Supplementation presents a simple, safe, inexpensive, and potentially effective approach to preparing for fruitful conception. In this article, I address vitamin D’s role in reproduction, evidence supporting the positive effect of this nutrient on fertility, and how to become vitamin D healthy parents.
Vitamin D’s Role in Reproduction
The human reproductive system comprises billions of cells. Every cell in the female and male reproductive systems contains genetic codes as well as a receptor to receive vitamin D.
Vitamin D is actually a steroid hormone produced by our body. We manufacture vitamin D when we take a quality vitamin D3 supplement, expose our skin to optimal sun light, or consume lots of fatty fish or vitamin D3-fortified foods.
Cells in the female reproductive system (including the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, placenta, and decidua) are replete with vitamin D receptors. The male reproductive system cells (including the testes, prostate, and urethra) also are abundant with vitamin D receptors.
When we have ample amounts of activated vitamin D, it binds with its receptor to regulate genes in our reproductive system. For example, activated vitamin D in the female reproductive system controls the genes involved in estrogen production. Vitamin D also regulates several genes during the process of embryo implantation.
Conversely, when the reproductive system lacks activated vitamin D, genes essential to conception are not expressed. Hence, the chances of achieving successful conception are diminished.
Both Mom and Dad Need Vitamin D for Fertility
For many couples, getting pregnant and carrying a pregnancy to term present daunting challenges. But few understand how vitamin D plays a role in fertility of both biological parents. Scientific research indicates that the significant prevalence of vitamin D deficiency correlates to the incidences of infertility cases in women and men:
- Researchers in Milan, Italy conducted a study of 335 women who were candidates for in vitro fertilization (IVF). Published in the August 14, 2014 issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, the study demonstrated that the women with vitamin D levels of more than 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L) enjoyed the highest chance of pregnancy. The researchers concluded vitamin D is an emerging factor influencing female fertility and IVF outcome.
- Greek researchers recently examined 30 years of scientific literature on the role of vitamin D in human reproduction. The accumulated evidence suggests that vitamin D is significantly involved in the reproductive system of both genders. Regarding fertility, the researchers noted that vitamin D status is associated with semen quality and sperm count, motility, and morphology. Moreover, they concluded that there also is a positive effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone concentrations and fertility outcomes. The review was published in a 2013 issue of the International Journal of Clinical Practice.
- An Australian fertility specialist, Anne Clark, M.D., presented findings to the 2008 Fertility Society of Australia Conference that demonstrated the role of low vitamin D in men. More than one-third of the 794 men who underwent a vitamin D blood serum test were determined to be deficient in vitamin D (as well as folate). Among the couples where the male completed supplementation treatment for nutritional deficiencies, more than one-half conceived naturally or with minimal treatment.
How to Become Vitamin D Healthy Parents
In today’s modern indoor living, the most effective source of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is an oil-based soft gel or liquid supplement. Vitamin D3 supplements are available over the counter in retail and online stores. Beware of vitamin D prescriptions as most contain vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) that is much less effective than vitamin D3.
The amount of vitamin D3 depends upon your vitamin D level, derived from a simple blood test called 25(OH)D. Assume you are vitamin D deficient (most people are) and get your blood tested by your healthcare practitioner.
Based on the results of your test, supplement daily with vitamin D3 to safely increase your blood levels. A number of vitamin D experts believe a healthy vitamin D range is at least 50 to 80 ng/mL (125 to 200 nmol/L).
Repeat the test in three to six months. Increase or maintain your daily D3 dose in response to your current level. Getting within range will take time (at least months) but rest assured that you will be gaining vitamin D wellness that should increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Vitamin D’s benefits do not end with fertility! Stay tuned for my next Hormones Matter article “Maternal Vitamin D: Pregnancy and Beyond.”
Editor’s Note: Susan Rex Ryan is an award-winning author who is dedicated to vitamin D awareness. Her extensive collection of health articles can be found on Hormones Matter as well as on her vitamin D blog at smilinsuepubs.com. Follow Sue on FB “Susan Rex Ryan” and Twitter @vitD3sue.
Hormones Matter does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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