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Foods for infertility

Dietary changes to help you conceive

I’ve given up alcohol, I’ve given up caffeine, I’ve incorporated more fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet than ever before and I take two handfuls of vitamins, antioxidants and prenatal pills each day.
Woman eating healthy - Trying to conceive

If I don’t get (and stay) pregnant soon at least I’ll be in the best shape of my life!

Experts say a diet designed to boost your fertility can help you get pregnant without invasive infertility medications and treatments. Ha! What do the experts know? I've been the picture of perfect health for months and had to poison my body with all kinds of drugs and still don't have a baby!

Setting the record straight

Turns out all of my dietary changes are not for naught. According to Serena H. Chen, M.D., director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey, "A healthy diet is associated with better fertility; and obesity and a poor diet is associated with a higher risk for infertility. Certainly obesity is not only strongly associated with higher rates of infertility but higher rates of miscarriages, birth defects and pregnancy complications for both Mom and Baby."

Dr. Chen recommends couples trying to conceive adding a copy of The Fertility Diet: Groundbreaking Research Reveals Natural Ways to Boost Ovulation and Improve Your Chances of Getting Pregnant by Jorge Chavarro and Walter Willet to their fertility library. This easy-to-follow book outlines a diet by two Harvard researchers based on their analysis of an 18,000 woman participant Nurses' Health Database study on diet and fertility.

The five key components of The Fertility Diet:

  1. Cutting back on red meat and trans fats
  2. Getting protein and iron from veggies and nuts
  3. Choosing whole-fat milk and even ice cream
  4. Drinking coffee, tea, and alcohol in moderation
  5. Losing weight (if needed) and exercising

The Fertility Diet does not guarantee a pregnancy any more than in vitro fertilization or other forms of assisted reproduction, but it is available to everyone, has no side effects, sets the stage for a healthy pregnancy, and builds the foundation of a healthy diet for motherhood and beyond.

Dr. Chen goes on to explain, "There is no magic bullet, but eating healthier is associated with a better chance to be fertile — in addition to being healthier in general and preparing your body for a healthier pregnancy."

This does not mean that a very healthy person will not need fertility treatment. "Anyone, regardless of health, should see a fertility specialist for an evaluation after six to 12 months of unprotected intercourse without conception," urges Dr. Chen.

Alcohol and caffeine intake

When it comes to alcohol consumption and fertility, experts like Dr. Chen say it's best to abstain. It seems obvious that alcohol might have a negative impact upon fertility and while there is a lot of evidence published on the adverse effects of alcohol consumption upon the fetus during pregnancy, there is not much data on the effect of alcohol consumption upon fertility.

Medical opinions on the subject of caffeine consumption while trying to conceive vary, but in general it seems consuming caffeine in moderation is safe (1-2 regular cups of caffeinated drinks per day). Studies have shown that caffeine can affect hormonal balance, increase chances of miscarriage and prevent ovulation. We also know caffeine passes through the placenta and the fetus is unable to metabolize the caffeine so it should be avoided when pregnant.

Fertility diet for him

The way that men should eat in preparation for conception and to increase sperm count is not that different from women, but there are some nutrients that they need more than women do, such as zinc, B-12, and L-Carnitine. Men can also benefit from antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, the hormone balancing properties of fiber and green vegetables.

If you're unsure what diet to follow or vitamins to take, please ask your health-care provider to recommend a plan that works for you and your partner.

For more information on what to eat to aid your fertility, read Improve your fertility with food by allParenting contributing author, Aimee Raupp, M.S., L.Ac.

More on infertility

Infertility shouldn’t be a taboo topic
The secret language of infertility
The worst questions you can ask someone facing infertility

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