Adopting a healthy and balanced diet while planning a family can greatly improve your chances of conceiving. Both man and women can benefit from eating enough fruit and vegetables daily, as well as enriching their diet with essential prenatal vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and trace-element supplements.
A typical diet for both men and women that are trying to conceive should contain:
- Fruit (apricots, oranges, mangoes)
- Vegetables (carrots, beans, tomatoes)
- Meat and fish as a source of protein (more fish and less red meat, if possible)
- Oily fish (for vegetarians)
- Whole Grains (whole-meal bread, pasta, rice, cereals)
- Dairy (milk, yogurt and cheese)
Foods rich in fat and high-in-sugar content, such as cakes, biscuits and fizzy drinks should be avoided as much as possible.
In women, the intake of vitamins and minerals can help prenatally by boosting fertility, but also help during pregnancy. The essential vitamins are C, D, and E; the essential minerals are calcium and magnesium.
Talk to your nutritionist, who can advise you on taking an appropriate multivitamin and mineral supplement especially designed for fertility treatment and pregnancy preparation. It is really important, as it has been shown that a healthy, balanced diet together with appropriate vitamins can improve your fertility outcome and reduce your chances of miscarriage.
One of the most important supplements during pregnancy is folic acid. It is essential for normal cell division during early embryo development protecting against certain embryonic developmental abnormalities, such as spina bifida. Your doctor and nutritionist will determine the appropriate dosage of folic acid that you should be receiving daily, based on your fertility status and medical history. Folic acid can be naturally found in leafy green vegetables, lentils, bean, asparagus, broccoli, papaya and orange juice. Intake of fish liver oil and excess of vitamin A should be avoided, at this time.
When you start preparing for In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), you need to increase your protein intake and to decrease carbohydrates. This can be done by consuming rich-in-protein food, such as meat, fish, cheese, Greek yogurt, beans and lentils among others, or by taking protein supplements.
Vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants can greatly improve sperm quality and quantity and there are numerous studies proving the beneficial effects of these supplements for conception.
With a preparation period of at least 3 months, you should start taking multivitamin supplements containing selenium, zinc, vitamins E and C, folate, lycopene and magnesium. Your nutritionist will be able to determine the dosages you may need, depending on your individual circumstances.
Anti-oxidants play a very important role in balancing Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and when at low levels, male fertility can be seriously impaired with damaging effects for the genetic integrity of sperm. Natural sources of anti-oxidants include grapes, apples, mangoes, strawberries, lean meat, milk, nuts and sesame seeds among others.
Lifestyle changes and weight
Additional lifestyle changes that help fertility include quite smoking, reduce alcohol consumption and increase your exercise levels.
Being overweight or underweight can adversely affect fertility. Overweight women often have higher estrogen levels or other hormonal imbalances, while underweight women often have problems with their ovulation. Fertility prognosis in women who are overweight or underweight is poorer and pregnancy rates after IVF are lower. Additionally, miscarriage rates are higher for overweight women.
In men, obesity can severely affect erectile function and sperm quality.
A healthy and balanced diet combined with moderate levels of exercise can greatly benefit your body and general wellbeing.