Our modern world abounds with pregnancy-harming substances known as free radicals and other toxins. Our stress-filled lifestyle doesn’t help matters any. Even your age might be working against you when it comes to free radical damage. Let’s take a look at how a few lifestyle changes and quality fertility supplements can help safeguard you from these modern-day threats, boost your fertility and increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
Every day, your body comes into contact with fertility-harming substances called reactive oxygen species—ROS for short. ROS are also called free radicals. It’s normal for your body to make some free radicals. And in some cases free radicals are important for normal physiological processes. For example, free radicals are needed during ovulation.1 But, excess free radicals lead to a condition called oxidative stress, which negatively impacts both female and male fertility. Enter the role of antioxidant supplements to help combat this oxidative stress and increase fertility.
Factors Contributing to Oxidative Stress
Here are just some of the things that can cause your free radical levels to skyrocket:2-4
- Toxins such as bisphenol-A (BPA), parabens, phthalates, herbicides and pesticides
- Psychological stress
- Poor nutrition
- Not enough exercise
- Drinking excess caffeine
- Increased temperature in a man’s scrotum
- Imbalanced insulin levels due to sugar intake, diabetes or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Using a cell phone or other technology or placing it near reproductive organs
When you come in contact with any one or all of these modern-day exposures listed above, it increases your risk of infertility.
Oxidative stress is to blame for many fertility problems as well as factors that lead to miscarriage. Recurrent pregnancy loss, spontaneous abortion, preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), and fetal death are all linked to oxidative stress.5 Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), a condition where the fetus is smaller than expected for the number of weeks of pregnancy, is also linked to too many ROS.5 Oxidative stress can play a role in embryonic resorption, where the fetus is reabsorbed back into the body, leading to miscarriage.5
Antioxidants Can Boost Fertility
Antioxidants help cancel out the effects of too many free radicals. By doing this, they can improve egg quality and make your cycles more regular. There are a lot of different antioxidants including well-known ones like vitamins C and E. Many botanical antioxidants also exist. Researchers have performed antioxidant studies and found antioxidants can improve fertility for both men and women by fighting free radicals.
When choosing natural antioxidant remedies for fertility, it’s best to look for a supplement that has well-researched ingredients. Ideally, to cover all the bases, you should try to boost both male and female fertility with specially formulated supplements. It’s also essential to choose antioxidant supplements that have been studied not to interfere with drugs used to stimulate and regulate hormones.
Antioxidant Prenatal Supplements for Female Fertility
Many fertility doctors recommend that their patients take an antioxidant-rich prenatal supplement. By the time a woman is in her mid- to late thirties, she’ll have more abnormal eggs in her reserve than normal eggs. So, it’s critical that that women take steps to protect egg quality. By blocking free radicals before they reach the eggs in a woman’s ovarian reserve, antioxidants can protect the quality of eggs. For example, melatonin supplementation can improve egg maturation during IVF treatments.6 Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is another antioxidant powerhouse that can increase egg quality. In a human trial, supplementation with CoQ10 led to higher fertilization rate and more high-quality embryos.7 CoQ10 also has increased the number of ovarian follicles and improved ovulation.8
Raising levels of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals through a good prenatal vitamin helps resolve issues that may play a role in irregular cycles and unpredictable ovulation. For example, myo-inositol increases the rate of ovulation.9 N-acetyl cysteine increases ovulation and pregnancy rates.10 D-chiro-inositol is another fertility friendly nutrient, as it supports healthy insulin secretion, especially in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.11 When insulin levels are excessively high, it can cause problems that interfere with pregnancy. Studies also have shown D-chiro-inositol can support pregnancy-promoting levels of luteinizing hormone and LH/follicle stimulating hormone.11
It’s also important your prenatal antioxidant includes the active form of folate. That’s because many potential mothers have a mutation that causes poor absorption of folic acid.12 That means your unborn baby won’t get enough folate, a nutrient necessary to prevent birth defects.12 This mutation can lead to a reduced rate of live births after IVF.12
Male Fertility Antioxidant Supplements
For men hoping to increase fertility, the goal is to make sure sperm are healthy. Antioxidant supplements can help. Researchers studied 101 infertile men who had abnormal semen.13 The men used an antioxidant supplement contains L-carnitine, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), vitamin E, lycopene, N-acetyl L-cysteine, vitamins A, D3, C, and K, B-complex vitamins, iodine, selenium, zinc, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, grape seed extract, benfotiamine, and L-arginine.
