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Most women know it’s recommended to take a prenatal multivitamin to support pregnancy, but can men take prenatal vitamins?
Yes, but it may be best to look for supplements made specifically for men. Male fertility supplements may sometimes be advertised as male prenatal vitamins, and they may help improve sperm count, quality, and overall reproductive health.
Keep reading to learn more about prenatal vitamins and what nutrients may support male fertility and sperm health.
What are prenatal vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are supplements designed to support a healthy pregnancy. They help support the body’s needs before pregnancy and correct any deficiencies to support healthy baby growth during pregnancy. Deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals can impact female fertility (Skoracka, 2021).
Is it okay for a man to take prenatal vitamins?
Yes, men can take prenatal vitamins. Although, it may not be ideal to share prenatal vitamins with a female partner. Male and female nutrition needs are different, and the most common prenatal vitamins are typically designed to support a female’s needs during pregnancy. So, they may not be the best option for a man looking to boost his fertility.
For example, women need around 27 mg of iron during pregnancy, while most men only need about 8 mg of iron per day (NIH, 2022). Too much iron in your diet could cause gastrointestinal discomfort, like nausea or constipation.
So, a traditional prenatal vitamin designed for women likely isn’t the best option for a man. Still, taking supplements when you and your partner are trying to become pregnant could help to support fertility. It’s known that nutrition deficiencies may impact a man’s overall health and sperm quality (Giahi, 2016).
It’s important to note that supplements alone don’t improve infertility problems, but they can potentially be helpful on top of a healthy diet and lifestyle. Talk with your healthcare provider about which supplements may be best for you.
Types of fertility vitamins for men
Before recommending supplements, fertility specialists usually encourage lifestyle changes that can increase male fertility. These start with a healthy diet, exercise, and weight loss if needed.
If a healthcare provider recommends supplements, it’s typically to boost the nutrients known to improve sperm quality.
Here are some of the popular fertility vitamins for men. Since these supplements have few downsides when taken as directed, fertility specialists might suggest that men try them since they may be helpful and are not considered harmful.
Male fertility supplements: do they work?
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant present in your body and available in supplements. Antioxidants play an important role in the body because they protect cells against damage caused by oxidative stress.
Research suggests CoQ10 deficiency is associated with low sperm count and motility. If you have a deficiency, taking a supplement could help support healthy sperm count and motility, but more research is needed (Alahmar, 2021).
Vitamin E is another antioxidant found mainly in oils, nuts, and seeds. This nutrient is added to many male fertility supplements, and it may help prevent oxidative damage. However, one study found no significant difference between sperm quality, IVF, and pregnancy outcomes (Sabetian, 2021).
Vitamin C is another antioxidant on this list. It may help protect against oxidative stress, which could help maintain high sperm quality. A 2016 study with 200 participants found vitamin C might help improve sperm concentration and mobility (Rafiee, 2016).
L-carnitine is an amino acid derivative that’s created by the human body. It’s used to support metabolism and may support male fertility. A 2018 study showed L-carnitine helps improve sperm motility and concentration (Sun, 2018).
Semen analysis: test process and results
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays multiple important roles in human health. It can be created in the body after exposure to sunlight or consumed through foods. However, the amount in foods is relatively low, except for some foods that have been fortified with vitamin D.
Research suggests vitamin D may improve sperm motility and testosterone levels (de Angelis, 2017).
Zinc is a trace mineral found in foods like red meat, shellfish, seeds, beans, eggs, and nuts. The nutrient helps support protein and DNA synthesis. Zinc is the most common ingredient used in male fertility supplements (Garolla, 2020).
A zinc deficiency is associated with decreased sperm development, sperm abnormalities, and low serum testosterone. Taking a zinc supplement to prevent a deficiency may improve motility, sperm production, and sperm concentration (Fallah, 2018).
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, sardines, cod, mackerel, and herring. Research shows omega-3s may help reduce inflammation and protect against cardiovascular diseases (Safarinejad, 2012). Taking an omega-3 supplement may help increase antioxidant activity and increase sperm count, motility, morphology, and shape (Safarinejad, 2012).
A 2019 review found supplementing omega-3s helped increase motility and sperm concentration in infertile men (Hosseini, 2019).
Fertility drugs for women and men
The most common prenatal supplements are typically designed to support a female’s needs for a healthy pregnancy, so a traditional prenatal vitamin may not be the best option for men.
Supplements for male fertility—on top of a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle—can sometimes improve sperm quality, especially when there’s a deficiency. Look for vitamins specific to male health and talk with your healthcare provider for specific recommendations about what supplements may be best for you.
If you have not been able to conceive with your partner, reach out to your healthcare provider or a fertility specialist who can help you get to the bottom of your fertility problems.
- Alahmar, A. T., Calogero, A. E., Singh, R., et al. (2021). Coenzyme Q10, oxidative stress, and male infertility: a review. Clinical and Experimental Reproductive Medicine, 48(2), 97–104. doi:10.5653/cerm.2020.04175. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8176150/
- de Angelis, C., Galdiero, M., Pivonello, C., et al. (2017). The role of vitamin D in male fertility: A focus on the testis. Reviews In Endocrine & Metabolic Disorders, 18(3), 285–305. doi:10.1007/s11154-017-9425-0. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28667465/
- Fallah, A., Mohammad-Hasani, A., & Colagar, A. H. (2018). Zinc is an essential element for male fertility: a review of Zn roles in men’s health, germination, sperm quality, and fertilization. Journal of Reproduction & Infertility, 19(2), 69–81. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6010824/
- Garolla, A., Petre, G. C., Francini-Pesenti, F., et al. (2020). Dietary supplements for male infertility: a critical evaluation of their composition. Nutrients, 12(5), 1472. doi:10.3390/nu12051472. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32438678/
- Giahi, L., Mohammadmoradi, S., Javidan, A., et al. (2016). Nutritional modifications in male infertility: a systematic review covering 2 decades. Nutrition Reviews, 74(2), 118–130. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuv059. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4892303/
- Hosseini, B., Nourmohamadi, M., Hajipour, S., et al. (2019). The effect of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA, and/or DHA on male infertility: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Dietary Supplements, 16(2), 245–256. doi:10.1080/19390211.2018.1431753. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29451828/
- National Institutes of Health (NIH). (2022). Iron fact sheet for health professionals. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/#h2
- Rafiee, B., Morowvat, M. H., & Rahimi-Ghalati, N. (2016). Comparing the effectiveness of dietary vitamin C and exercise interventions on fertility parameters in normal obese men. Urology Journal, 13(2), 2635–2639. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27085565/
- Sabetian, S., Jahromi, B. N., Vakili, S., et al. (2021). The effect of oral vitamin E on semen parameters and IVF outcome: a double-blinded randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. BioMed Research International, 2021, 5588275. doi:10.1155/2021/5588275. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8523239/
- Safarinejad, M. R. & Safarinejad, S. (2012). The roles of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in idiopathic male infertility. Asian Journal Of Andrology, 14(4), 514–515. doi:10.1038/aja.2012.46. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3720081/
- Skoracka, K., Ratajczak, A. E., Rychter, A. M., et al. (2021). Female fertility and the nutritional approach: the most essential aspects. Advances In Nutrition, 12(6), 2372–2386. doi:10.1093/advances/nmab068. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34139003/
- Sun, L. L., Wan, X. X., Zhang, Y., et al. (2018). [L-carnitine improves sperm acrosin activity in male infertility patients]. National Journal of Andrology, 24(12), 1064–1068. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32212483/
Felix Gussone is a physician, health journalist and a Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.