Vitamins for Fertility: What Should You Be Taking?

12 Vital Micronutrients for Male and Female Fertility

Various vitamins

Michela Ravasio / Stocksy United

Food is important for all aspects of life, and fertility is no exception. Our bodies get the vitamins and minerals we need from our daily diet, and creating a new life­—which is exactly what fertility health is all about—also requires micronutrients. So, do you need supplemental vitamins for fertility?

We don’t completely understand yet how diet and micronutrients directly influence fertility, but researchers are learning more every day. We know that some nutrient deficiencies can cause fertility problems. We also know that some diseases that impact the body’s ability to absorb nutrients (such as untreated celiac disease) can increase the risk of infertility.

The most important supplement to take while trying to conceive—and throughout pregnancy—is a standard prenatal vitamin containing folic acid. It's important to get at least 400mcg to 800 mcg of folic acid per day.

It’s important to get the nutrients you need through a healthy diet, or with the help of supplements if that’s what your doctor recommends. For those with specific vitamin deficiencies, taking a supplement may help.

If you’re not missing anything nutritionally, it's unclear whether supplemental vitamins can help you get pregnant. Here is what the research says about vitamins for fertility.

Acetyl L-Carnitine

L-carnitine (LC) is an amino acid that naturally occurs in the body. The synthetic form is called acetyl L-carnitine, or ALC. It has antioxidant effects that could support fertility and reduce the symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis.

L-carnitine also seems to play a role in sperm health. Oral LC and ALC supplements have been shown to improve sperm motility. And adding LC to sperm before it is frozen for later use in fertility treatments seemed to improve the sperm's vitality and motility.

Vitamin B6

All B vitamins, including B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folate or folic acid), and B12, play vital roles in the formation and proper functioning of red blood cells. Proper nerve function and cell energy also depend on healthy levels of B vitamins.

Vitamin B6 and Female Fertility

A study published in 2007 found that women with higher blood levels of B6 are more likely to be fertile. But does that mean female infertility can be treated by simply increasing B6 levels? Unfortunately, that has not yet been proven.

One possible reason for the B6 connection to fertility may be due to levels of homocysteine, which is a common amino acid found in the bloodstream. High homocysteine levels in the follicles is associated with ovulation problems.

Low homocysteine levels, meanwhile, may improve the odds of successful pregnancy. In a small study published in 2017, women with a history of pregnancy loss who took supplemental folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 had lowered homocysteine levels. However, the researchers didn't measure the level of B6 in the blood.

Vitamin B6 and Male Fertility

While vitamin B6 may be included in supplements sold to support male fertility, there is no evidence that it has an effect. A review of research on these supplements found no support for B6 (or some other B vitamins, including B1, B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and B5).

Vitamin B9 (Folate)

One of the most important B vitamins for fertility and healthy fetal development is folate or B9. Folate is vital to both male and female fertility.

A low intake of folate is associated with an increased risk of neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida. Research has also found that proper folate intake may impact progesterone levels, and low levels of B9 may lead to irregular ovulation. Both of these may reduce fertility.

Low levels of folate are associated with poor sperm health. People with low dietary folate are more likely to have a higher percentage of DNA-damaged sperm. Folate supplementation (along with zinc) may also help improve semen analysis results, in certain cases.

Folate vs. Folic Acid

Folate is the form of B9 found naturally in foods such as lentils, chickpeas, dark leafy greens, asparagus, and broccoli. Folic acid is the synthetic form of B9. When you take folic acid supplements, your body must transform folic acid into folate. Otherwise, your cells can't make use of the nutrient.

You can get vitamin supplements with folate instead of folic acid, but they are less common and usually more expensive. But ideally, you should take folate if you decide to supplement (look for 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, or 5-MTHF, on the label). Taking folic acid supplements may cover up problems with low vitamin B12 levels.

Folate and MTHFR Genetic Mutation

Some people's bodies can't properly absorb B9 in the folic acid form. This means they may be consuming the right amount of folic acid through fortified foods or supplements, but because their cells can't make use of the vitamin, they still aren't getting what they need.

Those with the genetic MTHFR mutation (changes to a gene that are linked to certain medical conditions) can experience this. People with this mutation may be at a higher risk of miscarriage, some pregnancy complications, and having a child with a neural tube defect, risks which may be related to poor folic acid/folate absorption.

That said, it's important to discuss MTHFR in detail with your physician. Not everyone who has a variation is considered to have a mutation or to need treatment.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits, berries, and peppers. This vitamin helps maintain healthy connective tissue and is also important for wound healing and proper immune function.

Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant. These antioxidant properties play a major role in fertility. Antioxidants reduce the negative impact of free radicals, reducing cellular damage in the body. Often combined with vitamin E in research studies, vitamin C has been found to improve sperm health and decrease sperm DNA fragmentation.

In one study of women undergoing IVF, vitamin C supplementation didn't improve measures of oxidative stress. But it did raise levels of vitamin C in follicular fluid, which could be associated with improved egg quality.


You probably already know that calcium is a mineral we need for healthy bone function. But did you know it also plays a role in heart health, muscle function, nerve transmission, and hormonal balance?

