Whether you’re planning a pregnancy or struggling to conceive, here are some tips on how to boost fertility and prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy.
1. Get at least 3 colors of veggies and fruits per day (5 is ideal): The brighter and more colorful the vegetable or fruit, the higher the antioxidant and phytochemical content is. These natural healthy compounds combat other harmful compounds called free radicals, which can cause damage to your reproductive organs, eggs and an embryo. Including a variety of colorful veggies and fruits everyday is very important to keeping free radical damage to a minimum and preparing your body for a healthy pregnancy.
2. Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum: Alcohol can not only harm a developing fetus, but it also may have a negative affect on conceiving in the first place! Although studies of alcohol’s affects on fertility are inconclusive, some do show a slight link between drinking and difficulty conceiving. When Danish researchers looked at 430 couples trying to have their first child, they found that women’s ability to get pregnant decreased as more alcohol was consumed. Women who had fewer than five drinks a week were twice as likely to get pregnant as those drinking ten drinks a week. If you are already having difficulties conceiving, consider playing it safe and limiting alcohol all together.
3. Curb Caffeine Consumption: Limit your caffeine intake to the equivalent of 1-2 cups of coffee per day (about 200 mg caffeine per day max). You may even want to cut out caffeine altogether if you’re having difficulty conceiving or undergoing in vitro fertilization, as caffeine constricts blood vessels, slowing blood flow to the uterus and potentially making it harder for fertilization of the egg to happen at all. If you’re a regular coffee drinker, don’t quit cold-turkey as you will likely experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches. Gently decrease the amount of caffeine that you consume and consider switching your java to decaf.
4. Stick to whole grains most of the time. If it’s a starchy white food, only enjoy it once in a while. The same goes for candy, sugary drinks such as pop and sweet desserts. These foods are yummy and enjoying them once in a while is fine, but they also spike your blood sugar level, sending your insulin levels flying. Women who suffer from infertility often have elevated insulin levels and insulin resistance (most common in women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). Overproduction of insulin can decrease the quality of eggs and it also constricts the tiny arteries that supply blood to the uterus and ovaries. It’s best to stick to whole, unrefined grains and fruits and veggies for carbohydrate energy and make sure to always pair your carb foods with protein (coming from meats and alternatives as well as dairy foods).
5. Consume low-mercury fish often: Fish is not only a great source of protein, but certain fish contain large amounts of omega 3 fatty acid which is essential for a baby’s mental, visual and neural development. It’s important that you consume enough omega 3 fat while pregnant (2-3 oz servings of oily fish, such as salmon, canned light flaked tuna, and halibut per week). If you are trying to get pregnant, stay away from high mercury fish such as white canned tuna, swordfish, Mackeral, Ahi tuna, and marlin. Mercury is toxic to a developing fetus and can linger in a woman’s blood stream for over a year. If you don’t eat fish, include plant sources of omega 3 such as walnuts, omega 3 enriched eggs and canola oil in your diet to obtain omega 3. You can take a DHA/EPA supplement as well.
6. Make sure that you are getting enough iron and folate (and top up with a prenatal multivitamin): It is important that you’re getting enough iron before you become pregnant so that you do not become deficient once you are pregnant. You can get iron from meats, poultry and fish as well as beans and lentils, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals and some vegetables. Folate is a B vitamin that is essential for protecting your growing baby from neural-tube defects such as spina-bifida. It’s especially important to get enough folate or folic acid before you become pregnant, because your baby’s neural tube will form just three to four weeks after conception, when many women don’t even realize that they’re pregnant. You can get Folate from spinach, broccoli, asparagus and fortified breakfast cereals. Your pre-natal multivitamin (which you should absolutely be taking), should contain 27 mg of iron, 0.4-1.0 mcg of folic acid (synthetic form of folate), no more than 770 mcg (2565 IU’s) Vitamin A, 2.4 mcg Vitamin B12 and at least 400 IU’s Vitamin D.
7. Be cautious of foods that can carry Listeria: Listeria is a harmful bacterium that can cause Listeriosis. Listeriosis can cause early miscarriage- possibly before you know that you’re pregnant. Pregnant women are 20 times more likely to get sick from Listeria as compared to other adults. Foods that can carry listeria are ready-to-eat deli meats and unpasteurized dairy foods such as soft cheeses and raw milk. For more food safety tips, here’s what you need to know about best before dates.
8. Try some “fertility foods”: There is limited evidence on whether or not these foods actually make a woman more fertile, but some studies show that they may help with over-production of insulin or insulin resistance, which affects many women with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) who often have trouble conceiving.
- Olive oil: may protect against insulin resistance.
- Green tea: green tea does contain caffeine (which you need to limit if you’re trying to get pregnant as mentioned), but it also contains an antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate that improves glucose tolerance.
- Buckwheat: buckwheat may help to lower insulin levels.
- Cinnamon: may actually make fat cells more responsive to insulin which decreases insulin resistance.
9. Fertility for Men: Make sure that your partner is maximizing his fertility as well. If you are having trouble conceiving, get him to lay off alcohol. He should also be taking a daily multivitamin for at least 3 months prior to conceiving- this will help with healthy sperm development. Make sure that the multivitamin contains 90 mg vitamin C (Vitamin C helps to prevent perm defects and also increase sperm motility), 11 mg of Zinc (Zinc deficiencies can lead to decreased sperm count), 400 mcg Folic Acid, 100 mg calcium and 400-1000IU’s Vitamin D.