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When To Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins And How They Support Fertility And Development

Hi there! So you’re thinking about bringing new life into the world and you are wondering when to start taking prenatal vitamins. It’s true, careful preparation can help you become pregnant, stay pregnant and protect yourself and your baby through pregnancy and beyond. 

But if you are feeling confused by the contradictory advice out there and unsure of if and when you should take prenatal vitamins, you are in the right place. 

In this article, we will begin exploring why it is recommended to take prenatal vitamins several months BEFORE you start your journey to conception. We will begin to explore the question of If it’s important for men to take prenatal vitamins and look at worries moms might have if they didn’t realize they were pregnant and missed their opportunity to begin prenatal vitamins before becoming pregnant. 

I’ll also mention my favorite prenatal vitamins and what sets them apart. If you’re looking for the top of the line prenatal vitamin, you can take 20% off all needed products with code SBB20. Including the complete plan, the egg support supplement and the men’s fertility supplement.

When Should You Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins? 

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Ideally, mothers should begin taking prenatal vitamins four to six months before attempting to conceive.  And, if they didn’t have the opportunity to do this, they should begin taking prenatal vitamins as soon as they realize they are pregnant.

When I asked peers about why they thought this was the case, the most common reason mentioned was folic acid.

Folic acid is important. There is a 70% reduction in risk of a neural tube defects when a mom has a folic acid ( also called folate) supplement. The development of the neural tube is one of the many milestones a baby will go through before a pregnancy test will show a positive result.

A baby’s heart is also completely formed by 8 weeks.  About 9 of every 1,000 babies born in the U.S. have a congenital heart defect. And while we don’t know the cause of every heart problem, it could potentially be linked to nutrition, cell division, and other cellular processes that proper nutrition and supplementation could influence.

So yes, taking prenatal vitamins is important even before a pregnancy begins. 

But, helping to prevent birth defects is not the only good reason to take prenatal vitamins before trying to conceive. The deeper more complex reason to begin taking prenatals early is related to fertility, miscarriages and carrying a healthy baby to term. 

Can Taking Prenatal Vitamins Help You Conceive?

Did you know that miscarriages are so common that 10 to 15 percent of recognized pregnancies are lost this way.

But – most miscarriages happen before they are even a recognized pregnancy. This means that up to 70 percent of fertilized eggs will be lost to miscarriages. 

In her book It Starts With The Egg, molecular biologists busts a few common myths about conception and miscarriage. 

It is true that women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. And many people believe that the quality of a woman’s eggs is set in stone before a woman is born. Yes, some part of egg quality is set before our own birth. But… that is not the most important story of egg development.

Did you know that 3 to 4 months before ovulation an egg begins its own journey to get ready for fertilization?

In these months an egg grows rapidly. It produces more energy. It begins a process of separating and ejecting chromosomes. If it doesn’t go through this process perfectly, an egg won’t have the ability to develop into a human being.

The single most common cause of miscarriages is a breakdown of the processes that take place BEFORE an egg is ever fertilized.

The good news, is that the proportion of eggs that can successfully complete the cycles that take place before fertilization can be influenced by nutrition and lifestyle factors you can control.

Which Vitamins Support Proper Egg Development And Early Pregnancy?

Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants can help support early pregnancy in many ways. Not only can they help prevent many birth defects, but they can help improve ovulation and egg quality as well. It’s no surprise that ovulation and egg quality are very important contributors to getting and staying pregnant.

Since I have limited space in this blog post, I highly recommend reading It Starts With The Egg if you want a deeper dive into fertility and what you can do to support egg quality. Especially if you have been suffering from repeated miscarriages.

You can also speak to a fertility expert, like the Egg Whisperer if you are looking for advice specific to you instead of the general information I can provide here.

I also recommend taking a look at the Complete Fertility Support Plan for two created by Needed – if you’re looking for the best support for your pre pregnancy journey. Together, this bundle of products support sperm and egg health, hormone balance, fertility, energy, mood, immunity, and more.

But let’s take a closer look at what specific nutrients are doing for you preconception.


Folate is used by every cell of the body. It helps make new DNA and plays a critical role in detoxification. Fewer toxins in your body, and within cells can help improve egg quality.

Folate is crucial for fertility as it supports the proper development and function of reproductive cells.

In women, folate plays a vital role in the formation of healthy eggs, aiding in their maturation and ensuring optimal conditions for fertilization.

For men, folate is important for sperm production and quality, enhancing the chances of successful conception.

Additionally, folate is essential for early embryonic development and reduces the risk of certain birth defects, making it essential for a healthy pregnancy.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in fertility by supporting the production and development of healthy eggs. It aids in the maturation of follicles, which are essential for ovulation and the release of eggs. Additionally, B12 helps maintain a healthy uterine lining, promoting implantation and a successful pregnancy.

In a Dutch study looking at the role of folate in women undergoing IVF, researchers found that high levels of vitamin B12 are also associated with better embryo quality. In our article Are Prenatal Vitamins Necessary, we also point out how women on birth control are often deficient in B6 and b12.

So, for some moms, it makes sense to work on replenishing these stores before attempting pregnancy.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is beneficial for fertility as it helps regulate hormonal balance, including the production of progesterone, which is crucial for successful conception and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. It aids in the development of a healthy uterine lining, ensuring optimal conditions for implantation and embryo growth. Additionally, B6 supports the regulation of the menstrual cycle, promoting regular ovulation and increasing the chances of conception.

