My grandmother was a big believer in the power of fresh air to cure an assortment of ills—perceived or real. If I was under the weather, unless running a fever, she sent me outside. If I was blue, she sent me outside. And certainly if I was crabby she sent me outside (although that was more likely because she didn’t want to put up with my mood). Turns out my grandma was on to something. Getting outside in the sun is good for your general health and can even improve your chances of getting pregnant.
Research has shown that low levels of Vitamin D can cause a host of illnesses and conditions, including infertility. Vitamin D is crucial when trying to get pregnant.
Vitamin D is actually a hormone that your body makes, starting when your skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. It is crucial for good health in general and for getting pregnant, with or without infertility treatment.
A Little Vitamin D Science
According to the University of Berkley Wellness newsletter, the vitamin D we consume exists in two forms:
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the form the skin produces in response to sunlight and is also in certain foods derived from animals. The D3 used for food fortification and in most supplements is made from lanolin (sheep’s wool).
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) comes from non-animal sources (fungi and plants) exposed to ultraviolet light to convert cholesterol-like substances into vitamin D. Most studies have found that vitamin D2 is much less potent than D3 in raising blood levels of vitamin D.
Whether you get vitamin D from sun exposure or from food or supplements, doctors believe that the effects in your body are the same.
How to Get Vitamin D to Increase Your Chances of Getting Pregnant
One of the best ways to increase your levels of Vitamin D is to expose your skin to sunlight. For some people, getting 10 to 20 minutes of midday sun on their arms and legs two or three times a week for much of the year will result in adequate blood levels of vitamin D; others will need longer sun exposure. Since vitamin D is fat-soluble, your body can store it for when you don’t get any sun, but how much you need stored for peak health and fertility is unknown. You also have to balance increasing Vitamin D levels with the very real risk of skin cancer from too much sun exposure.
We don’t really know the exact amount of time that you need to expose your skin to the sun for optimum Vitamin D levels because so many factors affect how much Vitamin D can be produced from sun exposure. According to UC Berkley Wellness newsletter, the following factors can make a difference.
- Skin pigmentation. Darker skin reduces penetration of ultraviolet rays from sunlight, and thus it takes more exposure for vitamin D production.
- Sunscreen. Sunscreens filter out or block ultraviolet rays and prevent the production of vitamin D. A sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 reduces the production of vitamin D by 99%.
- Northern latitudes. The farther north you live, the longer the winter and the greater the reduction in vitamin D production. People who live in the northern third of the continental U.S. and in Canada synthesize little or no vitamin D from sun exposure from November through March. Those living in the southern third, however, can produce the vitamin pretty much year-round.
- Season. In most parts of the U.S., blood levels of vitamin D drop markedly in the winter, when days are shorter, the sun is weaker, and we spend less time outside and wear more clothes.
- Weather. Not to overstate the obvious, but cloudy rainy weather reduces your options for getting sun exposure.
Other factors that can limit creation of Vitamin D, include:
- Obesity. Obesity is linked with lower blood levels of D because some of this fat-soluble vitamin is trapped in fat tissue and because of other changes in vitamin D metabolism.
- Medications. Certain drugs—notably anticonvulsants, corticosteroids, and some HIV medications—reduce vitamin D levels.
- Disorders that impair fat absorption or liver or kidney function. Vitamin D needs fat to be absorbed in the intestines, so disorders that affect fat absorption (such as Crohn’s or celiac disease and cystic fibrosis) can reduce vitamin D levels. Some types of gastrointestinal surgery (such as gastric bypass for obesity) can also lead to D deficiency.
- Genetics. Various genetic factors influence the body’s ability to produce and utilize vitamin D.
What Should I Eat to Get More Vitamin D When Trying to Get Conceive
Unfortunately, it is hard to get Vitamin D through our foods. A few foods provide small amounts of Vitamin D, including oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines, as well as red meat and eggs. A number of foods, including some dairy products and breakfast cereal, are fortified with Vitamin D. I suspect this number will grow since Vitamin D has taken on the status of the new fad vitamin.
Many people are now taking Vitamin D (preferably vitamin D3) supplements. Talk with your doctor about whether this is the best option for you and what supplement she recommends.
Vitamin D When Trying to Get Pregnant
The first step is to have your doctor check the Vitamin D levels in your blood. Blood levels of vitamin D are measured in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). There is not universal agreement on the best level or what should be considered a Vitamin D deficiency, but Dr. Andy Toledo, a reproductive endocrinologist with RBA in Atlanta, told us that women trying to conceive should aim for 30+ ng/mL. You should check with your doctor about whether you need to get more sunlight or take Vitamin D supplements.
Keep in mind that if you’ve been trying for 12 months (if you’re under 35) or 6 months (35+) and haven’t become pregnant, you need to see an infertility specialist. No food or vitamin or amount of sunlight alone or in combination can cure the disease of infertility. Creating a Family has resources to help you find the right infertility clinic for you. Creating a Family Choosing a Fertility Clinic or Doctor: A Multimedia Guide For Those Considering Infertility Treatment.
Source: Creating a Family Radio Show with Dr. Andy Toledo on How to Get Pregnant When It’s Not Happening Fast
Other Creating a Family Resources You Will Enjoy
- Four Foods to Avoid When Trying to Get Pregnant
- Should You Go Organic If You’re Trying to Get Pregnant
- The Next Step after Trying Clomid
Image credit: gr33n3gg
Add Your Comment
I have been trying for almost 5 months to get pregnant and nothing has happened any pointers on how I can get the ball rolling? This will be my 3rd and last pregnancy I’m 23 and my hubby is 30.
Have you met with your doctor to discuss this plan and your efforts? If you have no difficulty conceiving previously, it’s probably a good idea to talk with your medical professionals so that they can help you understand what might be going on. Before you go, take a listen to this podcast to educate yourself: Causes and Treatment of Secondary Infertility.
Best wishes to you.
I’ve been trying to get pregnant for two years my doctor says I need to lose weight and maintain a healthy diet and bring down my stress level and quit smoking all at once and tells me that my eggs are too small to be fertilized so if I do all the things he says then it will help me but I’ve been crying and depressed everyone around me is getting pregnant and I don’t have the extra support to help lose the weight and maintain a healthy diet and lessen the stress I don’t know what to do I thank that maybe I’ll never have the help to get pregnant and I’ve been on pills to help get pregnant and I’ve tried other things and nothing has worked I’m ready to give up and the man I love I’ve been with for at least 6 years
Monica, that sounds very painful and overwhelming. Do you have access – through your workplace benefits or a community organization – for anything like a wellness program, a nutritionist, or health mentor to walk with you through all of these things you are trying to tackle? It’s hard to lose weight but to do so while trying to quit smoking and reduce stress sounds really stressful! It might be something that you can find a buddy or mentor for also. Check with your human resources offices or insurance plan about what is available, and maybe ask the doctor’s office too! In the meantime, this resource might help you: The PCOS Diet Plan.
I was just wanting to talk to you and ask some questions when ever you have time if you don’t mind
Hi Abby, it is possible to schedule a private consultation, but you should know that we are not medical doctors so you will not be able to address any medical questions. If you have medical questions, you should talk with your gynecologist. We can help point you to online resources that may provide answers, but not medical or psychological counseling. If you still want to talk with someone at Creating a Family, send us an email to email@example.com. There is a charge of $80 for one hour phone call.