Registered dietitian Lauren Manaker shares ten things to look for in picking a fertility supplement to help you get pregnant.
It is dizzying to see how many nutritional supplements are on the market these days. Even as a registered dietitian, it sometimes takes me a while to determine which supplements are worth taking and which are made by a company who has a very talented marketing team. Most people do not know what to look for when selecting supplements, and unfortunately may end up overpaying for an underperforming product.
Part of what I do is evaluate clients’ supplementation regimen. Since most of my clients are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, a handful of daily supplements is common. I find that many make supplement decisions based on what a pretty label claims instead of evaluating what the actual supplement contains. Most clients get very general advice from their doctors and specific brands and ingredients are not discussed. That is where I come in!
In general, these are some rules that I follow when evaluating supplementation plans and fertility supplements. Please note that these are my personal opinions and should not be accepted as a guide for every single situation and scenario.
- Do not choose supplements that provide a “proprietary blend” of ingredients when dosages are not listed on key ingredients. I need to see the quantity of the nutrients that are included in the supplement. A proprietary blend clumps a few ingredients together, and the amount of each ingredient is not shared on the label. Take CoQ10 for example; this antioxidant is known to support fertility goals. Many “fertility-boosting” supplements contain CoQ10. However, clinical trials have suggested that it may help with fertility challenges when it is taken in a specific dose. Many studies focused on male fertility suggest that a man requires AT LEAST 150 mg of CoQ10 to offer any benefit. How much is in a proprietary blend? 150 mg? 5 mg? Unless I see a quantity that coincides with the research, I do not choose that supplement. Note: the Natalist CoQ10 contains 100 mg of Natural CoQ10 per capsule.
- Make sure studies about the nutrient or supplement are not funded by the manufacturing company. I base all of my recommendations on what the medical literature suggests. Many supplements claim that they are “clinically proven,” but when you dig a little deeper, the studies that they use to make this claim may be funded by the company who makes the supplement. It is not an independent study, and therefore bias cannot be ruled out. Look for evidence that is peer-reviewed and in journals or sources like PubMed.gov.
- Look for quality. I choose certain versions of nutrients over others, and often it costs more. In the population I work with, I believe that quality matters. In many cases (not all), certain nutrients are better absorbed and utilized in one version vs another or are available in a natural form instead of a synthetic form. The supplements I recommend are often a little more expensive than the drugstore brand versions, but I do believe that you get what you pay for. Choosing high-quality supplements with high-quality nutrients is 100% worth it in the long run, especially when pregnant or TTC.
- Omega 3 supplements should contain adequate amounts of both DHA and EPA, and preferably in a liquid form like a gelcap. I see many “omega 3” supplements on the market. Many people do not realize that there are different omega-3 fatty acids that fall under the category, not just DHA. I choose supplements that provide both DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids because I think that both are important during this time. I also choose supplementation that is in a liquid form (like a gelcap) because I question the stability of these fatty acids when they are provided in other ways (like how they are delivered in some multi vitamins). Note: The Natalist Omega DHA is a gelcap and meets this recommendation.
- The supplements must be third-party tested. Since supplements in the USA are not regulated, one cannot assume that what you are paying for is what you are actually getting. I must see some kind of indication that the supplement was verified by a third party for quantity and purity. Some indications are the USP, GMP, or NSF seals.
- Over-supplementation should be based on a doctor’s recommendation. While some is good, more is better…right? Not always. I have seen my share of clients who have started taking fertility “boosting” supplements on top of their prenatal vitamins and a result is consuming WAY too much of certain nutrients. While women certainly benefit from supplementation of nutrients during this time in their lives, taking in too much may result in some consequences of their own. Anything beyond what your doctor recommended should be green-lighted before it’s use.
- Supplementation from pills are recommended if getting the same amount of the nutrient from a food source is not an option. Can I get the client to consume the same amount of nutrients through food? Many clients are taking a TON of nutritional supplements based off of suggestions from social media or their docs. I always prefer food over pills, and whenever possible I determine whether a simple food addition can be used instead of a pill. I see a better compliance with clients when food is being prescribed, I don’t have to question quality, and in some cases absorption is better. When I see a client taking a selenium supplement, I try and get them to eat a Brazil nut instead. Lycopene supplementation going on? Considering eating one tomato-rich dish or serving of watermelon may do the same job, and is much yummier.
- If probiotics are being mail-ordered, make sure they are being delivered appropriately if the supplement is not heat-resistant. Many probiotics are heat-sensitive and will essentially die if they are heated beyond 100 degrees (F). If this is the case for yours, make sure that you are not ordering from a company that offers quick delivery and will ship with an ice pack. Otherwise, having your probiotics sitting in the hot UPS truck may cook them to the point that they are essentially useless to your body.
- Don’t get hung up on non-GMO. Along with 88% of polled scientists, I believe that the majority of genetically modified (GM) foods are safe. That said, I also believe that bioengineered ingredients should be clearly labeled so that consumers can make an informed purchase decision. Transparency is essential in building trust between brands and consumers. Note: None of Natalist’s dietary supplements contain GMOs.
- Lastly, avoid products with grandiose claims of getting you pregnant. If there was a holy-grail TTC supplement, we would all know about it. Companies that make these big claims are misleading to consumers. Supplements can certainly help improve your nutrition regimen, but they aren’t a magic bullet.
I hope this helps determine how to pick from the sea of choices out there. Check out the Natalist supplement lineup, which I often recommend to my clients.