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The Importance of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin needed for making red blood cells, tissue repair and maintaining the health and function of your nerves. The vitamin is also known as “cobalamin”, and like vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, which means it dissolves in water, is carried to the tissues around your body, but it is not stored in the body, so it needs to be replenished regularly in your diet.

Diagnosing vitamin B12 deficiency can be complex and may take years before you actually notice the symptoms, which is why Fertility First routinely screens all patients prior to the commencement of their treatment. Low levels of vitamin B12 will usually cause your folate levels to drop and can be often mistaken for folate deficiency. It is a very common problem that by correcting these levels, it can sometimes hide the B12 deficiency while at the same time, failing to correct the problem.

Why is vitamin B12 so important? Vitamin B12 is fundamental to a range of biological processes such as DNA synthesis, cell division, cell and tissue repair and is critical for the formation of red blood cells in your body.

People who are deficient in B12 are likely to experience weakness and fatigue due to the lack of red blood cells able to be made, changes to your mobility due to nerve system damage, mouth ulcers, breathlessness, dizziness, disturbed vision, mood changes, increased temperature and in some extreme cases, people may experience pins and needles sensations due to a disruption in myelin production.

Studies have revealed that lowered vitamin B12 levels can have a detrimental effect on both male and female fertility. As B12 is a vital component for methylation in the body, lowered levels will lead to an increase in an amino acid called homocysteine. An increase in homocysteine has been associated with miscarriage and recurrent pregnancy loss.

In addition to increasing the risk of miscarriage, vitamin B12 deficiency can also have a negative impact on your ovulatory cycle and experience chronic implantation issues.

There is also an increased risk of neural tube defects, given how closely B12 relates to folate and without adequate B12 and folate levels, the developing foetus will be at an increased risk.

Although the studies are still relatively new, the quality of sperm can also be impacted by B12 deficiency. Research has shown that vitamin B12 plays an important role in boosting sperm motility, improving sperm concentration and helps to prevent DNA damage in sperm cells. Some studies have suggested that B12 deficiency may also be a factor in premature ejaculation and loss of libido.

As mentioned before, B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, which means your body cannot store it, therefore, it is extremely important that you are consuming a sufficient amount in your diet, especially if you are trying to conceive. People who are at higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency include the elderly, diabetics, people who follow a strict vegan diet and those who have been taking antacid drugs for heartburn for an extended period of time.

Vitamin B12 is found in foods such as chicken, eggs, milk, beef and seafood such as mussels, crab and salmon. Of course, there are also supplements you may take; however It is crucial to note that like all medications and supplements, they can have benefits and can also be dangerous to exceed the daily recommended dose. Fertility First encourages its patients to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle when looking at undergoing fertility treatment during this time and strongly suggest that when in doubt, check with your fertility specialist and be guided by the Australian Government Department of Health.