Should Men Take a Prenatal Vitamin?
We asked four healthcare providers—a reproductive endocrinologist, a urologist, a registered dietitian, and a naturopathic doctor—whether men should take a prenatal vitamin when trying to conceive. Here's what they had to say.
When trying to conceive (TTC), it’s easy to focus just on the woman’s health, but there are things men can do to optimize their fertility and sperm health too. After all, male factor infertility is responsible for about 50% of infertility cases.
We asked four healthcare providers whether or not men should take a prenatal vitamin when trying to conceive. Here's what they had to say:
1. Dr. Andrew Sun, Urologist
“We always recommend that men take certain male prenatal vitamins while trying to conceive to maximize their fertility potential. There is a good body of scientific evidence that supplements such as Vitamin C, L-Carnitine, Coenzyme Q10, and Selenium can help improve semen parameters, such as sperm mobility, and we recommend that all our men take them”
2. Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC
“Men should take a prenatal vitamin during the preconception period regardless of whether they have a known fertility challenge. Certain nutrients like selenium and Coenzyme Q10 may help support male fertility goals, and quantities needed to play a role can be challenging to consume via diet alone. The challenge is to make sure that quantities are provided in amounts that may actually play a role in the body and not just added for marketing purposes.
A man's nutrition status may also play a role in pregnancy outcomes. For example, data suggests that adequate intake of a man's folate intake before conception may result in a longer pregnancy for couples who underwent IVF.”
Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Fellow at UCSF Center for Reproductive Health
“For the average man, there is no data linking supplements with improved fertility. Some studies show a benefit on outcomes and miscarriage rates for men in couples with infertility, but the quality of the studies is very poor. So what should men take to improve their fertility? Good care of themselves: don’t smoke, drink less, and exercise more.”
Naturopathic Doctor with a Master's in Nutrition at Holistic Fertility Center in Berkeley, CA
“Men should absolutely take a prenatal. In the traditional sense, prenatals are what women take during pregnancy—for males, preconception prenatal vitamins for men would be more appropriate. Men have increased needs for nutrients during the pre-conception phase so it would be optimal to consider taking male conception vitamins. Additionally, male sperm count have decreased to half of what they used to be just 50 years ago, and a higher percentage of sperm are not viable. So, there is a need for a men's preconception vitamin.”
What To Look For If You Choose To Take Prenatal Vitamins For Men
Let's take a look at the research that supports the formulation of these multivitamins for male fertility.
Selenium: Daily selenium supplementation in conjunction with vitamin E supplementation has been shown to improve sperm concentration, sperm motility, and sperm morphology of infertile men, especially those with idiopathic asthenoteratospermia.
CoQ10: Daily CoQ10 supplementation improves sperm concentration, sperm motility, seminal fluid CoQ10, and total antioxidant capacity, allowing for reduced oxidative stress on the sperm as well as reduced sperm DNA damage.
Vitamin D: Daily vitamin D supplementation in conjunction with calcium supplementation has been shown to have potential positive impacts on live birth rate and serum inhibin B levels in oligozoospermic and vitamin D-deficient males. Additionally, low serum inhibin B is correlated with low sperm count, revealing that vitamin D is a key factor in spermatogenesis. Look for vitamin D in your prenatal multivitamin or supplement with vitamin D gummies for adults.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C has antioxidizing properties which allow it to neutralize free radical activity and protect sperm from reactive oxygen species which can cause potential damage. Studies have shown that supplementation with Vitamin C can decrease sperm DNA damage, as well as improve other sperm parameters including sperm concentration, motility, and morphology.
Lycopene: Daily lycopene supplementation has been shown to improve sperm parameters as a result of its antioxidant properties which allow it to reduce oxidative stress on the sperm due to excessive amounts of reactive oxygen species (ROS), thereby decreasing the risk of sperm DNA damage. Additionally, lycopene has also been found to increase sperm count and viability through decreasing lipid peroxidation of the sperm membrane and sperm DNA damage.
Vitamin E: Daily vitamin E supplementation in combination with selenium was noted to improve sperm motility as well as morphology, especially in men suffering from infertility or idiopathic asthenoteratospermia.
DHA: Daily supplementation of DHA has resulted in remarkable improvements in sperm and seminal fluid health after only 10 weeks of treatment. A large Danish study found that fish oil supplementation (which contains high amounts of DHA) was associated with improved testicular function and semen volume.
How long should I take these pills?
Since sperm take 72 days to regenerate, consider taking them for at least three months, or until pregnancy goals are achieved.
Should I stop taking these prenatals at any point?
That is up to you! Because sperm takes 72 days to regenerate, we recommend taking these prenatals for at least three months, up until your pregnancy goals are achieved. After that, make sure to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Other Ways To Increase Chances of Fertility In Men
- Reduce oxidative stress
- Maintain a healthy body weight and BMI
- Get adequate sleep
- Get tested for STIs
- Limit alcohol and don’t smoke
- Talk to your doctor about treatment options
It’s important to understand all your options when it comes to increasing your chance of fertility. Read more about our six evidence-based tips to increase your chances.
Do What Feels Right When It Comes To Your Fertility Chances
While pregnancy itself is inextricably related to the female body, we know that conceiving isn’t just about female reproductive health. Whether you’re looking to learn about the basics of male fertility, test your sperm health, or understand how to best time sex for ovulation, there are a lot of ways for men to support the fertility journey.