Nutrition and Fertility

“Everyone is getting married and pregnant, and I’m just like ‘What should I eat for dinner tonight?'”, pretty much sums up my life.

But given the fact that I’m at that life stage, when loved ones of mine are popping babies left, right and center, I thought I’d talk about how nutrition is linked to fertility, for those who may be having a difficult time conceiving.

If you’re actively trying to have a baby, here is my advice:

The biggest not-so-secret secret to conceiving really is knowing when you ovulate. 

First and foremost, schedule an appointment with a doctor or midwife to look into whether you’re in baby-making shape. 

From a nutrition point of view, here are a few nutritional tweaks you can make to boost the odds in your favour and get a bun in that oven of yours:

Attain a healthy BMI (between 18.5-25). Being both underweight and overweight decreases your chances of conceiving. In fact, obese women are 3 times more likely to suffer from infertility as compared to women with BMI’s within the healthy range. What’s more, being obese decreases the frequency of ovulation and increases the risks of having a miscarriage. Being underweight also hinders fertility as women with BMI’s under 17 have around 1.6x harder a time becoming pregnant. If your BMI is outside this range, you may wish to see a registered dietitian to figure out how to improve it.

Reduce your caffeine intake. Women who have more than 2 cups of coffee per day have 2 x less chance of becoming pregnant than those who consume less than this. Plus, caffeine increases risk of miscarriage. It is recommended to limit caffeine intake to no more than 100-250 mg of caffeine per day, which is the amount contained in about one cup of filter coffee. Beware of other hidden/not so hidden sources of caffeine like tea, soda, chocolate, maté and energy drinks. 

Reduce your alcohol intake. Consuming over 2 standard drinks a day (1 standard drink = 1 beer, 4 oz.wine, 1.5 oz spirits) decreases fertilization capacity.

Correct a vitamin B12-deficiency anemia, if this applies to you. An inadequate intake of this precious vitamin can be partially responsible for a hard time conceiving. This vitamin is found mostly in animal-based products. Generally though, a well-balanced diet covers your daily need for vitamin B12. If you’re vegan, try enriched breakfast cereals, fortified cereals or even a supplement.

Side notes unrelated to nutrition but related to fertility 😉 :

Quit smoking. Tobacco decreases the number of your eggs that are “fertilizable”, affects estrogen levels and ovulation.  Tobacco also causes poor sperm function.

Manage your stress. Stress interferes with ovulation. Whether the stress is positive or negative, it takes a toll on your body physiologically and psychologically. When your adrenal system is activated, your body will not say to itself “Hey, what a perfect time to get preggers”, in fact, the opposite occurs. There is some evidence that acupuncture can help manage stress and increase chances of getting pregnant. Balance your life and try to remain calm throughout the process to increase your odds of conceiving. A positive attitude also goes a long way. The mind-body connection (and biofeedback loops) may play more of a part than you think. Try not to let negative stories about pregnancy and difficulties conceiving get the best of you. Make lifestyle changes that are to your benefit.

Exercise, but in moderation. Overexercising may cause you to not ovulate.

Catch an adequate amount of ZZZ’s. If you aren’t doing too well in the sleep department, this stresses out your body and places a burden on your adrenal glands. Plus, inadequate sleep can weaken the immune system and increase likelihood of catching infections, which may impact your reproductive cycle (this is applicable to men as well).

Don’t forget: Start taking a prenatal multivitamin supplement containing folic acid (400 micrograms) at least one month (ideally 3-4 months) before starting to conceive, to reduce the risk of birth defects like spina bifida.

The storks are ready! I hope these tips help you to conceive.

Best of luck! 🙂

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