Prenatal Vitamins for Men: Do You Need Male Prenatals?
Prenatal vitamins are supplements that provide the vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy pregnancy. While prenatal vitamins are traditionally designed for and recommended to women, prenatal vitamins for men do exist. Prenatal vitamins for men could be beneficial for men who are trying for a baby with their partners.
What are male prenatal vitamins? What should be in prenatals for men? And should you take them? Let's find out.
What is in prenatal vitamins for men?
Prenatal vitamins for men are designed to support male reproductive health during the preconception period. In essence, that means healthy sperm. Healthy sperm in men is just as important as healthy, good-quality eggs in women, and a prenatal vitamin for men is intended to support sperm health for a healthy pregnancy.
In that sense, prenatal vitamins for men rely on similar vitamins and minerals that also support female reproductive health.
Let's take a look at what should be in a prenatal vitamin that supports healthy sperm.
CoQ10 stands for coenzyme Q10. It is a coenzyme both men and women have in our bodies. CoQ10 facilitates cellular energy production in the mitochondria, and acts as an antioxidant that protects the cells and DNA from oxidative stress.
Studies suggest that CoQ10 may support reproductive health in both men and women in several ways.
DNA in egg and sperm is vulnerable to oxidative stress as they form and develop. They also need sufficient amounts of cellular energy to develop normally. Once mature, sperm need more cellular energy to move through the female reproductive tract toward the egg and fertilize it. For these reasons, doctors think CoQ10 could benefit egg and sperm health.
CoQ10 levels decline with age, which is why some doctors recommend supplementing it for both men and women of advanced paternal and maternal age.
Selenium is another antioxidant. An essential mineral, Selenium is composed of multiple proteins that support the reproductive processes, DNA synthesis, and protection from oxidative damage. Normal to high levels of Selenium are associated with higher pregnancy and live birth rates. This is why Selenium is often included in male prenatal vitamins (and women’s as well).
Zinc is a mineral that plays multiple roles in enzymatic activities in the body. It is essential for good health on the systemic level, and crucial for a healthy pregnancy.
Zinc has been known to exist in higher concentrations in semen than in the rest of the body. Multiple studies have suggested that Zinc may support male reproductive health in several ways, including normal sperm count, motility and testosterone levels. Blood levels of Zinc have also been found to correlate with fertility levels of men.
Folate is a form of Vitamin B9. Folate is a general term that can refer to folate, folic acid, and methylfolate. The natural form of this B vitamin, Folate, occurs in leafy greens and legumes. Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate that is often included in prenatal vitamins and added to many food products, like cereals.
Folate is at the top of the priority list for prenatal vitamins for women, because of its role in the development of the baby’s central nervous system. However, for male reproductive health, Folate’s other role, related to the body’s ability to remove homocysteine, the harmful byproduct of normal metabolism, may be key.
Study results are mixed, but there are some studies suggesting that a healthy level of Folate is important in multiple aspects of sperm health, including sperm concentration and motility.
L-Carnitine is a chemical compound derived from amino acids that plays a role in energy production. In an animal study, a healthy L-Carnitine level was linked to good chromatin quality and motility in sperm. This may not be surprising, as we have known for a while that the concentration of L-Carnitine in the semen is directly correlated with sperm health parameters. According to a meta-analysis, L-Carnitine has also been suggested as playing a role in sperm motility and concentration in humans.
L-Carnitine is not an essential nutrient, because most healthy people produce sufficient amounts in the liver and kidneys. However, based on the studies suggesting that L-Carnitine may support sperm health, this nutrient is sold as dietary supplement for male reproductive health, either on its own or as a part of a male prenatal vitamin blend.
Other male prenatal nutrients to consider
These are just a handful of ingredients you often see in men's prenatal vitamins on the market. There are a handful of other nutrients that studies agree may support male reproductive health: Other antioxidants like Vitamin C and Vitamin E, as well as omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA.
Why Should Men Take Prenatal Vitamins?
So why should men consider prenatal vitamins? Simply put, it’s because men’s reproductive health is just as important as women’s, when it comes to a couple’s chance of pregnancy. According to studies, up to half of the roadblocks couples face on the fertility journey have the root cause on the male side.
- Movement: Motility is the term used to describe the ability of the sperm to move well. Sperm must be able to move through the cervix and past the uterus to the fallopian tube, where - hopefully - it will find a mature egg to fertilize during the fertile window. The sperm also needs to move in a generally straight line. (This is called progressive motility.) Some of them move in circles, making it hard for them to progress through the fallopian tubes. Doctors look for at least forty percent of the sperm to have good motility.
- Shape: Along with motility, the shape of the sperm is important. Healthy sperm will have an oval-shaped head between 5 and 6 micrometers long. The head contains the sperm’s DNA. It should have a cap that covers between 40 and 70 percent of its head. Under the head, there is a midsection that contains mitochondria that produce energy for the sperm’s development and movement. Lastly, a long tail propels the sperm forward. Healthy sperm has all of these qualities with no structural abnormalities.
- Quantity: Finally, for higher chances of a healthy pregnancy, there needs to be plenty of sperm in the semen. What exactly does that mean? Doctors look for at least 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen, or around 39 million sperm per ejaculation. These numbers are the minimum; many men have a higher average sperm count.
A healthy lifestyle is one foundation of these three aspects of sperm quality; however, supplementing with a male prenatal vitamin may be a good way to support male reproductive health further.
Scientists estimate that anywhere from 30 to 80 percent of male reproductive issues may have a root cause in oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between increasing reactive oxygen species and decreased antioxidant capacity. This is why a male prenatal multivitamin with antioxidants could support healthy sperm.
When Should Men Start Taking Prenatal Supplements?
Men should take prenatal supplements three months before trying for a baby. Spermatogenesis, the process in which sperm develops to full maturity, takes 74 to 120 days. So, it makes sense to try to provide nutritional support to the developing sperm throughout this 3- to 4-month period.
Taking a male prenatal vitamin and keeping up with other good healthy habits for three months before trying is a great way to support your reproductive health.
Do Men’s Prenatal Vitamins Work?
High-quality men’s prenatal vitamins can be a safe and convenient method of supporting male reproductive health. While more studies are needed to determine whether pregnancy rates differ between men who take a particular combination of nutrients like Zinc, CoQ10 and Selenium and those who don’t, there are multiple studies suggesting that each individual nutrient plays a key role in the reproductive processes in men.
So, if you and your partner are thinking about trying for a baby, starting with a male prenatal supplement three months before starting your journey can be a good idea. Prenatal supplements are more commonly recommended to women, but men can benefit from the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in a multivitamin designed specifically to support male reproductive health.
Please reach out if you have any questions about taking a male prenatal vitamin. We are with you.
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