Can Men Use Prenatal Vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are medicinal products that contain designated amounts of specific vitamins and nutrients required for healthy conception. These formulations are mainly designed for women who are pregnant or trying to conceive, in order to achieve a healthy and uneventful pregnancy. However, due to increasing prevalence of nutritional deficiencies and improvement in the health and fitness awareness through different media, men of today’s age are also considering prenatal vitamins to improve the chances of impregnating their partners. These prenatal vitamins are conveniently available in most pharmaceutical stores and are rich in nutrients and minerals like calcium, folic acid, iron, vitamin C, A, D and also some trace elements e.g. copper and zinc that are helpful at improving the male fertility.
Here we discuss some of the pros and cons of prenatal vitamins for the male readers so that they get a clear picture before they opt to use them.
Benefits Of Male Prenatal Vitamins
The prenatal formulations are an asset to a proportion of male population who have low levels or deficiencies of these essential vitamins (if taken with the advice of a physician).
- Cardiovascular benefits: Supplements containing adequate amounts of Vitamin D are considered protective against cardiovascular diseases. Optimal cardiac help directly improves stamina, energy levels and translates into healthy conception.
- Lower risk of sperm damage: Intake of essential nutrients and antioxidants is associated with minimal risk of sperm damage. According to a new study reported in the Fertility and Sterility (2) journal, investigators suggested that adequate intake of vitamin C can reduce the risk of sperm damage by 16%. Same is true for other antioxidants (such as Vitamin E) and certain minerals such as selenium and zinc.
- Decreased risk of birth defects: Maternal folic acid formulations are known to prevent neurological complications in the fetus and newborn babies. Although, men may get enough of the folic acid through dietary sources, supplemental formulations are known to improve overall fetal outcome (since half of the genetic information is contributed by the father).
- Bone strength: Calcium, an important ingredient of prenatal vitamins is known to boost bones and teeth health. The recommended daily allowance of calcium is 1000 mg per day, especially for men above 50 years of age.
- Healthy skin: Prenatal vitamins are known to improve the health, complexion and skin health due to Vitamin E, niacin and riboflavin content.
- Booster for immune system: The intake, absorption and bioavailability of some essential vitamins and minerals is compromised due to dietary and lifestyle choices (such as smoking, dietary restrictions etc.). These individuals can greatly benefit from prenatal vitamins.
While some nutrients are beneficial for the male consumers in terms of fertility and vitality, some formulations may contain excessive quantities of some nutrients that may do more harm than any good.
- Risks associated with excess iron: Unlike women who loses iron through menstruation each month, most men do not need extra iron through supplementation. Apart from causing gastrointestinal distress (such as nausea, epigastric discomfort and constipation), supplementation can also lead to accumulation of iron in the body especially in liver and heart; thereby leading to toxicity).
- Prostate cancer: Omega 3 derived from flax oil and abnormally high intake of folic acid is linked to prostate cancer. It is important therefore to look at the composition before using prenatal vitamins.
- Increased risk of bone fractures: Some vitamins if taken in excess of the bodily requirements can lead to bone fractures especially in older men. It is therefore highly recommended to see a healthcare professional before starting a new formulation.
- Cardiovascular risk: Calcium overdose via prenatal vitamins may worsen the symptoms in cardiac patients and may cause increased tachycardia and risk of stroke.
- Headache and fatigue: Headache, easy fatigability and excessive tiredness are some of the common complaints reported by men consuming poor formulations of prenatal vitamins.
What To Do? Safety Recommendations Regarding The Use Of Prenatal Vitamins
1. Seek medical advice and consultation:
Always consult your family physician before starting any prenatal vitamins. The benefits and risks may be carefully balanced keeping in consideration the body needs and requirements.
2. Check the label:
Review the label of the vitamin formulation before making the purchase Look at the composition and the amount of each vitamin and mineral present in it, and check with your daily requirements.
3. Avoid excessive dosing:
Consider the hazards and health risks that may come along with the advantages. Do not use these prenatal vitamins in excessive quantities. Opt for once daily or once weekly dosing regimen depending upon the bodily needs.
4. Take your daily multivitamin instead:
Use of multivitamin tablets specifically formulated for men may be a better option to avoid serious risks associated with the prenatal vitamins in men. This is especially true for men who do not require added supplementation.
1. Pludowski, P., Holick, M. F., Pilz, S., Wagner, C. L., Hollis, B. W., Grant, W. B., … & Soni, M. (2013). Vitamin D effects on musculoskeletal health, immunity, autoimmunity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, fertility, pregnancy, dementia and mortality—a review of recent evidence. Autoimmunity reviews, 12(10), 976-989.
2. Schmid, T. E., Eskenazi, B., Marchetti, F., Young, S., Weldon, R. H., Baumgartner, A., … & Wyrobek, A. J. (2012). Micronutrients intake is associated with improved sperm DNA quality in older men. Fertility and sterility, 98(5), 1130-1137.