Reader-turned-writer, Rachel Winston, opens up about her ongoing battle to get pregnant, and how there’s so little good information circulating about secondary infertility vitamins.
After being diagnosed with secondary infertility— yes that’s a thing—I decided to get serious about my health… like next level serious. Secondary infertility is when you have a child, and for various or unknown reasons, have extreme difficulty having another child. Secondary infertility accounts for 60% of all infertility cases, and 3 million women are suffering from it right now. I’m a 30-something ivy-educated woman who is health-conscious enough to win national weight loss competitions, so I was obviously surprised and disappointed when I met this infertility challenge. My husband and I tried “alternative” techniques like prayers, shamans, acupuncture, voodoo, and finally IVF (in Vitro fertilization). So far, we’ve done eight cycles of in vitro “embryo banking” which means we’ve been freezing our embryos in order to extend our fertile years in the glimmers of a hope that at least one of these little frozen spheres ends up being a sibling for our four-year old daughter.
In the last two years of this very emotional journey, I’ve unwittingly become an expert in healthier living and all things IVF. Turns out, vitamins can really help with fertility and overall women’s health. I use to think the vitamin industry was pretty much a scam; a skeptic at heart. I considered that if you ate a proper diet, that vitamins had more of a placebo effect on your health. And that’s generally true according to some clinical research if you only consider the typical over the counter brand name vitamin.
But you can really get noticeable benefits from taking the right vitamins…. at the right time. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Not all vitamins are created equally. Most vitamins from your local Vitamin Shop, GNC, Walgreens, CVS, etc are referred to in the health industry as “value vitamins.” They are relatively inexpensive: most have only a fraction of the vitamin advertised, are produced in large batches, and have varying quality based on the brand. There are, however, “pharmacy grade” vitamins. These superior vitamins are only carried by doctors, certified pharmacists, and some specialty gyms (that have certified pharmacists on staff). You won’t find these vitamins at GNC. They are more expensive because they are produced in smaller batches and have higher quality control. Additionally, an outside independent lab assesses and certifies them as to their exact chemical content, and produces a quality control certificate to the reseller (doctor, pharmacist, etc). Therefore, when you buy 100 mg of magnesium, for example, you are actually getting 100 mg of magnesium, instead of say 50 mg of magnesium and other inexpensive fillers from the “value vitamins.” Pharmaceutical grade vitamins are also designed for greater bio-availability within your body, which means it can be used more efficiently and absorbed rather than just causing really yellow pee. Something to really consider, especially when you’re looking for the right secondary infertility vitamins.
Some pharmaceutical grade vitamin brands include Thorne (my favorite), Metagenics, and NuMedica. You can find these vitamins online, at specialty pharmacies (think small, local pharmacies not Walgreens), and some alternative doctors’ offices. Prescriptions aren’t needed for these vitamins, but many of the Rx varieties of vitamins will also be good choices, especially if they’re covered by your insurance.
Vitamins aren’t the same as minerals. Think back to middle school. I can’t remember that well either, but basically they are different and should be taken at different times of the day. Vitamins, like C, B, D, A, etc. should be taken in the morning. They have a natural stimulant effect. Minerals, however, have a natural sedative effect and should be taken at night. Minerals include magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, etc. Taking them separately at night will help you sleep deeper and metabolize better. How’s that for revolutionizing the way you take your supplements?
You doctor can prescribe you a general “pre natal” vitamin. These are great for overall women’s health, and can be taken like a standard multi-vitamin. P.S. my hair started to grow like crazy after taking them, and if your insurance covers them and you’re even considering having a child, these are great. Even if you are not having fertility issues, these are great vitamins for overall women’s health if you just want a superior multi vitamin that actually works.
The probiotic craze is a real thing. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that aid in the absorption and digestion your food, and give your body access to essential nutrients. They have also been linked to weight-loss (yay). The best probiotics should be refrigerated and alive. You want to get a brand that has at least 50 billion CFU (colony forming units) and one that has many different strains/ diverse strains. I recommend getting probiotics with at least 10-35 different strains. You can also alternate different brands to vary your gut bacteria. ReNew Life Ultimate Flora Critical Care and Garden of Life RAW Probiotics Ultimate Care are my favorite and are available at Whole Foods. Be careful when purchasing probiotics online because you want it to be kept in a cold temperature-controlled environment, so that they stay alive. There are also a lot of foods with live probiotic strains, so consider snacking on these throughout the day.
Fertility specific vitamins. The myriad of vitamins that have been linked to aid fertility, where to even start? Folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12, CoQ10, Zinc, vitamin E, vitamin C, and vitamin D have all been linked to boosting fertility rates. Anything anti-inflammatory like curcumin (turmeric) is also great for fertility, brain function and recovery from exercise. DHEA has been shown in recent studies to increase the number and quality of eggs available, especially in women who are diagnosed with low ovarian reserve (not having a lot of eggs left). Taking these vitamins for at least three months before an IVF cycle or trying to conceive is said to be most effective.
Obviously you should check with your doctor before taking any new or different supplements, as I’m only sharing my years of personal research and experience.
Rachel Winston is an ivy-educated late 30-something mom and lives between NYC and Las Vegas. She won a national Weightloss challenge and is passionate about exercise and solving the infertility issues that plague thousands of women.