Medically reviewed by Dr. Darren Bryk, andrology/male infertility fellow at the University of Virginia.
Lots of guys pop a daily multivitamin. It’s a good way to fill in any nutritional gaps, and it fits in nicely with general health goals, like trying to eat well and exercise. And maybe your multivitamin works okay-ish — probably? You think? — but things are different now that you’re ready to start a family. If you’ve heard about prenatal vitamins for men, you probably have questions.
- The health of a man before conception affects his partner's pregnancy and the health of their baby.
- Supplementing with male prenatals helps ensure optimal sperm health for greater chances of conception and a healthier pregnancy and baby.
- Men need specific nutrients in key amounts to promote healthy sperm, so they shouldn't take a prenatal designed for women.
- Men should look for specific ingredients in a prenatal designed to optimize fertility — a multivitamin won't do the trick.
- If possible, start taking a male prenatal about three months before you hope to conceive.
- Prioritize a healthy lifestyle to help increase your chances of a healthy conception.
How Do Men's Prenatal Vitamins Support Fertility?
Here’s the thing — when you’re trying for a baby, nutrition matters. Science tells us that a future dad’s health during the three to four months before conception directly impacts his partner’s ability to conceive, pregnancy and the lifelong health of their baby. Supplementing with key nutrients in the right amounts not only improves male fertility — think sperm count and sperm motility — it means optimal sperm health for men in general. And that means the best chance of a healthy conception, pregnancy, and baby. Fertility health is absolutely in your control, so yes, men should take prenatal vitamins (1). But if you’re not entirely sold just yet, let’s see what else the science says.
The Role of Prenatal Vitamins for Men
We all know and accept that women should be taking prenatal vitamins to ensure they’re getting all the nutrients they need to support conception and pregnancy. It makes sense, right? The same is true for men — it’s just not as mainstream an idea for most of us yet (ahem, team Beli excluded).
The difference between men’s and women’s prenatals is in the ingredients themselves. The whole point of men’s prenatals is to underpin male fertility and promote healthy sperm, and that calls for key ingredients in the right amounts. And no, your multivitamin isn’t cutting it (and to be clear, prenatals designed for women aren't doing you any favors either, no matter what those ads say). Actually, most of the multivitamin blends on the market are only kind of aligned with current nutrition research as it is, and more vitamin companies than you think are putting other, less noble concerns before your health.
That means you have two challenges. First, you need to find a men’s prenatal that’s specifically designed to support healthy sperm and male fertility. And second, you need to find a men’s prenatal that’s doing things the right way, which means using productive amounts of high-quality, bioavailable ingredients that are scientifically proven to actually do something.
Ingredients to Look for in Men’s Prenatal Vitamins
Understanding that specific ingredients matter is one thing, but knowing precisely what to look for is another. Let’s make this simple. An effective men’s prenatal vitamin should include the following:
This antioxidant plays an essential role in the function of metabolism, and it has been shown (2) to improve fertilization rates after just a few weeks. It’s also effective for increasing sperm motility (3).
It’s long been established that folate plays a key role in reproductive health. For men, methylated folate (which is the active and most bioavailable form of folate) has been linked to greater sperm count and health. One study (4) found low folate levels in semen to be associated with poor sperm DNA stability. The takeaway? Men hoping to conceive should be taking folate daily.
Wondering about the difference between folate and folic acid, or how 5-MTHF fits into it all? They're all a form of vitamin B9, but they aren't the same. We've got an entire post explaining it all.
Vitamins C, E, B6 and B12
These antioxidants are key for boosting (5) sperm quantity, motility (6) and morphology. They also help protect sperm from damage from free radicals. Plus, they complement other key antioxidants, including CoQ10 and selenium.
The sunshine vitamin is technically a hormone, and it affects our body’s absorption of other nutrients (think calcium, phosphate, and magnesium). In the world of male fertility, low vitamin D levels (7) have been associated with poor sperm quality. The reverse is also true — supplementing with vitamin D (8) is linked to better sperm.
It's true that exposure to the sun is the best way to get vitamin D, but most of us can't get enough sun for adequate amounts of this key vitamin. That's where supplementing comes in.
