Here in the UK we are told that, generally speaking, women are electing to have children later and later in life. One obvious potential problem with this is that fertility generally falls off from about their mid 30s. So, by the time a woman decides she wants to have children, there is the risk that she may have difficulty falling pregnant. There seems to be little shortage of awareness about this, and I’m quite often asked by women what they may do to preserve their fertility ‘just in case’ they decide to start a family at some point.
How to preserve fertility is not something that has been subjected to formal study, to my knowledge. But I usually suggest that individuals wanting to give themselves the best chance of falling and staying pregnant should first of all think perhaps less about their ovaries and womb, and more about their general health. So, eating a diet based on truly natural and unprocessed foods and avoiding potential toxins including alcohol, cigarettes and recreational drugs seem sensible to me. Some activity and exercise is generally a good idea too, as is taking appropriate steps to manage stress.
Another ‘sensible’ strategy, I reckon, is for individuals to consider taking nutritional supplements. This advice is based on some evidence that nutritional supplementation can improve pregnancy outcomes.
However, it is entirely possible that nutrient deficiency may reduce fertility, and that correcting this with nutritional supplementation may therefore enhance and perhaps help preserve fertility.
I was interested to read recently about a study which assessed the relationship between multivitamin taking and fertility in 18,555 women. These women were tracked over an 8-year period. During this time, 438 women reported a problem with infertility due to a problem with ‘ovulatory infertility’ (a failure to produce eggs for fertilisation).
The relationship between multivitamin use and risk of ovulatory inferility was as follows:
Women taking 2 or less multivitamin tablets per week had a 12 per cent reduced risk of ovulatory infertility but this was not statistically significant.
Women taking 3-5 multivitamin tablets per week had a 31 per cent reduced risk of ovulatory infertility and this WAS statistically significant.
Women taking 6 or more multivitamin tablets per week had a 41 per cent reduced risk of ovulatory infertility and this WAS statistically significant.
This study was ‘observational’ in nature, which means it can only be used to show an association between supplement-taking and improved fertility ” it does not prove that taking supplements enhances fertility. However, these results are encouraging, I think. Bearing in mind their low risk and low cost, I reckon there is potentially much to be gained (and little to be lost) by taking a nutritional supplement as part of a package designed to support health and fertility.
Chavarro JE, et al. Use of multivitamins, intake of B vitamins, and risk of ovulatory infertility. Fertility and Sterility 2008; 89(3): 668-76
Could you tell us what that study was, and talk us through what you think the confounding variables might be in it?
Paddy – I omitted the reference by mistake and have added it now. The main confounding variables, I reckon, are likely to be other behaviours consistent with ‘health consciousness’: supplement takers are more likely, say, to eat better and smoke less.
While I do agree that taking multi vitamins can help fertility – I do not see any ref to folic acid.
Women who are trying to become pregnant need to be taking Folic Acid, they also need to be careful that they are not getting TOO much of certain vitamins – Folic Acid being one of them.
Foresight Preconception is a 30 year old UK charity who help parents with fertility problems and to reduce the risk of miscarriage and birth defects.
They identify and treat mineral deficiencies and heavy metal overload through hair mineral analysis and vitamin supplements.
Their research can be found on their website: