Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that is produced in the skin as a result of sun exposure as well as absorbed from fortified foods. It's generally associated with bone health, but animal studies have shown that the hormone affects fertility in many mammals. A study published in the Endocrine Society's "Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism," examined vitamin D's role in the success of in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles, and it found that it's linked to better quality embryos and higher successful implantation rates.
Researchers followed 154 women who were vitamin D deficient and 181 women who had sufficient levels of vitamin D in their blood. The women who had sufficient vitamin D were nearly twice as likely to conceive through their IVF cycle as their deficient counterparts. Women who had vitamin D levels of at least 20 ng/ml in their blood were considered to have sufficient levels of the hormone. Levels of 30 ng/ml are recommended for general health.
"Although randomized clinical trials are needed to confirm the findings, our results certainly suggest that low levels of vitamin D contribute to infertility," said Alessio Paffoni, MSc, of the Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico in Milan, Italy, and one of the study's authors. "Since vitamin D supplementation is an inexpensive and simple intervention with few relevant side effects, additional study in this area has the potential to markedly influence the way infertility is treated."
But Dr. Tanmoy Mukherjee, associate director of the Mount Sinai Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and co-director of Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York, says women shouldn't necessarily run out to grab vitamin D supplements quite yet. Instead, he advises all of his patients, men and women, to take a multivitamin as a part of their fertility protocol. Even if patients have a great diet and lifestyle, a multivitamin insures the body is getting everything it needs to function at the best possible level.
If you think your level is low, you can increase your vitamin D by getting out in the sunlight more and eating fortified foods like orange juice or milk. Cheese, egg yolks and fatty fish, like tuna and salmon, are also foods that are high in vitamin D. Don't take supplements in excess of 1000iu per day without first consulting your medical doctor.