For those trying to conceive, it’s a good idea to reflect on your current lifestyle: Are you sleeping enough? How are your stress levels? Have you been exercising? And, of course, how’s your diet?
As you conduct your own research, you may stumble across headlines sharing studies and recommendations for a “fertility diet” (remember, nutrition is just one piece of the fertility puzzle) — but can it actually improve your chances of conceiving?
Unfortunately, there is no specific food or diet that will instantly increase your chances of getting pregnant. And for men and women with underlying medical or structural issues, not even the healthiest diets can cure infertility. However, consuming a nutritious and well-balanced diet, in conjunction with proper exercise, a consistent sleep schedule, and a conscious effort to reduce stress, can certainly support fertility.
Here are our top recommendations for improving your lifestyle:
There’s no one diet that is better than the rest.
An improved diet can only help (not hurt) your fertility journey and overall health. And the best diet is the one you can stick to! If you have certain conditions, like PCOS or endometriosis, you may benefit from more specific diets.
PCOS and Diet
PCOS patients may want to consume foods and nutrients that reduce inflammation. This includes protein, especially fish and vegetable sources, omega-3 fatty acids, as well as folic acid and B12. Refined carbohydrates like white rice, corn syrup, and fruit juice, may be more inflammatory and thus should be avoided.
Endometriosis and Diet
Research on endometriosis and diet is far from conclusive, however, patients with endometriosis may see a benefit in their symptoms by incorporating more antioxidant-rich foods into their diet and fewer trans fats.
If you’re looking to improve your diet and eat with fertility, PCOS or endometriosis in mind, enjoy some of these healthy whole foods:
- Salmon: Rich in essential fatty acids and omega-3s, it’s also one of the best foods to get your daily recommended value of vitamin D. When possible, choose wild-caught salmon to avoid toxic food dyes, mercury contamination, and antibiotics.
- Berries: Strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries all contain natural antioxidants and host anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Lentils: High in fiber, protein, and folic acid, lentils are easy to work into your current diet. For instance, add cooked lentils to your salads, sneak them into a lean ground meat dish, or include them in a quesadilla with your other favorite fillings!
Don’t take extreme measures.
Unless recommended by your doctor, avoid removing entire food groups from your diet in hopes to get pregnant quicker. If doctor recommended, you may find that you had an intolerance all along that was impacting fertility. However if done on your own accord, these extreme measures may create nutritional gaps that may actually hinder your pregnancy efforts.
Now, couple this with the added stress some of these extreme measures bring — hyper-focusing on not eating certain things, shocking your body into a new food regimen, etc. — and you’ll find yourself adding arbitrary pressure that impacts fertility. If you’re considering extreme measures, we encourage you to speak to one of our fertility specialists to help you find the correct diet for your unique situation.
Maintain a healthy BMI.
We know that all bodies are different, so it’s imperative to take an individualized approach to fertility health and wellness. Being overweight, as well as underweight, can affect your chances of getting pregnant. In both scenarios, your hormones can be thrown off, which naturally may impact your menstrual cycle. Guidelines suggest a normal, healthy body mass index (BMI) is between 19 and 25. And for PCOS patients, even a modest weight reduction (~ 10% body weight) can demonstrate improvements in cardiovascular profiles, insulin sensitivity, and ovulation.
If you don’t have a BMI within the “normal” range, don’t lose hope. In the end, weight is just one piece of the fertility puzzle. Women of all sizes have successfully had children and we'll work with you to create a plan that focuses on healthy habits so you can have the best chance of success with conception.
Look at other habits, in addition to your diet.
When it comes to having a baby, there's no one thing you have to do — conception depends on a number of environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors. And while you can’t control some of these things, you can take charge of your lifestyle. In addition to eating better, take a look at your other habits:
- Physical activity: Adults should aim to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week. It may sound like a lot, but it doesn’t have to be done all at once! Consider breaking this up throughout the day: Take a walk around the neighborhood in the morning and watch a short workout video in the afternoon.
- Stress levels: “Just relaxing” isn’t a cure for infertility, however reducing stress and increasing relaxation is still important for your overall health and your fertility journey. Take a step back and see how you can reduce stress in your daily life. Look into different relaxation techniques, such as incorporating yoga into your routine, practicing breathing exercises, or finding a hobby that can soothe your mind.
- Sleep habits: Did you know that the same part of the brain that regulates sleep-wake hormones also triggers a daily release of reproductive hormones? Long-term sleep problems can not only impact your hormonal balance but also increase your risk of conditions or diseases that affect your fertility — like cardiovascular disease and obesity. Although the average optimal sleep amount is 8 hours per night, it does vary from person to person. Honor your personal needs and try to keep your sleep and wake time consistent, even on weekends.
Meet Hope Here
Here at Atlanta Center for Reproductive Medicine, we take the “whole person” care approach. This includes referring patients to additional services, like stress management and nutritional counseling, aimed at supporting them and improving pregnancy outcomes. We welcome you to contact us to discuss your fertility journey!