. These make up the blueprint for the genetic code of the entire body. Low levels can cause abnormal sperm production, reduced sperm counts, and reduced motility. even if your count is only on the low side, supplement with B12.
Sources: lamb, sardines, salmon, fermented foods that contain bacteria. Calcium aids in its absorption.
Dosage: RNI from 1.5 mcg per day.
Good luck and I hope that some of these things will help you and your partners!