A lot of my clients ask me about dietary changes they can make to help improve their chances of getting pregnant. Now whilst I have plenty of pregnancy books and can advise on foods that will help improve a Chinese Medicine diagnosis, I thought what is better than asking a fantastic local nutritional therapist! So here are her top tips in an article she presented me with. Her name is Claudia Williamson and you can view her website at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nutrition for fertility
A good diet is critical for conception, pregnancy and the future health of your child. Eggs and sperm take three months to mature, therefore both partners should aim to be optimally nourished for 3-4 months before trying to conceive. Here are some general recommendations but if you’d like some personal nutrition advice or support, I’d love to help.
A healthy diet is rich in protein, essential fats, vegetables and some fruit, and good hydration…
- Protein is important for growth and repair and helps keep your blood sugar stable. Protein foods include fish, eggs, meat, pulses and beans, nuts, seeds, cheese and yoghurt – aim to have some protein with each meal and snack.
- Oily foods containing essential fatty acids are needed for healthy hormone production, and are vital for developing the brain, eyes and nervous system of a baby. Best sources are oily fish such as mackerel, sardines and salmon, as well as avocado and olive oil and raw nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds, sunflower and pumpkin.
- Fibre is important for healthy bowels, clearing toxins and used hormones from the body. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, brown rice, oats and legumes (lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, etc). As well as fibre, fruit and veg are rich in antioxidants and many vitamins and minerals.
- Hydration is necessary to transport nutrients around the body and remove waste products. Best sources are natural mineral water or filtered water, coconut water and herbal teas.
And don’t forget exercise – it improves elimination, supports your immune system and increases circulation to the pelvis. It also releases endorphins which relieves stress and anxiety.
Specific nutrients for conception and a healthy pregnancy and baby include…
- Folate in particular has a vital role in fertility, needed to make DNA and for cell division, so eat plenty of dark green leafy veg like spinach and broccoli, asparagus, chickpeas, beans and lentils, bananas and citrus fruits.
- Vitamin A is essential for your baby’s growth and development of eyes, skin, organs including the heart and lungs, and mucus membranes. Eat liver, eggs, orange and yellow veg, and leafy greens.
- Vitamin D regulates cell growth and differentiation and therefore may have a crucial role in the development of the foetus and for your baby’s bone development.
- Iodine requirements are increased by over 45% during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. It is needed for development of your baby’s brain and nervous system. For iodine eat eggs, shellfish and yoghurt.
- Zinc is found in meat, poultry, fish, seafood, liver and eggs and is critical for reproduction, growth and development, normal healing, increasing bone density and boosting the immune system.
- Selenium is needed for fertility in both men and women. Brazil nuts are high in selenium – just a couple a day should be sufficient.
And here are a few things that may interfere with your ability to conceive…
Refined foods such as sweets, cakes, biscuits, white bread, rice and pasta are very low in nutrients, produce a sudden rise in blood sugar and trigger hormonal imbalance.
Caffeine decreases fertility in both sexes so eliminate all caffeine containing foods for 3 months – coffee, black and green tea, chocolate, cocoa, cola and some headache medications.
Alcohol can halve the likelihood of conceiving. It inhibits the absorption of folate and zinc – the most important minerals for male fertility. Alcohol decreases sperm count, increases the number of abnormal sperm and lowers motility. Eliminate alcohol for three months to improve your chances of conceiving.
Smoking is linked with infertility in women, it ages the ovaries and reduces oestrogen levels. In men, smoking decreases sperm count, increases abnormal sperm and reduces motility.