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 foetal 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 as the time it takes to conceive.
“The Body has very different nutritional requirements for conception and pregnancy compared to fitness and weight management” Zita West
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.
Top 7 reasons you should focus on nutrition when trying for a baby:
1. Damage to Eggs and Sperm
– Certain types of foods can combat free radicals. Free radicals can speed up ageing of egg and sperm cells, causing chromosomal damage which can also increase the risk of miscarriage. Free radicals can be found in certain types of food and in the environment so it is important to bring into your diet a range of foods that fight these off such as anti-oxidant rich fruits.
2. 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. So a nutritional regime that supports the normalising of weight can help boost fertility.
– Many fertility-related issues are linked to higher levels of inflammation in the body including certain chronic conditions like endometriosis and certain auto-immune diseases. One of the reasons obesity is such a factor in infertility is because excess fat releases inflammatory chemicals so again a nutritional plan of action that tackles any weight issues can play an important role in optimising fertility for both men and women.
4. Immune Issues
– If your immune system is weak, or even if it is too efficient in fighting off 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 be a cause of IVF failure. Your immune system can be supported by the nutrients you absorb from the foods you eat. Eating the right foods, looking at lifestyle factors such as alcohol intake and smoking, reducing stress factors and checking vitamin D levels can all help your immune system operate more efficiently.
5. 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 coeliac disease, for example, it is even more important to ensure your are in the best possible nutritional health.
– 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. Stress often triggers changes in our appetite too, often leading us to feel less hungry or seeking more “comfort food” rather than a nutritionally balanced diet. 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.
There are certain foods that have been termed “good mood” foods that can affect our ability to deal with stressful situations – often these are energy giving foods like Omega 3 and 6 fats. Excessive carbohydrate intake leads to energy spikes and crashes that have a similar impact on our mood and ability to cope with pressure. “Good” fats on the other hand release energy slowly and over a longer period of time so giving us more sustained energy which positively affects our mood.
7. 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 often recommend undertaking an appropriate supplement regime to fill the gaps in any nutrient deficiencies.
Nutrition at the Zita West Clinic
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.
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 do advocate a three month nutritional preparation for both partners ahead of conception.
Whether looking to conceive naturally or via IVF our holistic approach includes a lifestyle and nutritional assessment leading to a personalised plan of action to ensure that you tick all the boxes to give yourself the best chance of becoming pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy