Exposure to sunlight

Top foods for fertility: Vitamin D

As most people are self-isolating, this means they are spending most of their time indoors. Most people are able to get their daily dose of vitamin D from their diet combined with adequate exposure to sunlight, in fact sunlight is responsible for approximately 80-90% of vitamin D your body receives.

According to the Cancer Council, simply by spending a few minutes outside most days during the week can help maintain adequate vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D is formed in the skin when exposed to UV light, depending on the location, time of the day, time of the year, the environment and the amount of cloud coverage. Under normal circumstances, during colder months, when the UV index is lower, it’s essential to spend more time outside during the middle of the day with some skin uncovered. As we’re now faced with highly unusual circumstances and it’s not possible to spend as much time outdoors as recommended, it’s more important than ever to ensure your body is getting enough vitamin D.

What actually is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is produced naturally when directly exposed to sunlight as well as also being present in specific foods and supplements.

Essentially, vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus while also helping to boost healthy immune function.

Why is vitamin D so important?

Fertility First has recognised the importance of sufficient vitamin D levels not only in our female patients, but also our male patients for over 10 years and routinely test our patients’ vitamin D levels as part of our preliminary assessment and treatment programs.

Studies have shown in the past that vitamin D deficiency could potentially be a crucial factor in couples struggling with fertility. Current research from the University of Curtin in Perth has shown that women who suffer from vitamin D deficiency are less likely to develop mature eggs and as a result, would produce poor quality embryos.

Furthermore, research presented for the past two years at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) has shown that vitamin D is beneficial to follicular development, menstrual cycle regulation and has been strongly associated with semen quality, morphology, concentration and motility.

In addition to improving endometrium quality, studies have shown that vitamin D also has a positive impact on male and female reproductive tissues.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to reduced sperm concentration and motility, as well as negatively affect egg maturity and quality.

A recent Australian study that came out of Western Australia in December 2019 has shown there is a strong correlation between vitamin D levels and egg maturity and quality. After analysing the cells of over 300 women, the study found that women who had insufficient levels of vitamin D were less likely to develop mature eggs and as a result had a lower chance of producing quality embryos.

Although IVF procedures had previously been suspended, the return to allow IVF procedures from the Australian government means potentially anyone can return to this journey now.

Amidst self-isolation attempts, however, there are still some important steps you can make towards achieving a successful pregnancy. Whether you’re trying naturally or making preparations to start a cycle when the restrictions have been lifted, ensuring your body has sufficient vitamin D is essential to achieving a healthy pregnancy and something you can do during this time.

If you’re unable to leave the house for extended periods of time, there’s a risk that you may not be getting adequate doses of vitamin D from the sun, especially given that daylight savings has ended and we’re looking at shorter and colder days.

There is, however, a way to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D and that is through your diet. Foods that are rich in vitamin D include cheese, egg yolks, oily fish such as salmon and tuna, orange juice and mushrooms.

You can also find vitamin D supplements at your local pharmacy, however it’s important to note that like with every vitamin, taking too much can limit the benefits and possibly cause more harm than good.

For expert guidance and information on dosage, we would suggest contacting your fertility specialist.