When you decide to start a family, you probably make some lifestyle changes to naturally improve your fertility and chances of conception. Wine with dinner becomes non-caffeinated tea, and junk food is replaced with fruits and vegetables. Instead of late-night parties, you may start an exercise program, enjoy a more balanced diet and start taking supplements. But sometimes it’s not as simple as that.
What is infertility?
Infertility affects approximately 15% of reproductive-aged couples globally , and this number is continuing to rise.
The World Health Organization defines infertility as “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.”
Fertility issues are connected to your reproductive hormones and can occur for many reasons, including environmental factors, lifestyle choices, genetics, age and gender. Both men and women can be affected in equal measure. However, from a social standpoint, it’s usually the women who carry most of the responsibility. And from a woman’s perspective, it affects not only the body but also the mind and spirit.
If you have been trying, unsuccessfully, for 12 months to conceive, it’s important to seek help from a medical professional. He or she will investigate the issue and run fertility tests to try and figure out what is wrong.
When embarking the journey of fertility testing and during your first appointment a physician will ask about your history, both medical and lifestyle. They will also run some hormone tests to see what is going on. One of the tests that is usually done is for anti-Mullerian hormone, because the test result can give a general idea of how many eggs you have left. The doctor can then compare these numbers to other women of the same age.
Your other reproductive hormones, estrogen, progesterone and FSH also has a lot to say in your fertility as they control ovulation which is why Hormona is developing a simple home test to check those levels regularly as we speak. This can help you understand if there are any potential issues with your fertility long before the 12 months for clinical diagnosis has passed.
An ultrasound can also help the doctor determine whether a woman has polycystic ovaries, larger ovarian cysts, or fibroids. It can also confirm that ovulation is taking place. Another type of fertility test is endometrial biopsy, which involves extracting a small piece of tissue from the lining of the uterus. While this procedure is not commonly performed, it can be helpful in some cases.
The man will also be asked to provide a sample of his semen. This will allow a physician to determine the quantity and quality of sperm.
All these results will be analysed and will help the doctor determine the best course of treatment for a couple.
Can changing my diet help my chances to conceive?
Many couples have found that food is a big part of their success. When it comes to food choices, a healthier, plant-based diet is important to conceiving a baby.
It’s important that both men and women should start taking care of their bodies early on in the process to help promote optimal fertility.
For men, foods rich in mono-saturated fats, high-fat dairy and vegetables have been linked to higher sperm count and increased fertility.
Often, women have nutritional deficiencies that can impact their fertility and ability to carry a pregnancy to term, so many women take prenatal vitamin supplements. These help correct any deficiencies and provide all the crucial nutrients in optimal amounts. You can also buy prenatal supplements for men! (Who knew?)
Are there any other diet tweaks that women can make to try and improve fertility? Yes of course there is!
Natural ways to improve fertility
As with most things there are do’s and don’ts even when it comes to naturally improve your fertility. Below were covering both what to include in your diet but also what to avoid.
How to naturally improve fertility: The do’s
When it comes to supporting fertility, you need to try and up your intake of Omega-3. Yes, supplements can help, but nothing beats foods rich in the stuff. Omega-3 is essential for:
- Improving the quality of your eggs
- Increasing your chances of conceiving
- Supporting foetal development
Oily fish is a great source, especially wild-caught salmon and tuna, as are dark green leafy vegetables.
Include more whole grains
Including more whole grains in your diet is crucial for your overall health and fertility. They are low in trans-fat and contain soluble fibre which helps promote healthy conception.
Asparagus is our all in one fertility booster
Asparagus is a high-fibre food that contains important vitamins and minerals. It is low-calorie and will fill you up whilst providing a fertility boost. One cup of cooked asparagus will provide your body with the essential vitamins you need for fertility, including Vitamin K and folate. It also contains 20% of your daily recommended amounts of all the other nutrients you need to.
Make sure to eat fruit and vegetables with every meal
Fruit and vegetables are high on the list of any healthy diet plan as they are full of goodness and have an array of benefits.
Most fruits and vegetables also contain high levels of Vitamin C. For example, avocados, spinach and papaya are high in Vitamin C. They are also alkalizing, which helps to balance an acidic diet and promote fertility.
Consuming more plant-based protein can help with fertility and is a better alternative to red meat and dairy.
Lentils, quinoa, nuts, seeds, beans, and nut butters are considered plant-based proteins. And you can also eat legumes, soy (within moderation) and chickpeas. All of these foods are high in fibre and low in calories.
Hydration in the form of water is equally as important as nutrient-dense food choices in your diet to optimise fertility. This is because it helps transport hormones, ejects fertile eggs and thins the biological fluids.
How to naturally improve fertility: The don’ts
Here’s where the jury is split! Whilst dairy products are high in calcium, which is good, they can affect fertility levels. So, women who are having trouble conceiving may want to temporarily reduce their dairy intake.
The reason? Many dairy products are hormone-driven and can interfere with the brain-endocrine system’s communication with the ovaries.
These days it’s easy to switch to a plant-based alternative. However, soy milk (and soy products) should be taken in moderation. This is because soy contains isoflavones, plant-based oestrogen, which can affect hormone levels.
I’m an oat milk girl myself. It tastes great in a cup of tea, and even better on cereal.
One of the most important factors is to reduce the amount of trans-fat and refined carbohydrates you consume.
Eating too much fatty food contains excess amounts of cholesterol and can increase the risk of insulin resistance. As insulin levels rise, you may lose the chance of conceiving a baby.
By eliminating trans-fats from your diet, you’ll be promoting a healthy ovulation. You’ll be surprised at how delicious and easy it is to create nutritious meals that taste great.
And if you’re already a vegan, you’ll be thrilled to know that there’s no need to sacrifice your favourite foods.
Another key component of a fertility diet is avoiding animal proteins.
If you’re looking to get pregnant, try and limit fatty or red meat. That rule applies to men and women! Instead, stick to lean meats, such as chicken, turkey and pork with the fat trimmed off.
If you’re vegetarian, you should consider eggs. They are a great source of protein and, like lean meats and fish contain choline.
Choline is essential for proper foetal brain development in the uterus, so adding more will help your body produce more of it.
However, if vegan, you can’t replace meat or dairy products with eggs. The following are examples of foods with good levels of choline in them: cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts), peanut butter, beans and mushrooms.
Caffeine and alcohol
Sorry, but you’ll just need to forego your cool glass of Chablis and double-shot espresso, for a while at least.
Alcohol and caffeine are dehydrating liquids and can affect cervical mucus and ejaculate fluid.
At the end of the day
Our hormones and fertility is greatly influenced by our diet and what we put into our body so there are, like we’ve seen, great ways to naturally improve your fertility. Typically, whilst age and body shape are in the mix, a woman’s diet is the primary factor affecting her fertility. So when it comes to food choices, a healthy, balanced diet is important to help produce enough oestrogen and progesterone to conceive a baby and carry out a health pregnancy.
If you’re not sure which way to go with your diet choices, consult a nutritionist, who should be able to advise you.
If you have fertility issues, you should consult a medical practitioner.
 Worldwide Health Organization, https://www.who.int/health-topics/infertility
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