DL: What part do supplements play in fertility?

VM: The American Academy of Family Medicine, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recommend that women of childbearing age take a multi. Prenatal multivitamins make it easier to conceive and less likely that you will miscarry; they also reduce the risk of neural tube, heart, and other birth defects. And, three recent studies revealed an association between preconception folic acid intake prior and a lower risk of autism.

Multivitamins and supplements can vary tremendously, so choose them with care. Your multi should contain 400–600 mcg folic acid, 18 mg iron, and 150 mcg iodine.

I also recommend up to 2,500 IU vitamin A palmitate or acetate, or retinyl palmitate; 15,000 IU beta-carotene; 1,000 IU vitamin D; 2.4 mcg vitamin B12; and 200–400 IU vitamin E (mixed tocopherols are best), daily.

As for trace minerals, look for small amounts of copper, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and calcium in your multi.

I also recommend that most women take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement because these essential fats are scarce in the American diet. Look for molecularly distilled fish oil with about 300–400 mg DHA for your baby’s developing brain and about 500–600 mg EPA to prevent postpartum depression. Take it with your largest meal of the day because the body needs fat to absorb omegas efficiently.