When it comes to fertility, we know that optimal nutrition plays a crucial role in supporting reproductive health for both women and men. In an ideal world, we would be able to get all of the nutrients we need from our food; however, due to changes in farming practices, food processing, and more, this is not always the case. Supplements can help fill in some of these gaps to make sure we’re getting the proper nutrients to support our fertility.
But what supplements should you be taking when trying to conceive? While a high-quality prenatal vitamin with folic acid — or better yet the more absorbable form, folate — should be your number one priority, DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is another supplement that you may want to consider adding to your daily routine.
What is DHA, exactly?
DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid, which is an omega-3 fatty acid. Commonly found in fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and certain algae, DHA is a type of polyunsaturated fat that plays several important roles in the body.
DHA is a major component of cell membranes and is essential for the proper functioning and development of the brain, eyes, and sperm cells. In the brain, DHA supports cognitive function, memory, and overall brain health. DHA also has anti-inflammatory properties and is often known for its cardiovascular benefits, as it helps maintain healthy heart function, supports blood flow, and may even reduce the risk of heart disease. It can even have a positive impact on fertility in both women and men.
DHA and Fertility
Now let’s dive into some of the reasons to consider incorporating a DHA supplement into your supplement regimen while trying to conceive and during pregnancy:
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1. Supports hormone balance and ovarian function
According to Rebecca Traylen BSc, MSc, ANutr, Zita West Nutritionist, it can be argued that DHA is as important for fertility as folic acid is to pregnancy. She explains, “DHA has been shown to help regulate the hormones important for ovulation, promote follicle development, increase blood flow to the uterus, and reduce inflammation in the body, which can be especially helpful when it comes to conditions like PCOS and endometriosis.” Additionally, in pregnancy, your baby completely relies on your stores of DHA, and it plays a role in many important development processes including brain development.
Since humans cannot make their own DHA, it’s necessary to get it from either food sources or supplements. This is why Zita West, a leading fertility expert in the UK & Europe, created her own Vital DHA supplement, which includes the optimal ratio of DHA to EPA to best support your levels of this essential fatty acid. It even contains Zinc, as Zinc deficiency is commonly found in women with fertility problems and in long-term users of the contraceptive pill.
2. Boosts sperm quality
DHA isn’t just for women! In men, DHA plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy sperm function and improving sperm quality.
Traylen describes, “Normal sperm cells have an oval-shaped head with a cap-like covering called the acrosome. The acrosome contains enzymes that break down the outer membrane of an egg cell, allowing the sperm to fertilize the egg. Studies show males with a DHA deficiency are more likely to have abnormal, mis-sharpened heads that cannot break down the egg membrane, potentially leading to fertility struggles.”
By supplementing with DHA, men can improve their fertility by supporting optimal semen production and sperm parameters, like motility, morphology, and concentration.
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3. Reduces inflammation and oxidative stress
You may be aware that “eating the rainbow” can help support fertility, but did you know that DHA acts as a potent antioxidant that can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body? Inflammation and oxidative stress can negatively impact fertility by disrupting hormonal balance and impairing reproductive organ function. By adding a DHA supplement to your fertility routine, you can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, creating a more favorable environment for conception.
So, how much DHA is necessary for fertility?
Studies have shown that a high dose of DHA is beneficial for both fertility and pregnancy outcomes. In addition to getting your Omega-3s from fatty fish, Traylen recommends supplementing with 450 mg of DHA beginning at least three months before trying to conceive to increase your chances of conception and a successful pregnancy, as well as the added bonus of improved overall health.
If you’re wondering whether DHA supplementation is right for you, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider or fertility specialist about your specific goals. To learn more about Zita West’s Vital DHA, Vitafem Prenatal, and more, visit their website and use the code RSTD10 to get 10% off your first order!
Kristyn Hodgdon is the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Rescripted.