A Harvard Medical school study involving 18,000 women has shown that taking multivitamins, particularly folic acid, can improve chances of pregnancy in couples having difficulty conceiving.
Around 150,000 couples in the UK suffer from infertility problems due to the woman's inability to ovulate, which is about 1 in 10 of all women affected by infertility. The study, which followed nurses who hoped to become pregnant for an eight year period, showed that women who took multivitamin supplements six times a week were 40 per cent less likely to fail to ovulate than women who took none.
In the UK, women are advised to take 400 micrograms of folic acid (one of several different B vitamins) every day while trying to conceive, and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. 1000 micrograms of folic acid daily is the safe upper limit. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has proposed adding folic acid to the nutrients currently used to fortify white flour, as has happened in the US since 1988.
Dr. Jorge Chavarro who led the US study told the annual American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in New Orleans that the beneficial benefits seem to derive from folic acid, which helps prevent birth defects, 'The beneficial effect on fertility continued to increase as women consumed higher amounts of folic acid', he said. Folic acid is found in green leafy vegetables and liver.
Other recent research presented at the 25th annual scientific meeting of the Fertility Society of Australia has shown that daughters of people who smoke during pregnancy are more prone to reproductive health problems. The conference organiser, Professor Geoff Driscoll, said it was important the public understood that lifestyle affected fertility. He noted that starting a family younger, controlling obesity, exercising regularly and not smoking all improve chances of conceiving.