This is another compound associated with higher fertilization rates (9) and better quality sperm. And just like CoQ10, it helps support the body's metabolism.
Another antioxidant, selenium has been shown to increase multiple sperm parameters (10) for stronger, more effective swimmers, including in infertile men. In combination with vitamins A, E, or C, selenium has been shown to increase sperm quality overall.
NAC has been shown to improve multiple sperm parameters (11), including count, motility, and morphology.
This is another important nutrient for male fertility, with multiple studies (12) linking zinc supplementation to improved sperm motility, functional sperm morphology, and increased sperm volume. Low zinc levels (13) are common in infertile men.
An amino acid necessary for the production of sperm, L-arginine has been shown to improve sperm quality (14).
Recent studies (15) have linked low levels of taurine, another antioxidant, to male factor infertility.
Color us surprised, but Beli is the only men's prenatal that includes Shilajit, the ancient Ayurvedic adaptogen that has been shown to increase sperm count, motility, and serum testosterone in men with initial diagnoses of infertility. It’s a literal powerhouse with a laundry list of additional benefits, including increased energy and endurance, improved athletic performance, improve concentration and brain health, and more.
The best men’s prenatal vitamin
You’ll find all of these nutrients in Beli Vitality for Men, a scientifically-aligned men’s prenatal supplement that uses the most bioavailable ingredients in their most effective amounts. It’s simple, really. We based our formula on the latest research regarding men’s fertility nutrition, and in the process, we unearthed several key nutrients noticeably absent from most men’s multivitamins. If the goal is a baby, complete nutrition is important. And for men, just as for women, the right prenatal vitamin shouldn’t be an afterthought.
When should I start taking a men's prenatal vitamin?
Good question! If a baby is a plan, it's time for the both of you to start taking prenatal vitamins. It takes new sperm roughly three months to fully mature, and you want to ensure they've got all of the nutrition they need to be as strong and healthy as possible. Ideally, you should begin taking men's prenatals about three months before you hope to conceive.
What else I can do to boost the chances of conceiving?
There's more to good health that just a men's prenatal (even if it is from Beli!). From adequate sleep to cleaning up your diet, cutting back on alcohol and caffeine to regular exercise, there's quite a bit you can do to boost male fertility. Check out our tips for stacking the deck.
Scovell J et al. (2014). Should men take prenatal vitamins?https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4352710/
Vishvkarma R et al. (2020). Coenzyme Q10 effect on sperm parameters: profound or meagre? https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/and.13570
Lewin A et al. (1997). The effect of coenzyme Q10 on sperm motility and function. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9266524/
Boxmeer J et al. (2009). Low folate in seminal plasma is associated with increased sperm DNA damage. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18722602/
Colagar, A et al. (2009). Ascorbic acid in human seminal plasma: determination and its relationship to sperm quality. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2735625
Ahmadi S et al. (2016). Antioxidant supplements and semen parameters: an evidence-based review. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28066832/
Jensen M et al. (2016). Low vitamin D deficiency and low ionized calcium are linked with semen quality and sex steroid levels in infertile men. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27496946/
Angelis C et al. (2017). The role of vitamin D in male fertility: a focus on the testis. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11154-017-9425-0
Wu, Z et al. (2012). Short-term medication of L-carnitine before intracytoplasmic sperm injection for infertile men with oligoasthenozoospermia. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22474993/
Moslemi M et al. (2011). Selenium–vitamin E supplementation in infertile men: effects on semen parameters and pregnancy rate. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3048346/
Jannatifar, R et al. (2019). Selenium–vitamin E supplementation in infertile men: effects on semen parameters and pregnancy rate. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6377938/
Wong W et al. (2002). Effects of folic acid and zinc sulfate on male factor subfertility: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11872201/
Fallah A et al. (2018). Zinc is an Essential Element for Male Fertility: A Review of Zn Roles in Men’s Health, Germination, Sperm Quality, and Fertilization. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6010824/
Stanislavov R et al. (2014). Sperm quality in men is improved by supplementation with a combination of L-arginine, L-citrullin, roburins and Pycnogenol®. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25531191/
Taurine deficiency in sperm causes male infertility. (2018). https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180511102357.htm