Does diet really have much impact on fertility?
Yes, it does. A research study of 18,000 women found that making just 5 of 10 recommended dietary changes, increased fertility by 69%! For example, one of the ten strategies is simply to cut out soft drinks.
Do you recommend a prenatal multi? If so, which one?
Definitely. One of the key reasons for taking a pre-natal multi is to boost our folate intakes. Folic acid helps to reduce the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida and cleft palates. Folate deficiency is still the primary cause of neural tube defects in Australia. Unfortunately, many women don’t start taking folic acid or a prenatal multi until they discover they’re pregnant, and by then, it’s often too late. The neural tube is one of the first parts of development, and most women don’t discover that they’re pregnant until they’ve skipped a period and are at least five weeks along….the neural tube is usually formed by then. There are other key nutrients which need boosting too. Iodine is another example.
To answer the second part of the question, there is not a specific recommended brand as everyone’s requirements are different. For example, the standard recommendations are 400mg of folic acid per day (in addition to dietary folate), however, some women, such as women who are overweight, smoke, have a family history of neural tube defects or women who take certain medications have increased requirements. Some women who have certain genetic problems absorbing folic acid may need a follinic acid supplement instead. When it comes to iodine, the average women requires 150mcg per day, but women who have thyroid issues may need to avoid prenatal multis which contain iodine – so you can see that your prenatal multi really needs to be tailored to your requirements. It is highly recommended that every woman see a fertility dietitian before thinking about conceiving.
My doctor told me that I should lose some weight. How will this help my fertility?
Research shows that for every additional BMI point over a body mass index of 29, a woman’s fertility decreases by 4%. From my experience weight has a significant impact on fertility. Essentially excess weight has three key effects.
Number 1: it impacts the health of our eggs. Research shows that women who are overweight tend to have more ‘disorganised’ DNA – which is the genetic code which helps to create new life.
Number 2: it impacts upon the release of our eggs. Contrary to what many people think, our stored body fat, or adipose tissue as it’s technically called, is actually metabolically active tissue undertaking many chemical reactions just like our other tissues, such as our muscles, bones and blood. One role of adipose tissue is the production of oestrogen. If a woman carries too much body fat, the combination of oestrogen produced by the ovaries and oestrogen produced by body fat can result in an overproduction of this hormone. If a woman’s oestrogen is chronically high, hormone production becomes out of balance. In fact, about 30% of infertility is thought to be caused by oestrogen imbalance.
Number 3: excess weight impacts implantation of the egg. It is believed that being overweight impacts the environment of the uterus making it more difficult for your embryo to implant and receive the nourishment that it needs for survival.
I have been diagnosed with endometriosis. Can diet help to improve this?
Absolutely. This is a hot field of research at the moment with many new dietary strategies emerging to help women with endometriosis. In particular, research shows that both a low FODMAP and Mediterranean-style diet can be beneficial. So, usually, a tailored combination of the two is recommended for endo clients.
What dietary changes would you recommend for my partner?
There’s a lot that your partner can do, as, after all, he is half of the equation! Achieving a healthy weight is one of the most important steps though. Research suggests that a man who is just 10 kilograms overweight has a 10% reduction in fertility.
How long should I be focusing on my diet for before getting pregnant?
In an ideal world, it is recommended to start focusing on dietary changes 12 months before trying to conceive as you need time to improve the health of your eggs and build up your nutrient stores. However, it’s a case of ‘better late than never’ and there’s a lot that we can do in just a few weeks.
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