Research published in 2013 found that women who consume more dairy products (which are high in calcium and fortified with vitamin D) had higher serum vitamin D levels and were at a lower risk of having endometriosis and ovulatory problems. This may imply that calcium is an important fertility mineral. That said, there's currently no specific research on calcium supplementation and female fertility.

There is a similar connection between calcium and vitamin D levels in male fertility. There is some support for the idea that calcium deficiency may affect male fertility, in areas such as sperm motility.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

Coenzyme Q10, more commonly referred to as CoQ10, is an antioxidant that our cells require for proper functioning and for creating energy.

CoQ10 may help improve sperm function. People with higher levels of CoQ10 in their semen are more likely to have better sperm motility. However, a 2013 analysis of previous studies reported that CoQ10 supplementation in men has not been associated with an increase of live births or pregnancy rates.

In female fertility, CoQ10 research has been limited to people undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF), but the results have been promising. One 2017 study found that a higher level of CoQ10 (found naturally in follicles) was associated with higher-quality eggs and a higher pregnancy rate in IVF patients.

Two more studies found that taking CoQ10 prior to an IVF cycle significantly increased egg quantity and quality, which was linked to more eggs being fertilized and a higher percentage of healthy embryos. More research is needed, however, to determine whether supplementing with CoQ10 positively affects female fertility outside of IVF.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is found in few foods and is primarily obtained through sun exposure. Vitamin D works along with calcium to help maintain strong bones. But it also is important for cell growth, immune function, and regulation of inflammation in the body.

Low levels of vitamin D are associated with infertility. Both the female and male reproductive organs contain vitamin D receptors and metabolizing enzymes, suggesting that vitamin D may be vital to healthy fertility.

Low levels of vitamin D are associated with ovulation problems and an increased risk of endometriosis. IVF success rates tend to be higher in people with higher levels of vitamin D. But there is currently no evidence that supplementing with vitamin D will improve fertility.

Vitamin E

Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant. Since oxidative stress can impair fertility, getting enough antioxidants (through food or supplements) may help you conceive.

Some research has shown female fertility benefits with vitamin E supplements, but most studies were done in animals. A study in humans showed a benefit from vitamin E in combination with selenium.

In one small study of people pursuing IVF, vitamin E supplements did not improve sperm parameters, compared to placebo. However, they did seem to improve the success rate of IVF overall.


Iron is a mineral we need for healthy blood cell creation and function. Iron deficiency can lead to infertility in both males and females.

While iron is a mineral we typically get from consuming animal protein, you can also get it from beans, lentils, spinach, and fortified cereals. Talk to a healthcare provider about iron supplementation, because not everyone is deficient and supplementation can cause constipation.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are antioxidants and are important for heart and brain health. One smaller study showed that DHA supplements decreased sperm DNA damage.

Omega-3 fatty acids (such as those found in fish and fish oil) may be beneficial for the health of the parent and baby during pregnancy, but their effect on fertility isn't as clear. A review of studies of people undergoing IVF treatment didn't show a correlation between omega-3 intake and successful pregnancy.


Selenium is a trace element that is vital to health. It plays a role in proper thyroid function, DNA synthesis, protection from oxidative stress, and reproduction. Brazil nuts contain very high levels of selenium; other common sources include tuna, halibut, sardines, ham, and shrimp.

Having an inadequate dietary intake of selenium-rich foods may increase the risk of a luteal phase defect (a problem in the post-ovulation phase of the menstrual cycle).

One small study showed a positive effect on some measures of ovulation health in a group of infertile women who took vitamin E and selenium supplements. But it's not clear exactly what role selenium may have played, since it was studied together with vitamin E.

A small 2017 study of men with reduced sperm motility found that supplementation with selenium significantly increased sperm count, motility, viability, and normal morphology.


Zinc is an essential mineral, responsible for proper cellular function, immunity, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and cell division. It’s also necessary for healthy growth and development, from pregnancy through adulthood.

Animal products are the best source of dietary zinc. It is found in some plant-based foods, like nuts, grains, and legumes, but it is a type of zinc that is harder for the body to use.

Most people in the U.S. get enough zinc in their diets. Vegetarians, people with alcohol use disorder, and people with certain chronic illnesses, such as ulcerative colitis and diabetes, may be at risk of deficiency. Zinc deficiency can affect fertility by reducing the quality of eggs, but most studies have been done in animals.

There have been numerous studies on male fertility and zinc. Zinc is vital to male hormone health, as well as normal sperm development and maturation. Zinc deficiency is associated with low sperm counts and hypogonadism. People with poor semen analysis results tend to also have low levels of zinc both in their semen and blood serum tests.

A Word From Verywell

While certain vitamins and nutrients are undeniably necessary for fertility, it's always a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider to go over your individual needs before beginning to take supplements.

Some supplements don’t mix with prescription medications, and it is possible to overdose on some vitamins and minerals. Your healthcare provider can help you determine whether any deficiencies can be improved by taking a supplement, or by simply making changes in your diet.

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By Rachel Gurevich, RN
Rachel Gurevich is a fertility advocate, author, and recipient of The Hope Award for Achievement, from Resolve: The National Infertility Association. She is a professional member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and has been writing about women’s health since 2001. Rachel uses her own experiences with infertility to write compassionate, practical, and supportive articles.