It is no surprise that in 2007, Dr. Alayne Ronnenberg and scientists from the University of Illinois, Harvard Medical School, and Northwestern University published a study showing that women with low levels of vitamin B6 were less likely to become pregnant and more likely to miscarry.


Zinc plays a vital role in fertility as it is essential for both male and female reproductive health. In men, zinc is necessary for the production of healthy sperm, improving sperm count, motility, and morphology. In women, zinc contributes to the regulation of hormone levels, supporting proper ovulation and menstrual cycles, while also aiding in the development and maturation of eggs. Furthermore, zinc is involved in DNA synthesis and cell division, important processes for successful conception and embryo development.


Selenium is beneficial for fertility as it is an important antioxidant that protects reproductive cells from oxidative damage. It helps maintain the health and integrity of both sperm and eggs, improving their quality and increasing the chances of successful fertilization. Selenium also supports the thyroid function, which plays a critical role in regulating hormonal balance, including reproductive hormones, thus promoting optimal fertility in both men and women.


Iodine is essential for fertility as it is another key component of thyroid hormones, which regulate the reproductive system. Adequate iodine levels are crucial for normal ovulation and menstrual cycles in women. It also supports healthy sperm production in men. Furthermore, iodine is necessary for the development of a healthy pregnancy and fetal brain development, as it is crucial for the production of thyroid hormones in the developing fetus.


Antioxidants are beneficial for fertility as they help protect reproductive cells from oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals. By neutralizing free radicals, antioxidants can improve both sperm and egg quality, enhancing the chances of successful fertilization. They also support overall reproductive health by promoting hormonal balance and reducing inflammation, creating a favorable environment for conception and a healthy pregnancy.

Rebecca Fett, the author of It Starts With The Egg, states that for those that are young and healthy, who have no history of fertility issues, a prenatal vitamin and healthy diet will likely provide all needed antioxidants. But, those in their midthirthies or older, who have spedvic fertility challenges, a history of miscarriage might want to consider adding an antioxidant supplement.

She also points out that those with PCOS, miscarriage, preeclampsia and endometriosis have been shown to have higher levels of oxidative stress – and may want to consider that as they choose their supplements.

What If You Couldn’t Take Prenatal Vitamins Before Pregnancy?

If you couldn’t take prenatal vitamins before pregnancy – take a deep breath. First off -congratulations. You’re pregnant! What a gift you are giving to the world.

I know it can feel overwhelming and worrisome when you read an article like this. We live in a world where it can feel like if we control all the things – we can avoid all problems. And that simply isn’t true.

But look, if 9 out of 1000 babies develop a heart condition -that means that 991 of them won’t. The same is true for every other statistic out there. You and your baby are likely going to be just fine. Speak with your healthcare provider about your concerns. hey can assess your specific situation, provide personalized advice, and recommend any necessary tests or supplements to ensure you and your baby receive adequate nutrition.

While prenatal vitamins are recommended for their valuable nutrients, it’s important to note that a balanced diet can also provide many essential vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy pregnancy.

Focus on consuming a variety of nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy products.

Remember, every pregnancy is unique, and what matters most is taking proactive steps moving forward.

From this point onward, make it a priority to take your prenatal vitamins regularly as recommended by your healthcare provider. And, if you are making a conscious choice to avoid supplements, know many moms have done this as well. With proper focus on nutrition, you will likely get everything you need.

Should Men Take Prenatal Vitamins?

At this point you may have noticed that some vitamins can affect sperm health as well as egg health. So, it raises the question, should men take prenatal vitamins? And if so when?

When a couple cannot get pregnant, or has repetitive miscarriages, often the focus goes directly to supporting the woman. However, recent studies show that about 50% of the time it’s due to the male side.

Unfortunately, the most common tests for male fertility only measures sperm count, how well those swimmers move and the percentage that have a normal shape or not.

But, recent studies show that the most important factor of male fertility is the DNA inside the sperm.

Luckily, just like an egg takes time. to develop, so do the sperm. Sperm take about 2 months to develop. Again, nutrition and lifestyle can make a big difference to the proportion of sperm that develop properly.

It Starts With The Egg also has a great chapter on supporting proper sperm health, which I highly recommend reading. But to summarize, a fertility focused vitamin and antioxidant can support sperm health in men as well.

As for when men should start taking prenatal vitamins? A good rule of thumb would be at least 2 months before attempting pregnancy – especially if a couple has a history of miscarriage.

When To Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins Conclusion

In conclusion, the timing of when to start taking prenatal vitamins is a critical consideration for expectant mothers.

Beginning supplementation four to six months before conception or as soon as actively trying to conceive provides the best opportunity to accumulate essential nutrients and support a healthy pregnancy.

The early intake of prenatal vitamins, particularly those containing folic acid, helps reduce the risk of neural tube defects and lays the foundation for proper fetal development.

Proper levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants also promote fertility and help the first stages of an egg and sperm evolving into a human being.

It is always recommended to consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice on prenatal vitamins and specific nutrient requirements based on individual circumstances. If you feel like your prenatal vitamin is making you sick talk with your doctor to see if you can find the cause. You can also use our article to help you troubleshoot if you feel nauseous, constipated or tired on days you take a prenatal.

While in general prenatal vitamins are recommended across the board, you are an individual and it is right and good for you to find the products that work for you and your individual needs.

By taking proactive steps and starting prenatal vitamins at the appropriate time, expectant mothers can enhance their chances of a successful and thriving pregnancy.