So, you decided to have a baby, but it’s been months, and still no baby. One in 6 couples experience infertility which is defined as not getting pregnant after actively trying for 12 months (or 6 months if you’re 35 years or older).
Or maybe, you have some type of pre-existing barrier to fertility, such as previous cancer treatments, having blocked fallopian tubes, or needing donor sperm? There’s a plethora of different reasons why you may need to see a Fertility Specialist, and a plethora of different treatments that your Fertility Specialist can offer you depending upon your needs….but one thing remains consistent….a nutritious diet in the lead up to conception will boost both your chances of success, and the future health of your baby.
Optimise dietary conditions
A range of dietary conditions have been associated with poorer fertility outcomes. If you, or your partner has a dietary condition (such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, Coeliac Disease, Crohn’s disease, diabetes etc) ensure that you optimise your nutritional status before commencing any Assisted Reproductive Therapies.
Your eggs provide the genetic material for the formation of your baby. Poor egg health is one of the primary reasons that it becomes increasingly difficult to conceive the older that we get. Women are born with all of the eggs that we are ever going to get – we can’t make new ones, so we need to look after them! Research shows that what we eat has a significant impact on the health of our eggs. For example, the antioxidants found in vegetables can protect our eggs from free radical damage, so ensure plenty of different coloured vegetables in your diet each day.
It takes two to tango! And, we also need healthy sperm to get pregnant. Sperm also provides genetic material for the formation of your baby, so what your partner eats in the lead up to conception will impact your baby’s future health. Key considerations include optimising weight and avoiding alcohol intake. If your partner/sperm donor has problems with sperm health (such as a low sperm count, poor sperm morphology etc), emerging research suggests that key micronutrients may help. Liaise with your dietitian to determine the best dietary changes and nutritional supplements to optimise his unique needs.
One of the most common barriers to conceiving is ovulatory dysfunction. This includes irregular ovulation and anovulation (not ovulating at all). Body fat levels are one of the most important considerations for ovulatory dysfunction. Most people don’t realise that body fat impacts the amount of estrogen that your body produces which goes on to impact when you ovulate. So, if you have ovulatory dysfunction, consider optimising (gaining or losing) your levels of body fat.
Implantation is when your embryo implants itself into your uterine lining. To optimise implantation, you’ll need a thick uterine lining and low levels of inflammation. Emerging research suggests that key micronutrients may be able to assist uterine lining thickness. Reduce inflammation with an anti-inflammatory diet which is rich in good fats. Emerging research suggests that some foods, such as wholegrains, may also be associated with increased implantation success.
It’s also essential to minimise miscarriage risk. Fruit has been found to be one of the best foods for reducing miscarriage risk. It’s believed that fruit lowers a hormone calledandrostenedione which has been linked to higher rates of miscarriage.
It is also recommended that you commence a supplement containing folic acid prior to commencing Assisted Reproductive Therapies to reduce the risk of your baby developing a Neural Tube Defect. Most women will also require iodine to help optimize the production of thyroid hormones during pregnancy. Speak to your dietitian about the best nutritional supplement regime for your unique needs.
Your dietary intake and nutritional status can go a long way to optimizing your fertility, so make sure that you liaise with a Fertility Dietitian when you commence your next Assisted Reproductive Treatment.
Melanie McGrice is a leading fertility and prenatal dietitian. She is the founder of Nutrition Plus Women’s Nutrition Clinics, which provide specialist fertility and prenatal nutrition support around Australia. She runs the ‘Nourish with Melanie’ YouTube channel and is an ambassador for Compassion’s ‘Mum’s and Bub’s Nutrition Clinics’, with the Nutrition Plus team sponsoring one in Tanzania.