Fertility and Nutrition: Four Things You Need to Know
Reviewed by Dr. Lisa Czanko, MD, MPH
If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, you’ve probably wondered about how to prepare for the upcoming journey, including whether your supplements need to be altered in order to achieve and maintain a healthy pregnancy. Or maybe, what's the best diet for trying to conceive?
The answer is yes – what you eat does impact your fertility, and certain diets may be better for trying to conceive.
Both micro- and macro-nutrients play a role in health around conception and pregnancy, and, if possible, should be incorporated into your lifestyle before pregnancy. Here are four things you need to know about fertility and nutrition, plus what to know about your diet when trying to conceive.
1. Take that prenatal multivitamin
Doctors frequently recommend taking a prenatal multivitamin that contains folic acid 6 months to one year prior to conception in order to help prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.
Folic acid has also been shown to increase embryo quality, to improve the odds of getting pregnant, and is associated with less infertility due to ovulatory dysfunction.
There is also evidence to suggest lower miscarriage among people taking folate supplements.
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2. Add in healthy fats
A balanced diet, including healthy fats, has an important role in health before and during pregnancy. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (healthy fats) have been shown to improve egg quality and ovulation.
Additionally, people taking omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, and linoleic acid were able to achieve pregnancy at higher rates than people not taking these! So consider healthy fats an essential part in any diet for trying to conceive.
3. Follow the Mediterranean Diet for fertility
The Mediterranean diet could be considered one of the best diets for trying to conceive. It focuses on eating fish, legumes, fruits, vegetables, unprocessed grains, and olive oil, as well as limiting the amount of meat eaten.
Eating according to these guidelines has been shown to improve pregnancy rates and live birth rates, especially for people under 35.
In another study, people following this diet had 66% less infertility related to ovulation and 27% less infertility related to other causes compared to people following other dietary patterns.
For patients being treated for infertility, keeping a Mediterranean diet increased successful treatments by 40%. So, adopting the Mediterranean diet for fertility could help you conceive.
4. Cut down on caffeine and alcohol
Many studies have shown increased miscarriage rates when people consume more than 300 mg of coffee per day or drink moderate alcohol regularly.
Caffeine may interrupt normal ovulation, or cause problems in early fetal development by constricting blood vessels, so it’s best to limit your morning coffee to 300 mg a day (2-3 cups) when it comes to optimizing your fertility.
Alcohol can cause problems with ovulation, in addition to causing birth defects and miscarriage. No amount of alcohol is safe once you start trying to get pregnant.
Try our new fertility guide, tailored to your interest
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