The men’s prenatal vitamin movement is underway as you read this, and with good reason. For couples hoping to conceive, a man’s health is just as important as a woman’s. Beyond regular exercise, eating well, and kicking bad habits to the curb (smoking and excessive drinking, we’re looking at you), specialized nutritional support — i.e. a men’s prenatal vitamin — can make a surprising impact on a man’s fertility health. But can (and should) men take women’s prenatal vitamins? Nope, and here’s why.
- Sperm health is linked to pregnancy outcomes and the health of his baby at birth and over the course of his or her life.
- The most common cause of sperm deficiencies is a lack of specific nutrients.
- Men need specific nutrients in appropriate amounts to promote healthy sperm, and a woman’s prenatal vitamin isn’t going to be effective.
- Men should look for a prenatal vitamin formulated with nutrients that support optimal sperm health.
The science is clear that a man’s health in that preconception window (three to six months before conception) has a direct effect on his partner’s future pregnancy and the health of their baby, both at birth and over the course of his or her life. That’s because sperm health is linked to pregnancy outcomes, and so much important development happens in the first few weeks of pregnancy.
A man produces a staggering amount of sperm every day, and the most common cause of major deficiencies in that sperm — issues relating to morphology and motility — is a serious lack of nutrients. It’s an issue. Over 40% of couples who can’t conceive can trace their issue to problem with the man’s sperm, and a 2012 study found that only one in four men has optimal sperm health. The other three? Not so much.
Specialized Nutrition is the Key
The idea of specialized nutrition to shore up those nutrient deficits is backed by science, but specialized is the key. And just as a high-quality women’s prenatal vitamin delivers specialized nutrition for a healthy conception, pregnancy, and baby, so does a man’s prenatal. That’s why it doesn’t make sense for a man to take a prenatal vitamin that’s formulated for women. Points for effort — the intention is there, after all — but guys, you’re not getting what you need if you’re sneaking into your partner’s prenatal stash.
Both women’s and men’s prenatals are fulfilling a similar role, but the key difference is the ingredients. Men looking to optimize their fertility need a prenatal vitamin that will do just that, by improving all parameters of sperm health for the greatest chances of a successful conception, pregnancy, and baby. And they can’t fuel that fertility with a prenatal vitamin that’s been formulated to help female fertility.
Ingredients for Men's Prenatal Vitamins
We have an entire post covering all the ingredients that an effective men’s prenatal vitamin should include, but we’ve got the highlights right here:
- CoQ10, an antioxidant shown to increase sperm motility and rapidly improve fertilization rates
- Methylated folate, a form of vitamin B9 linked to higher sperm count and health.
- Vitamins C, E, B6, and B12, antioxidants that boost sperm quantity, motility, and morphology
- Vitamin D, a hormone that improves sperm quality
- L-Carnitine, a compound associated with higher fertilization rates and higher quality sperm
- Selenium, an antioxidant to increase testosterone and improve sperm across multiple parameters
- N-acetyyl-L-Cysteine, an antioxidant that improves sperm count, motility, and morphology
- Zinc, a nutrient that improves sperm motility, morphology, and volume
- L-Arginine, an amino acid that is essential to quality sperm production
- L-Taurine, an antioxidant that, at low levels, has been linked to male factor infertility
- Shilajit, an Ayurvedic adaptogen that increases sperm count, motility, and serum testosterone
A noteworthy point — low levels of folate, vitamin D, and zinc are associated with poor sperm DNA stability, poor sperm quality, and infertility, respectively. Another noteworthy point — all of these nutrients can be found in Beli Vitality for Men, a science-backed men’s prenatal vitamin designed to deliver the kind of specialized nutrition that supports healthy sperm.
One more thing. It’s not just the ingredients themselves that matter, but the quantities of those ingredients. You may be surprised (and kind of disgusted and/or disappointed) to learn that the vast majority of the prenatal vitamins on the market are only kind of aligned with nutritional science, which means they’re either missing important ingredients or using ingredients in such negligible amounts that they aren’t doing you any good. Don’t assume any old prenatal will do the job.
The Bottom Line
Men will absolutely benefit from a high-quality prenatal vitamin, but only if it’s formulated to improve male fertility. That means men shouldn’t take women’s prenatal vitamins, not because they’ll be harmful, but because they won’t do anything beyond wasting your money. But if you’re considering the value of a prenatal vitamin as a hopeful dad-to-be, you’re definitely on the right track.
Understanding the importance of a dad-to-be’s health is quite the eye-opener, and fortunately, it doesn’t take an insurmountable level of effort or change to shore up the weak spots. Think of the elements of a healthy lifestyle, and then practice them. Prioritize a better diet and some regular exercise, cut back on the booze, definitely quit smoking, do your best to minimize stress, and get on the men’s prenatal train. In other words, put down the women’s prenatals and swap your multivitamin for a men’s prenatal that will do its job.