A healthy pregnancy depends on good quality sperm and egg(s) meeting to create an embryo that will implant into the woman’s womb lining. There is increasing evidence to show that diet and lifestyle can directly impact on conception as well as fetal development. A greater understanding of both the female and male body’s needs for fertility can boost egg and sperm health significantly, reducing the risk of miscarriage as well the time it takes to conceive.
In our experience, most women have a good general understanding of diet, but not a great deal of knowledge about nutrition. Many people find it difficult to access the right dietary information and often place themselves on unhealthy regimes. The body has very different nutritional requirements for conception and pregnancy as compared to fitness and weight management, for example. Our nutritionists are experts in the field of fertility and will advise you on exactly what measures you can take to improve your chances of achieving a healthy pregnancy. We carry out over a thousand fertility-focused nutrition consultations a year, helping clients to prepare in the best way possible for conception. Many find that just a few tweaks to their normal eating and lifestyle habits are what is needed to make that extra difference. The advice we give can help with the following:
• Chromosomal Damage - Certain types of foods can combat free radicals, which can speed up ageing of egg and sperm cells, causing chromosomal damage. This can also increase the risk of miscarriage. Free radicals can be found in certain types of food and in the environment.
• Weight Loss/Weight Gain – Being over or underweight can interrupt normal menstrual cycles and disrupt or even stop ovulation altogether. Excessive weight in men can also lead to reduced sperm counts.
• Inflammation – Many fertility-related issues such as endemetriosis, miscarriage and pre-eclampsia are now being linked to abnormal inflammation. One of the reasons obesity is such a factor in infertility is because excess fat releases inflammatory chemicals. At the clinic we look at dietary and lifestyle factors that may influence the inflammatory response and suggest advice on what can be done to minimize it.
• Immune Issues – If your immune system is weak, or even if it is too efficient in fighting of the everyday threat of infection and disease, it may affect fertility. We are seeing more and more evidence now that an abnormal immune response can affect implantation and increase the risk of multiple miscarriage.
• Underlying Medical Factors – If you have undertaken tests that reveal medical issues such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), an under or overactive thyroid, anaemia or celiac disease, for example, our nutritionists can work with you to compile a plan that helps you make sure you are taking the right measures to get in the best possible nutritional health.
• Stress – Most of us lead extremely busy lives, juggling hectic work schedules, family demands and social lives. Excessively stressful lifestyles can affect the reproductive system, and an increase in stress hormones can interfere with ovulation in women and sperm production in men. Many of our clients find that making just a few small changes to their diet and lifestyle can make a real difference in the way the body responds to stress by replenishing the nutrients that have been depleted as a result.
• Supplementation Advice – The nutritional needs of the body for fertility and pregnancy are very different to its everyday needs. It can be extremely difficult to ensure you are getting the right amounts of the most important vitamins and minerals from food alone, which is why we recommend undertaking an appropriate supplement regime.
What to Expect at a Nutrition and Lifestyle Assessment
At Zita West, we recommend three months of nutritional preparation from both partners ahead of conception to really help prepare you for pregnancy. Before your assessment, you will be asked to complete one of our clinical questionnaires, uniquely designed to provide us with important information on all aspects of your health that we believe can influence your fertility. You will also be advised to keep a 3-day food diary. At consultation your practitioner will focus on your general health, your diet and your lifestyle. This means assessment of the following:
• Blood Sugar Balance
• Stress Levels
• Foods you like to eat
• Eating habits at home & work
• Shopping habits
• Work/life balance
• Drinking/smoking habits
We believe that advising you on realistic changes that you and your partner can make is the only way to help you reach an optimal state of nutritional health at the time of conception and subsequent pregnancy. We do not advocate faddy diets, the removal of whole food groups or calorie counting. We will also give you the rationale behind our advice based on the latest research, making it more comprehensive and therefore easier to follow. After your assessment, you will be provided with the following:
• Nutritional guidelines
• Meal and snack ideas
• Tailored nutrition and lifestyle plan
• Advice on when to have follow up consultations
• Advice on tests you should have to reveal levels of important vitamins and minerals needed for fertility