Are you thinking about trying for a baby? Be it your first or your fourth; Here are 5 diet and lifestyle aspects to consider when starting this journey.
Find your healthy weight
Did you know your fat cells produce oestrogen? So if you have too little fat you may not be getting enough, and if you have too much fat you might be producing too much. Neither of which is helpful for a woman’s chance of falling pregnant.
Higher than normal oestrogen levels in men due to high body fat levels may also impact on sperm quality and count.
What to do? Restrictive crash dieting to lose weight, or eating lots of high fat/sugar foods to gain weight, is not the way to go! I would suggest talking with a professional about safely ensuring you are eating not only for the weight loss/gain goal but also getting in adequate nutrition to maximise your fertility chances.
Start your lifestyle changes early
If you perhaps are not living the healthiest of lifestyles and are thinking you would like to start a family in the not too distant future, then it might be worth starting to make changes now.
Did you know that sperm cells take 72 days to mature? So the one swimmer fertilising your partners’ egg today, was actually a product of your lifestyle a few months ago. Is it the best swimmer it can be?
This is also why any changes to diet and lifestyle may take a number of months to be effective in terms of increasing fertilisation chances.
Watch your alcohol intake
Alcohol has been shown to negatively impact both male and female fertility. We do not know how much alcohol exactly that is though, which makes recommendations for safe limits hard.
Do you need to cut out alcohol completely? Probably not, but if you want the best chances you shouldn’t be out there binge drinking. Minimise your alcohol intake as much as you can, but don’t guilt yourself over the glass of bubbles at your mums birthday either.
Look at your iron and selenium intakes
Iron needs double during pregnancy. So if you are already low pre-conception, make sure you get yourself replete before getting pregnant – the quickest way to do this may be an iron supplement, but you should discuss this with your GP.
Red meat is the highest and most bioavailable source of iron in the diet. We should be aiming for a couple of serves a week. If you do not eat red meat there are other ways to achieving a good iron intake, it can just take a bit more thought and planning to ensure there is enough.
Selenium may have a role to play in male sperm quality. We have naturally low levels in our NZ soil, so the amount we get from food may be reduced. Maximise your intake with regular high selenium containing foods like brazil nuts, tuna, turkey and chicken.
Take your folic acid
Folic acid supplementation has been proven to reduce the risk of neural tube defects that can occur during the first trimester. In NZ, recommendations are that you should be taking 800mg of folic acid daily a month before falling pregnant and up to 12 weeks gestation. There are some instances where the recommendation is more though. As soon as you start thinking about trying for a family, then go and see your GP to discuss your folic acid needs.
Good food sources of folate are green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and broccoli), citrus fruits and juices, wholemeal bread and legumes. It can be difficult to get the increased folate needs for preventing neural tube defects from diet alone though, which is why we recommend supplementation on top of a good diet.