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Why Folate is Important for Conception

Folate for Fertility

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There are many vitamins and minerals that are important for conception – and folate is definitely one of them! But what are the best sources of folate, is folic acid a sufficient supplement, and is it just as important for men as it is for women? We answer all these questions in this blog.

What is folate?

Folate is a B-Vitamin that is naturally present in many of the foods we eat on a regular basis. Your body needs folate to make DNA and for your cells to divide – so it makes sense that it is a hot topic amongst people who are trying to conceive!

There are many foods that are rich in folate (more on that later) but you often find that folic acid – a synthetic form of folate – is found in many fortified foods, like breakfast cereals and bread.

Why is folate important for pregnancy?

One of the main functions of folate is to help the body produce healthy new cells – which is why it is so important before and during pregnancy. Folate has been shown to help reduce the risk of Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) – like Spina Bifida and Anencephaly. These are defects that occur in the first month of pregnancy, a crucial time when a baby’s spinal cord is being formed and are conditions that there is sadly no cure for. That’s why prevention is so important – and research has shown that having a healthy level of folate in your body helps to reduce the risk.

If you are trying to conceive, The NHS recommends women take daily folic acid supplements of 400 micrograms before pregnancy and through the first trimester. It is safe to take these supplements whether you’re pregnant or not, so it’s a good idea to start taking them at least 3 months before conception.

Whilst 400mcg is the generally recommended amount, there may be some cases when a doctor would advise a woman to take a higher dosage – particularly if she had a previous baby with Neural Tube Defect.

There are also other benefits of folate for female fertility. Research has found that folate can help with progesterone production, which can help support healthy ovulation and regulate the menstrual cycle, which can help natural conception.

Why folate is important for male fertility too

With so much of the conversation around folate relating to pregnancy, you might think that it’s not that important for men – but that’s not the case. The support for cell division and DNA synthesis that comes from folate is not only helpful for a developing baby – but for sperm production too.

Folate levels analyzed in semen have been associated with sperm count. One study even found that folate deficiency was associated with an increased risk of DNA damage in sperm cells. There is another study that tracked male participants over a period of 26 weeks, found that a combined supplementation of folic acid and zinc increased total sperm count in fertile and subfertile men by around 74%!

Whilst the above studies indicate that there are definitely benefits of folate supplementation for male fertility, there are some conflicting studies that imply it might not be as effective as we think. A large double-blind study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2020 looked at couples who were due to have assisted fertility treatments. They found no evidence of higher live birth rates among men who took zinc/folic acid supplements.

The truth is that whilst research into the impact of folate on pregnancy and women is pretty robust, we still need to examine it further when it comes to men. But even if folate didn’t have a huge positive correlation to sperm health, there are still a host of benefits for your overall health, so it’s important to get enough of it in your diet.

Natural sources of folate

As always, when looking to increase your folate intake, it’s best to first try to adapt your diet. Many green vegetables are great sources of folate, including:

  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Okra
  • Sprouts
  • Asparagus

But you can also find it in other fruits, vegetables and foods like:

  • Oranges
  • Corn
  • Mangos
  • Avocados
  • Lentils
  • Squash
  • Edamame Beans

If you eat your recommended five a day and try to ‘eat the rainbow’ (having as many different coloured vegetables on your plate as possible!) you should be getting a good amount of folate in your diet – as well as a bunch of other sperm health superfoods benefits. However, if you need an extra boost you can also look at supplementation, but there are a few things you need to consider.


Folate vs folic acid supplements

Folic acid has long been a recommended way to supplement your folate intake in your diet – as discussed earlier, it’s even what the NHS suggests for people trying to conceive.

However, it’s important to remember that folic acid is a synthetic form of folate and is not metabolised in the same way.

Folate is a form of Vitamin B9 and the active form of vitamin B9 is a type of folate known as levomefolic acid or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). When we consume naturally occurring folate through foods, this folate is converted into 5-MTHF and put to work in our body. However, research has shown that not all folic acid is converted in our digestive system in the same way, and instead ends up being metabolised by our liver and tissues – which can mean the benefits are slower acting and not always as effective.

So does this mean that you should avoid folic acid altogether? Not necessarily. It just means that you should prioritise getting folate from naturally occurring sources (ie food) rather than depending on folic acid to give you everything you need.


With that said, taking a supplementary amount of fertility-focused micronutrients are great for ensuring you’ve covered all bases. That’s where the ExSeed Multivitamin for fertility comes into play, containing a range of ingredients that have been proven to improve sperm count, concentration, and motility, while protecting against oxidative stress. This specially formulated multivitamin contains not only folate but also other essential nutrients such as Zinc, Selenium, Vitamins E and B12, and L-Carnitine, which are all important for reproductive health. The unique blend of ingredients is designed by fertility specialists, ensuring that it provides the right balance of nutrients to support healthy reproductive function and increase the chances of conception.⁠ Click here to learn more.

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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.


Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.


Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.


Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.


There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  


A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.


Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.