Vitamin D3 for Fertility and Reproductive Health

Vitamin D3 ‚Äď A Powerful Antioxidant for Fertility

Vitamin D, or calciferol, was discovered in 1914, when two American researchers, Elmer McCollum and Marguerite Davis, observed a substance in cod liver oil that helped to prevent rickets. McCollum named this then-unknown substance ‚Äúvitamin D,‚ÄĚ as it was the next vitamin to be named after vitamin C.¬†

Many people take this fat-soluble vitamin as a supplement, such as vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), made from plants. However, vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), naturally produced in the body and found in animal-based foods, such as fatty fish, egg yolks, cheese, and beef liver, may be more easily absorbed. Studies showed that D3 supplements increase blood concentrations more and sustained those levels longer. Vitamin D3 also forms naturally when the sun‚Äôs UVB rays touch the skin, hence its nickname, ‚Äúthe sunshine vitamin.‚Ä̬†

Vitamin D is a powerful antioxidant, a natural compound shown to defend against free radicals. These molecules, also called reactive oxygen species (ROS), are forced to steal electrons from other molecules, which leads to cellular damage, including DNA and cell membranes. Higher free radical levels may result in oxidative stress and inflammation, shown to play a role in chronic conditions, like diabetes and cancer. 

Antioxidants interrupt this oxidative damage by giving up their own electrons. As an antioxidant, vitamin D is crucial to cellular energy production, by supporting mitochondria, endocrine functions, metabolism, hormone activity and balance, and longevity. These properties may also support female and male fertility, including egg and sperm quality and pregnancy rates.

Vitamin D3 Benefits for All

Found in almost every cell, vitamin D plays a huge role in multiple body processes. Vitamin D may prove essential for immunity, cellular, muscle, and bone health, mental health, and defense against cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases. Research suggests that, due to its antioxidant properties, vitamin D may improve mitochondrial function by regulating oxidative stress and related inflammation.

Please note: Vitamin D3 supplements may not be appropriate for every person or situation. It’s important to discuss any supplementation with your doctor before starting a new regimen.

Vitamin D for Female Fertility

Likely due to its antioxidative properties, vitamin D supplementation is associated with positive female fertility outcomes, including healthy pregnancy and lactation. The uterine lining prepares its active form, calcitriol, for the embryo as it enters the uterine cavity, before implantation. Calcitriol also controls genes involved in estrogen production. Taking a higher amount of vitamin D supplements may improve egg quality, boosting conception success. It’s also worth noting that vitamin D deficiencies have been shown to be associated with the female endocrine disorder polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is one of the leading causes of female infertility.

Vitamin D has been shown to benefit in vitro fertilization (IVF) among women with deficiencies, although additional research is needed. Those taking higher levels may be significantly more likely to achieve pregnancy via IVF. As deficiencies are common, vitamin D levels are often measured during a female fertility assessment. Supplementation may effectively raise levels and support female fertility, embryo quality, and pregnancy outcomes.

As women age, their eggs are more likely to have chromosomal errors, leading to an increased risk of miscarriage or having a child with a genetic condition, such as Down syndrome. As an antioxidant, CoQ10 reduces oxidative stress associated with diminished ovarian reserve (i.e., poor egg quality or low egg count). CoQ10 may promote a higher fertilization rate and more high-quality embryos. It may also boost the number of ovarian follicles and improve ovulation. 

Vitamin D for Male Fertility

Male fertility is determined by his sperm's health and function, and vitamin D plays a large role in spermatogenesis (sperm development). As an antioxidant, vitamin D defends against oxidative damage, which may help to shield sperm from DNA damage. While results are mixed, research suggests an association between vitamin D supplementation and improvements in several semen parameters, particularly that for sperm motility. While further studies are needed, deficiencies may be connected with lower production of the male sex hormone, testosterone. For example, it was shown that after taking more than 3,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily for 1 year, men increased their testosterone levels by around 25%.

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Your Questions, Answered: Vitamin D Fertility FAQ

  • Vitamin D is vital to the physiological functions of ovarian follicles, small fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries containing immature eggs. Research shows that this nutrient might promote the differentiation and development of human granulosa cells, which produce hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. Additionally, vitamin C may promote egg quality by assisting in the production of the anti-M√ľllerian hormone (AMH), an ovarian biomarker that is often measured to assess ovarian reserve. A higher intake of vitamin D may also improve egg quality, boosting conception success.

  • Yes, vitamin D supplementation is associated with positive natural pregnancy outcomes and has been found to be safe and effective. Vitamin D is considered vital for pregnant women and their babies, contributing to more live births, positive pregnancy tests, and clinical pregnancies. Among other benefits, vitamin D supports immunity during pregnancy and is crucial for fetal bone health and development. Vitamin D deficiencies are also associated with such pregnancy complications as gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia.

  • Yes, for women undergoing fertility treatment, specifically IVF, taking vitamin D may be effective in achieving pregnancy. While additional research is necessary, it‚Äôs been shown to assist in the development of good-quality embryos. In addition, this nutrient may also significantly improve IVF implantation success, making it twice as likely for women to become pregnant.

  • Yes, as an antioxidant, vitamin D combats oxidative stress, which has been found to disrupt sperm function, including its DNA makeup. Vitamin D deficiencies are more common among men with low semen production, quality, and motility. In terms of sperm quality, vitamin D3 specifically was found to promote live births among men with low sperm counts.

  • While additional studies are needed, research suggests an association between vitamin D and prostate health. Specifically, men with the lowest levels of vitamin D were shown to be more likely to get prostate cancer. Meanwhile, for those with healthy vitamin D levels, prostate cancers were found to be less aggressive, with lower rates of related death.¬†

    Vitamin D has also been found to impart benefits for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate, specifically delaying or preventing its symptoms. Research shows an association between nutritional deficiencies and patients with a higher prostate volume, and a higher International Prostate Symptom Score (IPSS) score, a screening tool used to quickly diagnose, track the symptoms of, and suggest BPH symptom management.

  • Yes, studies have demonstrated a link between vitamin D deficiencies and erectile function (ED).¬†

    Specifically, vitamin D deficiencies may be connected with cardiovascular risk factors, diabetes, and inflammation, all of which can contribute to ED. Vitamin D regulates endothelial health, including oxidative stress and inflammation, helping to increase blood flow into the penis. It also stimulates nitric oxide production, which relaxes arteries and small blood vessels, improving sexual response by maintaining the penis’ blood flow.

    • Under age 35, and have not conceived after a year of unprotected sex.
    • Are 35 years or older, and have not conceived after six months of unprotected sex.

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