Infertility affects one in every six couples, and the World Health Organization has identified it as a global health problem. Around 40% of all occurrences of infertility are related to female factors, 40% to male factors, and 20% are related to unidentified reasons. Optimal fertility is determined by numerous factors, including age, lifestyle, and genetics. The quality of eggs and sperm, as well as overall fertility, are significantly influenced by nutrition. Many studies have identified foods that increase fertility in females, along with certain dietary principles that support high fertility levels.
The Relationship Between Diet, Body Weight, and Fertility
As a general rule, maintaining a healthy weight has a significant impact on a woman’s ability to become pregnant. 30% of infertility cases are brought on by significant weight fluctuations. The ideal body mass index (BMI) is between 18.5 and 24.9. Body weight impacts both female and male fertility.
Compared to women of average weight, obese women are more prone to experience irregular menstruation and anovulatory infertility. Bioavailable androgen levels are raised in PCOS. The presence of fat makes this problem even worse. According to a study, a filling breakfast may help balance hormones in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), one of the main causes of infertility.
In women of moderate weight, who are afflicted with PCOS, the bulk of the calories ingested at breakfast has been observed to reduce insulin levels by 8% and testosterone levels by 50%. Elevated levels of either (androgens or insulin resistance) may make infertility worse.
All of these point to the importance of nutrition in not only maintaining a healthy body weight but also suppressing the ill effects of infertility causing health issues like POS.
Foods that Increase Fertility in Females
The phrase “fertility diet” was first used in a landmark study by Harvard researchers in 2007 that examined the diets of more than 17,000 women who were attempting to get pregnant. A high-quality diet with certain clearly defined principles was seen to significantly improve the chances of getting pregnant, according to this study.
Before we get into the details, you need to understand that it is not a “diet” in the strictest sense of the term. It is more like a lifestyle that includes healthy, balanced eating. Here are the basic principles of a fertility diet –
- Eating healthy fats (more monosaturated, less trans)
- Choosing more plant-based protein
- Eating complex carbs
- Consuming high-fat dairy
Studies show that the kind of infertility caused due to the lack of ovulation in women, commonly known as anovulatory infertility, was 66% less common among those who consumed a diet based on the above principles.
5 Diet Additions You Can Do Today to Increase Fertility
Based on the above-mentioned dietary principles, here are five nutritional fertility-boosting additions you can incorporate into your lifestyle to enhance your chances of conceiving.
Whole grains and legumes (beans) are examples of slow or complex carbs that take longer for the body to absorb and convert to sugar and insulin. High insulin levels in the blood inhibit ovulation. It is, thus, beneficial to add slow carbs instead of simple carbohydrates that offer quick sugar (such as cookies, white bread, white rice, sugary drinks, etc.).
It was found that women who consumed fruits three times or more a day conceived half a month faster than women who had a lower intake of fruits. Similarly, the risk of infertility jumped from 8 to 12 percent – almost by half – in women with the lowest intake of fruits.
Natural anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, which are present in strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, are two elements that significantly increase fertility in both men and women. According to a study, women who consume a lot of fruit have a much lower risk of being infertile.
Green Leafy Vegetables
These are rich in iron which is an essential factor in female fertility. Non-haem iron – the kind that you get from vegetables, grains, and seeds – is more effective than haem iron (found in meats) helps to increase fertility.
Vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as antioxidants, are abundant in vegetables like broccoli, kale, cabbage, and spinach, among other such sources. These leafy greens are vital for conception and have a rich supply of folic acid or vitamin B, which is essential for DNA replication in the egg and sperm. Higher rates of implantation, clinical pregnancy, and live birth were linked to higher folate intake.
More Plant Proteins
Protein controls blood sugar levels and provides the building blocks for both male and female reproductive hormones. Additionally, it helps the growth of your child’s bones, hair, teeth, brain, neurotransmitters, and other body parts. Women’s fertility foods should include foods high in protein, such as organic grass-fed meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, tofu, and legumes.
However, it is advisable to add more plant protein sources and cut down on animal proteins, especially red meat. While some studies (pointing to the Mediterranean Diet) suggest that low amounts of poultry and seafood are good for fertility, plant sources like lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds are associated with a lower risk of infertility.
Not all fats are unhealthy for women following a fertility diet. It is not necessary to use skimmed milk in place of whole milk or low-fat cheese in place of full cheese. In fact, some studies indicate that women who consumed full-fat dairy had better fertility levels than those who consumed low-fat dairy.
Along with high-fat dairy products, also add foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. These include salmon, sardines, herring, trout, mackerel, anchovies, oysters, and mussels. Additionally, monounsaturated fats are abundant in nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, and canola oil. Contrary to what was previously assumed, the most recent studies have demonstrated that women who consume these healthy, fat-rich fertility foods have a higher likelihood of becoming pregnant.
While these fats are great for enhancing fertility, it should be noted that trans-fat is harmful not just for fertility, but for overall health. Trans fats tend to decrease insulin sensitivity and raise the risk of ovulatory infertility in a woman. Trans fats are typically prevalent in fried foods, processed items, and baked goods. They are also found in hydrogenated vegetable oils. Such foods should be generally avoided.
Here’s a bonus!
Supplement with Multi-vitamins
Some of the most crucial nutrients that help a woman in getting pregnant are vitamins. According to a study, women who regularly took multivitamins had a 40% lower risk of developing ovulation disorders. It is thus advisable to take a high-quality vitamin supplement to provide the body with all the necessary vital nutrients in case the daily diet fails to meet the required amounts.
The most important vitamin for reproductive health is folic acid or vitamin B9. It is necessary for DNA synthesis and cell proliferation. Folate is water-soluble and naturally found in many foods. Pregnant women taking folate regularly are at a lower risk of pregnancy-related issues while also reducing the risk of birth defects in the child. Dark green leafy vegetables (turnip greens, spinach, romaine lettuce, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli) and beans are excellent natural sources of folate.
There has been significant advancement in the science of infertility therapy over the past three decades, but there is still much work to be done. While there have been advancements in assisted reproductive technologies, there continue to be numerous issues surrounding infertility, many of which are outside of a person’s control.
However, some still can be managed on a personal level. Along with a good exercise plan, a nutritious balanced diet consisting of a dietician or nutritionist-recommended fertility foods is also advised for couples. An active lifestyle greatly enhances the fertility potential of women, who are attempting to get pregnant. Maintaining a regular and easy exercise schedule throughout one’s pregnancy also facilitates a less stressful and much easier delivery of the child.
In contrast to other factors like age, heredity, and other medical disorders, nutrition is a component that we can self-regulate and monitor. It does not require any medical intervention either. It is an all-natural technique to stimulate and assist the body to enhance its fertility potential.
At Dreams Fertility, we approach fertility treatment through a holistic strategy – one that encompasses the physical and mental well-being of the individual to help her reproductive system’s natural processes work together to assist in achieving pregnancy. And we also use a variety of ARTs to help you on your fertility journey. To know more about our services, please visit our site. To start your fertility journey with one of the most compassionate, white-glove patient service fertility clinics in California, schedule a consult with a Dreams Fertility physician today.
Dr. Luis Murrain joined Dreams Fertility in 2021, providing specialty services in Fertility and Reproductive Genetics. With a shared vision that everyone deserves to have the family of their dreams, we are dedicated to helping all of our patients. We believe that families come in all shapes and sizes, and all of them are beautiful. We are proud to have a long history of providing services to all, including gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals and couples on their road to parenthood.