Nutrition for Fertility

Improving fertility through diet, exercise and lifestyle.

There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that eating well and making positive changes to lifestyle can have a significant impact on chances of conception.

Interested in finding out more?

We are what we eat

Doctors and fertility clinics don’t always advise what you should be eating when trying to conceive. So, is diet really an important factor to consider?

Simply put,yes it is! A good pre-conception diet is necessary to:

  1. Produce optimal quality egg and sperm
  2. Reduce the risk of an adverse pregnancy outcome
  3. Promote the health of a future child

Here are a couple of reasons why

The foetus chromosomes are an extension of your own. This means that your child’s health may be mapped way before conception even occurs.

You can appreciate that maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle may help ensure your future child’s health.

Many women choose to eat healthier during pregnancy, avoid certain foods and lifestyle habits e.g. alcohol, smoking or certain medications. They do this because they are worried that these things may adversely impact their developing baby.

However, the best time is actually at least 3-4 months before conception. And this goes for both partners as there is research to suggest that eating healthily can help boost male and female fertility via improving egg and sperm quality.

Improving your chances

What does a good pre-conception diet look like?

Many of us think were eating healthily, but what does that really mean when you’re thinking of starting a family? 

Here are some tips on the kind of things you should be including in your diet on a daily basis and also avoiding completely (if possible):

Include Details Examples
Antioxidants Antioxidants help to reduce damage from chemicals, pesticides, caffeine, alcohol, smoking and other environmental pollutants. They can also help to improve sperm quality. Berries, carrots, spinach, kale, mango, pumpkin, squash, pineapple, oranges (basically, any fruit or vegetable that is red, purple, orange, yellow or green in colour)
Fats (the good ones) We need an optimum level of fat to reproduce, but stay away from the fried, processed foods and takeaways and instead, think Mediterranean diet. Salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies, sardines, olives, avocado, coconut, nuts, seeds, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil (not for cooking)
Plant protein Animal protein in moderation is fine, but plant protein is equally as important for conception as it contains fewer potential toxins and is easier to digest. (Please note: If you are vegetarian or vegan, it is important to ensure you eat a wide variety of plant proteins) Quinoa, tofu, lentils, beans, chickpeas, nuts, seeds, edamame, tempeh
Fibre Dietary fibre helps to control your blood sugar and enables excretion of excess hormones through the digestive tract. Vegetables, berries, pears, oranges, peas, beans, lentils, potato skins, whole grains (oats, rye, brown or wild rice, barley)
Avoid Details Examples
Alcohol Alcohol is an oxidant, which may cause sex cell damage, and has been linked to preeclampsia and increased miscarriage risk. Excessive alcohol may reduce sperm count. Mocktails, tonic water with non-alcoholic mixer, Seedlip gin alternative, non-alcoholic beer/wine/cider

(Please note: be careful as some of these do contain a small amount of alcohol and/or a lot of sugar)
Smoking Smoking is also an oxidant. It has been associated with reduced overall fertility in females and may reduce sperm count. None unfortunately. Appetite often increases when smoking ceases, so ensure you are making nutritious food choices (as mentioned above)
Caffeine In females, just 5ml of caffeine per day has been associated with increased time to conception. Excessive caffeine may also reduce sperm count.

(Please note: decaffeinated drinks contain tannins which have the same effect as caffeine)
Herbal teas, hot water and lemon/lime. (Please note: green tea does contain caffeine)
Compulsive strenuous exercise Excess endorphins secreted during exercise may interfere with sex hormones, which may in turn decrease chances of embryo implantation and increase first-trimester miscarriage risk. Excessive exercise has been associated with reduced sperm count. Moderate exercise 30-60 minutes a day is recommended e.g. walking, yoga, Pilates, moderate exercise classes, swimming.
Stress High levels of stress or stressful life events may reduce sperm count and reduce sex hormone levels in males. In females, positive thinking and reducing stress and anxiety is associated with increased chances of conceiving, and reduced miscarriage risk. Hobbies, relaxation, meditation, moderate exercise, arts and crafts.

Eat varied and healthy

Focus on eating natural, unprocessed foods.

These are just a few of the things you could be eating in moderation or avoiding to support healthy conception and pregnancy.

If you can afford to eat organic, that’s also a great choice to limit the amount of chemicals in your food.

If you’re unable to choose organic fruit and vegetable, using a vegetable wash will help to remove some of the pesticides.

Overall, the key thing to focus on is that both parents are eating a varied diet full of natural, unprocessed food as much as possible, without overdoing any particular food group.

Finally, we all fancy the occasional treat on a weekend, and that’s completely fine – just don’t overdo it and don’t beat yourself up about it enjoy it as your 10% weekly soul food allowance!

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