The changing market now includes men’s supplements, age-specific supplements and gummies.
According to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 6 percent of women in the U.S. are now infertile. Washington-based Fairhaven Health, LLC’s VP of Operations and Project Management Sarah Dohman weighed in on the fertility supplement market, and believes the industry has witnessed considerable growth, both domestically and internationally. “We would contend that market demand for fertility supplements is significant and likely to expand further in coming years as the result of several contributing factors,” she noted. “A key driver is the fact that couples are waiting longer to conceive their first child. It is fairly well-documented that couples are postponing having children longer than in previous generations for a variety of reasons, including work, financial situation and education.”
According to Duffy MacKay, ND, senior vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs with CRN (Council for Responsible Nutrition), “It’s encouraging to learn that women can do something so simple as adding the right micronutrients to their diets via a multivitamin to help protect their babies’ future health. We encourage women who are pregnant or considering to become pregnant talk with their doctors about how they can benefit from a prenatal multivitamin and other dietary supplements.”
In fact, Jane L. Frederick, MD, FACOG, international specialist in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility and medical director of HRC Fertility in California, finds that it is important to begin taking prenatal vitamins once a woman decides to achieve pregnancy, and many believe that vitamins should be taken at least three months before attempting to get pregnant.
Unlike years ago when only synthetic multivitamins were available, these days we are presented with whole food multivitamin alternatives, which are a more natural, bioavailable form of supplemental nutrients, explained Hamilton Cabanilla, national educator and territory manager with Enzymedica, Inc. (Venice, FL). Food based pre- and post-natals help, as many of them have a less tendency to upset the stomach, explained Bob Dagger, retailer and owner of High Vibe in New York City.
According to The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), fertility changes with age, in fact, both men and women become fertile in their teens following puberty. Young women begin their reproductive years by the onset of ovulation and menstruation. Then, as women grow older, approximately five to ten years prior to menopause, their chances of fertility decrease. “Pregnancy results if the egg becomes fertilized and implants in the lining of the uterus (endometrium). If pregnancy does not occur, the endometrium is shed as the menstrual flow and the cycle begins again,” ASRM explained. However, fertility naturally declines as women age, generally around their late 20s or early 30s, and then it falls more rapidly after the age of 35. Women who decide to delay pregnancy until their 35 should obtain information on appropriate testing and treatment while remaining realistic about the chances for success with infertility therapy, ASRM continued. Therefore, women should educate themselves about all of the options and become aware of their individual needs and goals.
According to ASRM, a woman is diagnosed as infertile if she has not become pregnant after one year of unprotected sex. Dohman contributes a number of factors into why women are finding it harder to become pregnant: stress is a leading factor, followed by smoking, drinking, caffeine and various prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as environmental factors, including air, water and food. Fredrick also believes there are many factors that contribute to the lack of fertility, that are not only directed toward women but toward men as well. “For females, nearly 40 percent are diagnosed with anovulation, the absence of an egg during their menstrual cycle,” she explained. “Other women have a low ovarian reserve, fallopian tube damage or uterine fibroids. Some women have endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome and in some cases a complete undiagnosed medical issue.” Researchers found that almost half of all cases are directly caused by male factors, such as a low sperm count, making it harder to impregnate his partner. In fact, 40 percent of men are either the cause or the main factor in infertility, the ASRM noted.
“Too often, couples are prematurely pushed down the path of expensive infertility treatments and medications before exploring the effective natural options that are available,” Dohman said. Fairhaven Health has been involved in the fertility supplement market since 2005, watching the industry grow. The company’s top selling products are its FertilAid line available for men and women. They are the No. 1 nutraceutical targeting reproductive wellness, Dohman said. FertilAid for Women uses vitex agnus castus as its main ingredient, since it has been shown to stimulate the hormones involved in ovulation and helps restore hormonal balance, she continued, and FertilAid for Men’s main ingredient is L-carnitine, which plays a vital role in the process of sperm development. Fairhaven Health has added three more products: OvaBoost, CountBoost, MotilityBoost. OvaBoost helps egg quality and contains myo-inositol, folic acid and melatonin. CountBoost and MotilityBoost are companion products, as the company calls them, to FertilAid for Men.
