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Does what we eat really affect fertility?

Updated: Oct 7, 2022

First and foremost I want to start off by setting your expectations - nutrition and food are not a miracle cure for infertility. Within the soup of everything that affects fertility there are some elements that are beyond our control. Despite what most of us were taught in biology class in high school (where they made out it was extremely easy to get pregnant and you just had to look at a man) a lot of it is up to luck and nature. However it is important to realise that nutrition and lifestyle changes can still be a valuable tool in our tool box when we are trying to conceive.

Individual behaviour can influence around 38% of our fertility, this includes what we eat, when we eat, how much we eat, physical activity, sleep, stress management, smoking and drinking the rest is determined by factors such as genetics and biology, social circumstances, medical care and physical environment.

How does diet affect fertility?

Our understanding and awareness of the links between diet and fertility can be traced back to Hippocrates who advocated special diets for both men and women to optimise fertility (yes men's nutrition plays a part in fertility too).

The main way diets and lifestyle affect fertility is through their effect on hormonal function. Adequate hormonal function is essential for successful ovulation and sperm maturation. Unfortunately a poor diet and lifestyle can play havoc with our hormones, which can lead to ovulating issues and poor sperm quality. Fertility can be enhanced by diet and lifestyle changes and a women who is healthy at the time of conception is more likely to have a successful pregnancy and a healthy child.

When should I start making nutritional changes?

It's important to note that having a healthy baby starts before you even get pregnant. The things you eat today aren't immediately going to effect your reproductive system tomorrow, in fact studies show that what you do/eat now affects those eggs you release in 3 months time (this is especially important for folic acid which you should start at least 3 months before trying to conceive in order to decrease the risk of having a pregnancy affected by neural tube defects). For men it's even longer with their lifestyle behaviour's affecting the quality of their sperm 4 months from now.

What changes do I need to be making?

When it comes to the management of our health, it can be difficult to know where to start. Diets teach us to "go hard or go home". This approach can often make things worse particularly in fertility nutrition which often requires us to be a little bit easier on ourselves in order to create a safe environment for the the baby to come into. It often involves a lot of unlearning of what diet culture has taught us.

When trying to get pregnant, we're often bombarded with messages to lose weight or go on an ultra "clean" diet to help our chances. But what this means is that a lot of people end up in a not so great state nutrition wise, where they're cutting out food groups, going against the body's intuitive cues and restricting themselves towards energy and nutrient deficiencies. In my eyes this sounds like the last the last thing you'd want to do when trying to get pregnant.

It is important to focus on what can we add into our diets to help enhance health rather than creating a pattern of restriction or deprivation and sending you in a downward dieting spiral. Lifestyle wise we want to create a safe and calm environment for the pregnancy this means focusing on sleep hygiene, stress management and gentle movement.

Book a fertility session with me to find out more!

Book a fertility consultation with me today to find out more of what you should be doing and how you should be eating and what you can do to enhance your fertility!

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