When you’re trying to conceive, you’ll want to do everything you can to improve your chances. And that sometimes includes incorporating certain dietary supplements into your daily routine. Because of the strong research supporting its benefits, many fertility professionals have vitamin D and fertility on their radar.
Having a normal vitamin D level is important for your overall health. However, you may still have questions about how vitamin D and fertility are related. In this article, we share the 5 most critical things you need to know about vitamin D and fertility.
1. If you’re trying to conceive, have your vitamin D level checked.
Vitamin D insufficiency is linked to poor sperm function and poor embryo implantation rate. The trouble is, many people don’t even know what their blood level of vitamin D is, to begin with. Ask your healthcare professional to first test your vitamin D level to optimize your chances of conceiving.
If your level is lower than 30 ng/mL, your healthcare professional may recommend supplementing with vitamin D. Taking a dose of 2,000 to 4,000 IU of vitamin D each day can help restore you to a normal level. Restoring a normal vitamin D level can take 60-90 days. Once your vitamin D level is normal (greater than 30 ng/mL), consider taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day to maintain this level.
Research shows a connection between vitamin D and fertility. In a 2017 study of 70 infertile women, vitamin D deficiency was found in 64% of the women. For men, adequate serum levels of vitamin D are connected to sperm motility and semen quality.
2. Vitamin D and fertility for women.
For women trying to conceive naturally, higher vitamin D levels are associated with higher odds of conception. Studies also show that higher vitamin D levels in the follicular fluid may improve embryo implantation rate and the outcome of in vitro fertilization (IVF) for women. Several studies have linked normal vitamin D levels with higher IVF pregnancy rates and live birth rates.
Your vitamin D levels remain important throughout pregnancy. Most reproductive health experts believe that maintaining a normal vitamin D level during pregnancy is critical. A normal vitamin D level during pregnancy may improve pregnancy outcomes. It has been linked to a reduction of complications such as preterm birth, gestational diabetes, and infant infection.
Taking 2,000 to 4,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily during pregnancy has been shown to reduce the risk of asthma and recurrent wheeze in the child. Most prenatal vitamins contain 400-1,000 IU of vitamin D. This low dose is not enough for most women, especially if your levels are already low. Higher doses, 2,000 to 4,000 IU of vitamin D per day may be more beneficial and are completely safe during pregnancy.
3. Vitamin D and fertility for men.
Maintaining a normal vitamin D level is not only important for women trying to conceive. It can benefit the male partner as well.
A 2015 study found a direct relationship between vitamin D levels and an improved ability of sperm to begin a pregnancy, both during ovulation induction and timed intercourse. Normal vitamin D levels have also been linked to better semen quality and sperm motility (movement), which may help improve pregnancy rates.
4. You can get vitamin D from the sun, but it’s not so easy.
Many people call vitamin D the “sunshine vitamin.” And it’s true, our skin can synthesize vitamin D from sunlight. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.
People with darker pigmented skin may require three to five times longer exposure to the sun as those with lighter pigmented skin to synthesize the same amount of vitamin D.
Plus, sunlight can be hard to rely on as a source of vitamin D for some people due to the inability to synthesize it in certain areas during winter months. For example, in northern cities such as Boston, your body cannot produce vitamin D from sunlight from November through February. To estimate your ability to make vitamin D based on where you live, here is a map.
Few foods supply vitamin D. For example, 1 cup of milk, which does not naturally contain vitamin D but is fortified, supplies around 120 IU. Consider supplementation to get the amount you need to improve your chances of conception.
5. Supplement with vitamin D the right way.
Unfortunately, not all vitamin D supplements are created equal. Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, is the type of vitamin D our bodies produce after exposure to sunlight, and it’s the type that we metabolize most effectively, so it makes sense to use this type when choosing a supplement.
To maximize your body’s ability to absorb vitamin D, take your supplement with a meal or snack containing some fat. For example, if you take your supplement at breakfast, the fat from an egg (including the yolk), nuts, nut butter, seeds, or cheese will help your body absorb the vitamin D.
If you’re thinking of conceiving it makes sense to see your healthcare professional to test your vitamin D status. If your level is low, vitamin D supplementation can improve your chances of conceiving.
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