The Value of Preconception Health is Sinking In – Finally
In 2017, a March of Dimes survey found that fewer than half of U.S. women took prenatal vitamins prior to conception. Fast forward to the end of 2022, and prenatal company Beli had a completely different response. The company recently asked its 24,000+ followers whether they started taking prenatal vitamins prior to pregnancy and the overwhelmingly majority confirmed they had. We know beyond a doubt that a healthy pregnancy is directly linked to the health of both parents months before those two pink lines show up. But more to the point, hopeful parents-to-be are prioritizing the idea of preconception care more than ever before. So what happened over the last five years to drive home the value of preconception health? Companies like Beli, for one.
Prenatal Vitamins as Part of Preconception Care
With its science-aligned prenatal vitamins formulated for men and for women, Beli has been laser focused on the value of preconception care from the beginning. “There was an understanding that women – and more specifically, their growing babies – benefitted from prenatal vitamins, but the idea of building up these nutrients well before conception was still novel,” says Joni Hanson Davis, founder of Beli. “As for men’s prenatals, those weren’t even on the radar.”
These days, we know that for both partners, prenatal vitamins are a non-negotiable part of preconception care, a term that describes all the things we do to support the medical, behavioral, and social health of parents-to-be during their reproductive years. While it’s taken years to really sink in, the science has been clear all along that the preconception health of both parents-to-be plays a direct role in everything that follows. It’s one of the few ways we can exert some level of influence over our own fertility, which is largely out of our hands. At the very least, eating a nutritious diet, finding healthy outlets for stress, prioritizing sleep, exercising regularly, and generally leading a healthy lifestyle are specific, actionable ways to support and promote fertility in both women and men – think of them as the low-hanging fruit in the getting-pregnant equation.
Prenatals slot into this nicely. Both partners benefit from a steady supply of key micronutrients shown to support the processes that drive conception. And since even the very best diet is likely coming up short somewhere, a high-quality prenatal vitamin is a good way to cover your bases.
Nutrients to Support Fertility
In women, adequate amounts of specific nutrients have been shown to trigger ovulation, support reproductive hormones, support embryo implantation, reduce miscarriage risk, and improve egg quality during the maturation phase. In men, fertility is all about sperm health – how much sperm a man has, how well it moves, how well it’s shaped, and how it grows. Men produce millions of sperm daily, and a man’s health during the roughly 72-day process can directly affect the quality of those growing sperm cells. That’s why experts advise men who are planning on becoming fathers to kick bad habits to the curb and embrace a healthy lifestyle. Ideally, a high-quality men’s prenatal vitamin is part of it. Specific nutrients have been shown to support sperm across all parameters, including motility, morphology, and concentration.
These days, many experts recommend beginning prenatal vitamins a full six months before you hope to conceive. That timeline is significant for both partners because there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. Sperm take roughly three months to fully mature during the regeneration cycle, and the most common reason for deficiencies is a nutrient shortage. Makes you think twice, doesn’t it?
Women may be born with all the eggs they’ll ever have, but there’s a critical growth process required to get those eggs ready for fertilization. And surprise – it takes roughly three months. Many cases of miscarriage, failed IVF cycles, and infertility can be traced to chromosomal abnormalities in the egg during the maturation process. Minimizing the potential for these errors starts with the right nutrients, and a high-quality prenatal vitamin makes it pretty simple.
The Bottom Line
Five years ago, the idea of preconception care was largely limited to a folic acid recommendation for women planning a baby at some point in the near future. Today, we know it’s so much more than that – and as Beli’s survey shows, word is getting around. For Hanson Davis and the greater Beli team, these informal results affirmed that their outreach efforts were paying off. “Educating women and men on what exactly they can do to support their fertility for the best chance of conception and pregnancy – prenatals included! – has been a pillar since we launched,” says Hanson Davis. “We love seeing the message sink in.” It’s clear that education is a priority for Beli – check out the company’s blog for information relating to preconception health and much more.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.