Here at Her.9, we are lucky to be supported and surrounded by incredible professionals who help us to shape your journey to and beyond motherhood as positively as possible!
We are delighted to introduce the wonderful London Dietitian, who champions an evidence-based approach to support individuals in the world of diet and nutrition.
Professional Spotlight #1 - London Dietitian
The world of pregnancy can be a little overwhelming, no matter what stage of the journey you're currently experiencing.
One of the first questions on your mind might be, supplements, are they a must-have or just clever marketing hype? Then, you're faced with all the different options while navigating your way through various forms of ingredients and claimed benefits!
I'm here to help Her.9 customers better understand the world of supplements, clear some noise, and welcome you to the world of supplements!
Nutrition plays a massive part in every stage of your journey to and during motherhood. Preconception, mindful nutrition can maximise your chances of conceiving, improving ovulation, egg quality and fertilisation.
Prenatal nutrition is vital for your baby's development and can impact your future child's health.
In all areas of nutrition, I would always recommend that you try a food first approach to improve your nutritional needs. However, when it comes to fertility, this is one of the few areas that I would advise on also taking a good-quality pregnancy multivitamin and mineral supplement to ensure that we are creating an ideal environment in which a healthy baby can grow.
It is important to remember that even if a prenatal is of good quality, it is there to fill in any gaps and will not act as a substitute for a good quality diet - so no, you can't skip those daily greens!
So, what makes a good quality supplement?
Essentially, you want to ensure that you purchase a supplement containing many vitamins and minerals to support fertility and pregnancy in the correct dosages and the best forms.
Multiple forms of the same nutrients exist, and they are not all of the same quality. Some are better absorbed, in addition to having fewer side effects.
Since there are multiple forms of the same nutrients, many of the cheaper supplements will be using the most inexpensive form, bulking agents and unnecessary ingredients.
To help you on your journey, here are our top five ingredients and forms to look for when deciding on a supplement brand for you.
No. 1 | Folate/Folic Acid
One of the most widely known B Vitamins with strong evidence backing their benefits during pre-conception and prenatal is Folic Acid. Look for a supplement that provides you with at least 400 micrograms of Folic Acid.
Inadequate levels of Folate is one of the principal reasons behind unsuccessful pregnancies. Folate is involved in cell division and the production of DNA - which are both vital functions in the early development of the foetus.
Substantial research supports supplementing Folic Acid pre-conception and prenatal to significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTD) (a structure that forms the brain and the spinal cord). Most of the research around Folic Acid is regarding neural tube defects; there's also research to suggest that it can influence fertility and how soon you fall pregnant.
Here's the science bit;
Folic Acid must convert to 5-MTHF for the body to use. The gene that codes for this enzyme is changed in approximately 30-50% of people and is known as an MTHFR polymorphism.
Studies have shown that supplementing 5-MTHFR (the activated form of Folic Acid) is more effective at improving long term folate status; however, there have not been studies regarding the prevention of neural tube defects with 5-MTHFR.
Contention has arisen here as some doctors say that testing for MTHFR will not change their practice. They will continue to advise on Folic Acid; since taking activated Folate has not been shown to reduce the risk of NTDs, they would not recommend its use.
It is important to note that there will never be studies examining whether supplementing with the activated form of Folate will prevent NTDs since it would be unethical to do so; we already know that Folate works.
No.2 | Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin with several roles in the body, including in the mitochondria. It helps to convert fatty acids into energy and works with Folate to produce DNA and red blood cells. Additionally, recent studies suggest that deficiencies may be impacting a couple's fertility potential.
One recent study noted higher B12 levels correlated with better embryo quality. Another study looked at women with infertility attending IVF clinics and showed that these women tended to have inadequate vitamin B12 levels; this may be because insufficient levels can impact the egg's development and ovulation.
So, what form of Vitamin B12 should you be looking for in a supplement?
In many, cyanocobalamin is the most common form. However, this is pretty for the body to absorb; its form is inactive, and therefore, your body needs to work harder to convert it to methylcobalamin (the active form).
This conversion process is inefficient, and only a minimal amount of Vitamin B12 will impact raising blood levels. Therefore, opting for a supplement that already contains methylcobalamin means that it is more easily and better absorbed. Your body will thank you for this!
No.3 | Iron
Iron is likely to be found in most (perhaps all) supplements of this kind. But, why?
Studies have shown that iron requirements will rapidly increase; due to the demand for extra supply to make more blood, providing sufficient oxygen to the growing foetus.
Research tells us that blood volume during pregnancy increases by 50%! Consequently, low iron levels can lead to low birth weight and developmental delays in motor and mental function.
Furthermore, research has indicated that iron deficiency can reduce fertility, reduce egg quality and increase the risk of miscarriage.
Most supplements will contain the ferrous form, which is a cheap version of iron, poorly tolerated and often comes with side effects such as nausea and constipation. When choosing a supplement, opt for one that contains either the carbonyl or biglycinate forms that will be more friendly to your gastrointestinal system.
No.4 | Omega 3
Omega 3 is widely known for improving heart and brain health and its anti-inflammatory effects within the body. However, it can also support fertility!
The evidence surrounding Omega 3 and fertility is pretty clear-cut. Not having enough impacts both sperm and egg quality and ultimately decreases the chance of conception.
Studies have shown that a diet high in Omega 3 increases the lifespan and quality of eggs and sperm. Omega 3 is an essential type of fat that our body can't make, so we must obtain sufficient amounts from our diet for optimum functioning. The types that support fertility are Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA); both found in oily fish such as herring, pilchards, sardines, sprats, salmon, trout and mackerel.
If you're not a fishy fan, it's worth considering a supplement that already contains Omega 3. Many of the cheaper Omega 3 supplements contain Alpha-linoleic Acid (ALA), which has proven ineffective at converting to the forms of DHA and EPA.
Algae is an excellent, vegan-friendly form of EPA and DHA which will help to improve your Omega 3 levels.
No.5 | Vitamin D
Studies have shown that Vitamin D receptors are present throughout our whole body, including our reproductive systems. Therefore, Vitamin D may play a role in influencing the speed of conception and healthy journey.
When looking for a Vitamin D supplement, ensure that Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is present. We know that the body better absorbs this than Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol).
I hope that has helped arm you with some valuable information to make a smart choice of supplement preconception, prenatal and beyond!