Ways To Reduce Free Radical Damage While You’re Trying To Get Pregnant
In addition to taking antioxidant supplements, you can take these steps to help to stop free radical damage from interfering with fertility:
- Move your wifi router at least 10 feet away from your desk (farther if possible) and at least 30 feet away from your bed.
- Use organic, paraben-free and phthalate-free shampoos, conditioners, soaps, and other personal care products.
- Control your stress. Take walks in nature, meditate, do yoga, and spend time relaxing every day.
- Get plenty of sleep in a dark room. Aim for eight hours per night.
By Chris D. Meletis, ND
Want to Know More?
- Infertility 101: What You Need to Know
- Male Fertility Testing After Vasectomy
- In Vitro Maturation: IVM
- Shkolnik K, Tadmor A, Ben-Dor S, et al. Reactive oxygen species are indispensable in ovulation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Jan 25;108(4):1462-7.
- Machtinger R, Combelles CM, Missmer SA, et al. Bisphenol-A and human oocyte maturation in vitro. Hum Reprod. 2013;28(10):2735-45.
- Ilacqua A, Izzo G, Emerenziani GP, et al. Lifestyle and fertility: the influence of stress and quality of life on male fertility. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2018;16(1):115.
- Nassan FL, Chavarro JE, Tanrikut C. Diet and men’s fertility: does diet affect sperm quality? Fertil Steril. 2018;110(4):570-7.
- Gupta S, Agarwal A, Banerjee J, Alvarez JG. The role of oxidative stress in spontaneous abortion and recurrent pregnancy loss: a systematic review. Obstet Gynecol Surv. 2007 May;62(5):335-47; quiz 353-4.
- Kim MK, Park EA, Kim HJ, et al. Does supplementation of in-vitro culture medium withmelatonin improve IVF outcome in PCOS? Reprod Biomed Online. 2013 Jan;26(1):22-9.
- Xu Y, Nisenblat V, Lu C, et al. Pretreatment withcoenzyme Q10 improves ovarian response and embryo quality in low-prognosis young women with decreased ovarian reserve: a randomized controlled trial. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2018 Mar 27;16(1):29.
- El Refaeey A, Selem A, Badawy A. Combinedcoenzyme Q10 and clomiphene citrate for ovulation induction in clomiphene-citrate-resistant polycystic ovary syndrome. Reprod Biomed Online. 2014 Jul;29(1):119-24.
- Emekçi Özay Ö, Özay AC, Çağlıyan E, et al. Myo-inositol administration positively effects ovulation induction and intrauterine insemination in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome: a prospective, controlled, randomized trial. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2017 Jul;33(7):524-8.
- Salehpour S, Sene AA, Saharkhiz N, et al. N-Acetylcysteineas an adjuvant to clomiphene citrate for successful induction of ovulation in infertile patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2012 Sep;38(9):1182-6.
- Genazzani AD, Santagni S, Rattighieri E, et al. Modulatory role ofD-chiro-inositol (DCI) on LH and insulin secretion in obese PCOS patients. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2014 Jun;30(6):438-43.
- Haggarty P, McCallum H, McBain H, et al. Effect of B vitamins and genetics on success of in-vitro fertilisation: prospective cohort study. 2006 May 6;367(9521):1513-9.
- Arafa M, Majzoub A, Agarwal A, et al. Is there a role for oral antioxidants in the treatment of infertile men with high sperm DNA fragmentation? Presented at the Foundation of Reproductive Medicine annual conference, New York, November 2018.