There’s a lot to keep track of when you’re trying to conceive. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the timing of intercourse, obsessed over the consistency of your cervical mucus, or stressed about the amount of sleep you are getting. But starting with one of the most basic of activities may prove to help you conceive. Making small changes to your diet may not only increase your odds of conception, but will also support better overall health outcomes for you, your baby, and your family.
Start with the sweet stuff
A good place to start is reducing sugar in your diet. When your diet is high in sugar, your body compensates by increasing its levels of insulin. Increased insulin can prevent ovulation and regular menstrual cycles. Pay attention to labels, as some healthy foods, like yogurt, can contain added sugar. Reducing or avoiding processed foods and sugary drinks is a great way to avoid excess sugar. Whenever possible, satisfy your sweet tooth with fruits with lower natural sugar contents, like berries, that provide the sweetness along with anti-oxidants and other nutrients that are good for you.
Organic, plant-based eating
When it comes to protein, choose plant-based proteins, like beans and quinoa. Even if you’re not ready or willing to eliminate meet from your diet completely, just switching out one or two meals a week for vegetarian options can improve your health. Minimize red meats to boost fertility and reduce levels of bad cholesterol that are associated with heart disease. Instead, get your healthy cholesterols and protein from eggs and your iron from sources like lentils and beans.
When eating meat, choose organic meat whenever possible. Certified organic meats are always free of growth hormones, steroids, and antibiotics. The jury is still out on if these additives influence fertility or pregnancy, but we recommend erring on the side of caution. Encouraging your guy to follow suit on your organic kick is not a bad idea, either – some researchers have found links between pesticide consumption (through fruits and vegetables) and decreased sperm quality.
The lowdown on fat
You may have heard about good vs. bad fats. Fats are important to consider when trying to conceive – but make sure you’re eating the good ones. Trans fats, which are found in baked goods and fried foods cause weight gain and may negatively affect a healthy hormone balance.
Healthy fats, from foods like nuts, avocados and olives, give you the energy your body needs. Omega-3 fatty acids are an especially important fat to consume in preparing for pregnancy. Found in foods like salmon and flax seeds or taken as a supplement, omega-3 fatty acids support your central nervous systems and your baby’s brain development, when you become pregnant. Remember to avoid fish like swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish – these fish tend to have larger contents of mercury and other pollutants.
What about vitamins and minerals?
Incorporating specific nutrients can support conception and overall health. Folate, plentiful in dark leafy greens, asparagus, and citrus fruits, is critical in the earliest weeks of pregnancy for spinal cord development, so pre-pregnancy is the time to boost your folate-intake. Iron is also found in dark leafy greens, and is critical to boost energy and prevent growth restriction in a developing baby. Building up your iron stores before you become pregnant ensures that you’re starting from a good place when it happens! Consuming citrus, or vitamin C, with an iron-rich meal or snack will help your body maximally absorb iron. (Think: fresh lemon juice over kale salad!)
Do your best
Our diet contributes a lot to our health and sense of well-being, but there are certain fertility problems that a diet will not be able to address. Modifying your diet with these suggestions is a great start and encouraging your partner to join is a good way to make it more sustainable and fun. Remember that if you’re having trouble getting pregnant, it’s probably not because you still eat french fries from time to time, or haven’t cut out some other food you crave! Do your best and seek care from your midwife or doctor to talk about additional ways to troubleshoot fertility problems.
Well+Prepared is a pre-pregnancy program from Baby+Company. Get expert consultation, informative classes, and 1-on-1 coaching to help you conceive a healthy pregnancy. Well+Prepared is available in all Baby+Company centers. Find the center near you:
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