Folic acid is a popular supplement taken for fertility. “This well-researched nutrient plays a critical role in preventing birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, call neural tube defects (NTDS).” In fact, there have been numerous studies that show NTDs can potentially be prevented with folic acid supplementation, which is why the March of Dimes and other health organizations recommend it, she said. The recommended daily value of folic acid is anywhere from 600-800 mcg and can be digested through cooked lentils, cooked spinach, cooked broccoli and orange juice. However, it can also be reached by taking daily vitamins such as Rainbow Light’s Prenatal One Multivitamin or Precious Gems Gummy.
New research published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that ashwagandha, an herbal alternative used in ayurvedic medicine, also known as the “Indian ginseng,” restores the appropriate functions in men involved in fertility. The study used 230 male participants. One hundred eighty infertile men were given 5 g of ashwagandha root powder every day for a three-month period, and 13 different compounds found in semen were closely watched before and after the study. Researchers also measured the sperm concentration, motility, hormones and other factors. The results of the study showed that ashwagandha in men recovered the quality of semen of post-treated compared to pre-treated infertile men. Therefore, not only does the herbal medicine reboot enzymatic activity of metabolic pathways and energy metabolism, but it also invigorates the harmonic balance of seminal plasma metabolites and reproductive hormones in infertile men.
DHA also used during pregnancy and has been known to help with the development of a baby’s brain and the ability to learn, judge and concentrate, Clow explained. In a study published in Child Development, researchers measured blood levels of DHA in infants and mothers at delivery, she reported. Infant cognitive development was assessed at 4, 6, 8, 12 and 18 months of age, and the infants whose mothers had high DHA at birth showed greater cognitive development during the study. The conclusion was consistent with previous studies over the last five years, which provides us with evidence linking DHA and cognitive development in infancy, she continued. With evidence shinning light on DHA for fertility, Rainbow Light offers Prenatal Multivitamin made with organic fruits and vegetables and Prenatal Precious Gems with DHA.
In addition, Rainbow Light recently released its Embrace Prenatal 35+ for women who want to conceive over the age of 35. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11 percent of babies born in the U.S. each year are born to women over the age of 35, with 64 percent being first-time mothers. The company’s first age-specific prenatal addresses specific symptoms and needs for moms age 35 and up by providing clinically researched nutrient potencies to nourish and protect throughout pregnancy and nursing. “Embrace addressed the complex needs and conditions associated with mature pregnancies,” she said. “Digestive enzymes are also becoming a staple in an expectant mothers natural supplement list,” explained Cabanilla. During pregnancy, digestive enzymes are important to help assist the body in digesting and extracting the nutrients from the good dietary choices they are making, which will allow the nutrients, vitamins and minerals in food easy to reach their destination and serve the purpose for which they were ingested, she continued. Digest Pregnancy by Enzymedica, Inc. is a pure and gentle blend of vegetarian digestive enzymes along with organic ginger to help women cope with digestive discomforts, such as nausea, gas and bloating common to pregnancy.*
After Baby’s Arrival
According to Marci Clow, MS, RDN nutritionist at Rainbow Light (Santa Cruz, CA), it’s a smart idea to take prenatal vitamins all the way through pregnancy and while breastfeeding. “This will help to replenish your body and ensure your baby gets the essential nutrients necessary for healthy development,” she said. “We now see prenatal multivitamins in a variety of forms to meet the needs of a broad range of consumers, including one-per-day and multi-tablet formulas, capsules and gummies, which are especially helpful for women who are experiencing nausea and have trouble taking tablets.” And although a multivitamin is an essential during fertility, there are a variety of other vitamins and minerals that play a substantial part in fertility, for both men and women.
According to the CRN, dietary supplement manufacturers should include a daily serving of at least 150 mcg of iodine in all multivitamin/mineral supplements intended for pregnant and lactating women in the U.S. CRN developed these guidelines in response to recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Endocrine Society and the American Thyroid Association. “Scientific evidence shows that, similar to folic acid, adequate iodine is critical early in pregnancy when the fetal brain is growing rapidly,” said MacKay. Currently, many U.S. women of childbearing age get insufficient dietary iodine, putting their children at risk for decreased cognitive functions. The Council provides women the scientifically backed amount of iodine that is needed. VR
*These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.