Eating your way into pregnancy

Any expectant mother knows how important it is to follow a healthy diet for her growing baby, but nutrition plays a crucial part in pregnancy long before a baby bump begins to show.

While there is no super food or crazy diet that will definitely make men or women more fertile, there are changes you can make to your meals and snacks to create ideal conditions for conception.

Figtree obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr David Greening says the importance of preconception health cannot be underestimated because the quality of a woman's eggs are directly influenced by how she treats her body. 

Though it can be hard to reverse 20 years of poor dietary and lifestyle choices, if a woman starts trying to conceive for the first time in her late 30s, that doesn't mean changes in diet are pointless.

"I spend more of my time fixing simple things like lifestyle, weight, exercise, than I do giving out drugs," Dr Greening says.

For example, smoking and alcohol have a well-established negative impact on male and female fertility, so giving these up will almost always be beneficial.

"You're better off reducing the alcohol because you've got a good chance of a good effect. But if you don't change it, it won't improve."

Dr Greening says while age is the single most important factor in fertility, ensuring your diet focuses on whole foods for optimal vitamin and mineral intake, and limits sugary and fatty foods, will improve your fertility because it should keep you within a healthy weight range.

Dr Greening says being underweight or overweight are equally problematic when trying to conceive.

He encourages patients who are underweight to put on five kilograms and overweight women to lose at least seven kilograms. That is the point at which positive results are shown, no matter what the starting weight.

Being overweight also affects male fertility, Dr Greening says, as excess fat can overheat the testicles, resulting in less-than-optimal conditions for sperm production.

Naturopath Nadine Campbell, who has a masters in reproductive medicine, says body weight and diet are the first things she looks at when a couple consults her about difficulty conceiving.

She makes changes to their diet accordingly, making sure they have an adequate protein intake at least three times a day, adequate good fats, and eat a variety of vegetables and fruit.

Deficiencies in nutrients such as essential fatty acids and zinc can affect sperm count and a lack of calcium, iron, iodine and magnesium can affect a woman's menstrual cycle and reproductive health.

However it hasn't been proven that increasing the these in the diet above the recommended dietary intake will make you more fertile.


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