Good nutrition is vital for preconception health as well as through your pregnancy and beyond. Nutrition is the building block for both the egg, sperm and also ensuring the mother has a sufficient storage of nutrients so that she isn’t depleted throughout her pregnancy. Starting to eat well when you find out you are pregnant isn’t enough, as it takes around 3-4 months for one of the dormant eggs in the ovary (that you were born with by the way) to grow and mature (or ripen) ready for ovulation. This development is a vital stage where DNA needs to be copied and proteins need to be made. It is at these active times (including the rapid and continuous growth through pregnancy) that DNA is at its most vulnerable to damage.
It is important for men to follow a preconception diet too as sperm take around 3-4 months to be made and contrary to what most men believe they are very susceptible to damage. Sperm rely on things such as antioxidants to protect them as well as adequate minerals/vitamins/essential fatty acids for optimum development.
So what does a natural fertility management involve?
- We initially do a health screening assessing all areas of your health. We recommend following a preconception eating/lifestyle plan for four months before you try to conceive. This involves eating a diet high in fresh, natural foods, avoiding alcohol and caffeine and planning your meals so they are low GI, nutritious and regular. It is it important to ensure that the nutritional building blocks (e.g. protein, carbohydrates and fats) as well as your levels of vitamins and minerals are optimal. Higher levels are needed during pregnancy and also if you have any enhanced requirements (e.g. malabsorption, infections, intolerances, busy lifestyle, poor sleep, high stress etc).The RDA doesn’t allow for these.
- Secondly it is vital to avoid or minimise any potentially harmful substances and empty calories. For example, avoiding alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, colours and flavours, trans fats, fish high in mercury/PDB’s, foods cooked in plastics containing chemicals such as bisphenol A (which are hormone disruptors), rancid/oxidized fats, molds, processed meats, barbecued meats etc, as well as high sugar foods and starchy carbohydrates. A low glycemic diet has been shown to improve hormonal regulation and ovulation.
- Increasing foods high in antioxidants, phytochemicals (e.g. flavonoids, anthrocyanidins etc), minerals and vitamins. The mainstay of your diet should be fresh ultimately organic fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed, prepackaged and convenience foods as these are empty foods that don’t provide many nutrients but increase calorie load and also consumption of artificial and unhealthy ingredients. Start reading labels and avoiding any ingredients that you don’t know, or better yet make everything yourself.
- Choose grass-fed lean meats, organic free-range chicken and low-mercury fresh fish. Fish high in mercury include shark (flake), tuna, mackerel, swordfish and other large or long-living fish. Grass-fed meat contains higher levels of good fats and nutrients, so check with your butcher.
- Avoid microwaving and frying your foods where possible. Frying causes oils to denature and become rancid. Microwaving decreases levels of some antioxidants and vitamins in foods. Steaming foods or grilling foods are better choices. If you must fry choose an oil with a high smoke point such as coconut oil, grape seed oil or rice bran oil.
Change your diet to improve your fertility
Just changing your diet and eating a wide variety of fresh foods can in itself improve your fertility. If you would like more guidance on meal plans, recipes and lifestyle changes perhaps following The Fertility Formula may be the thing for you.
If this information has been of interest, you may also like to download our FREE Preconception Checklist.