Starting a family may not always be easy. Diet and lifestyle can have a large impact on your ability to conceive.
This does not just apply to one sex either, it is important both the man and woman adopt healthier eating and lifestyle habits to optimise their chance of conceiving.
So what do we do?
Make changes 9-12 months prior to conception. This may help with the results and it may also optimise the health of the baby and the woman during pregnancy.
Eating the correct quantity of food for your body shape is important.
Being underweight can lead to irregular menstrual cycle leading to problems with conceiving and it can take up to 2 years after normal body fat % is reached to conceive.
Being overweight can also cause problems and there is an increased chance of miscarriage when you are obese. Obese men have been shown to have lower sperm count and reduced motility and damaged DNA within the sperm.
Avoid trans-fatty acids found in baked or fried foods such as biscuits, cakes, pastries, chips and crisps. Do not use margarine spreads, whilst the makers of these products claim they do not use hydrogenated fats, the actual processing of unstable polyunsaturated fats create trans fats. Stick to butter in moderation or use olive oil or coconut oil for spreads, cooking and baking.
Increase plants – every time you eat, make vegetables the star of the show. For example, when making a curry or a pasta sauce try to add as many vegetables as you can such as garlic, onions, leeks, carrots, courgettes, aubergines, sweet potatoes…the list is endless.
Eat good quality proteins. Again this can come in the form of plants such as: lentils, beans, pulses, peas, nuts, avocado and seeds. Good quality meat proteins include: grass fed red meat, organic chicken, wild-caught fish and organic eggs.
Aim to eat protein with every meal, yes that includes breakfast, avocado, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds and protein powders are good considerations to add to breakfasts.
Eat complex carbohydrates and stay away from the simple ones such as sugar, white bread, rice and pasta. Eat more of brown rice, wholegrain pasta, quinoa, buckwheat, vegetables, beans and pulses.
These foods may support blood sugar control and are also a good source of fibre. Fibre helps the body with excretion therefore, supporting liver and digestion, these functions are important for the reproductive system.
Higher intake of high fat dairy products is linked with increasing the chances of fertility as opposed to low fat products so choose the high fat plain natural yoghurt, eat butter and good quality cheeses in moderation, vegetables are always the main feature.
A good quality multivitamin may be helpful. Optimising through food first is the best way to increase nutrients however a multivitamin may be useful for optimising nutrient intake. Poor nutrient depleted soil, busy lives and problems with digestion may make it harder to reach optimal nutrient levels through food alone. Seek professional advice for best choices.
Eat foods rich in vitamins A, C and E, these vital vitamins play a role in protecting sperm quality against any damage improving the amount, quality and function. Liver is a good source of vitamin A, a good tip is to use chicken livers as they are not as strong tasting and disguise them in meatballs or burgers.
You can also find vitamin A in colourful foods such as sweet potatoes, carrots and beetroot. Vitamin E is found in almonds and avocados. And you can find vitamin C in strawberries, kiwis and broccoli.
Environmental factors are important to consider for both sexes and factors to consider are:
Heavy metals – if men are found to have low sperm count this should be investigated.
Radiation from mobile phones. One study showed that mobile phones decreased sperm count, motility and function. Where do you keep your cell phone? If its in your pocket – stop! And switch electronics off at night.
Plastics – there have been links between BPA found in plastics and infertility. Swap containers to glass, avoid heating plastics and check water bottles for BPA.
Alcohol, smoking, marijuana and cocaine all affect the ability to to conceive. Avoid these lifestyle habits in order to enhance chances.
Some evidence suggests caffeine consumption may reduce chances of pregnancy, so reduce or avoid.
Exercise may be supportive, if new to exercise start gently with walking or swimming. Find a class you may enjoy or go the local gym and ask for advice. For motivation ask a friend or your partner to join in. I find music enough to help me through a gym session.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to infertility. Try to expose yourself to sunlight in the summer months and consider supplementing. Test vitamin D levels. Test again after a period of supplementation. Tests are available from your GP or privately and are reasonably priced.
Eat foods rich in zinc – zinc is found in high concentration in the prostrate, testes and semen and crucial for reproduction. Eat more chicken, seafood, pumpkinseeds and barley grass.
Manage a challenging lifestyle with adopting techniques to help you relax. This may be a walk in the park, singing and dancing to music, watching a funny movie regularly, spending quality time with loved ones, spending time on your own, taking baths, yoga, meditation or exercising.
Whatever distracts from the daily grind and improves the ability to cope – find it and do it!
Finally – couples need to have sex to conceive! If libido is a problem, adopting the dietary changes above may help as well as creating the mood and spending quality time with each other.
Choose colour in food, life and outlook and you may help increase the chances of conception. If you have tried and are still finding difficulty, seek professional help.
Hope you enjoyed reading useful tips on how to increase chances of conceiving!
Connect here with Watchfit Expert Natasha Alonzi