Secondary infertility: Can diet help?

You had your first child a few years ago and now want to grow your family. You were able to get pregnant easily last time and you had no complications with the pregnancy. Things should be a breeze this time, right? Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

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Approximately 30% of couples who have conceived naturally in the past and had successful pregnancies struggle to conceive the second or even third time round and this is a condition known as secondary infertility. This article will delve into why this happens and how optimising your diet can improve your chance of conceiving.

What is secondary infertility?

It is a condition whereby a couple struggles to conceive naturally despite having had successful pregnancies in the past. There are several reasons why a couple may experience secondary infertility and they include:

1. Age

As we age, the number and quality of eggs decline. If you have already had one or more children and are seeking to grow your family a few years after having had your last child, age could be a major factor here.

Additionally, a less commonly known fact is that a man’s sperm fertility potential also starts to decline after the age of 45. In some cases, a woman may be with a new partner that is in his mid-40s and so it can be more difficult to get pregnant.

2. Prior pregnancy complications

If there have been previous pregnancy complications, frequent miscarriages, abortion or stillbirth this could have led to scarring or infection within the reproductive tract which can subsequently influence future fertility potential.

3. Problems with ovulating

If you don’t ovulate regularly, you are not releasing an egg. No egg means you cannot get pregnant. 

4. Obstruction disorders

Having damaged or blocked fallopian tubes can make naturally conceiving much harder.

5. Sperm and egg quality

The sperm and egg contain the genetic material to create an embryo. If this genetic material is of poor quality, then it can affect several points of the fertility journey including the process of fertilisation, implantation and even miscarriage!


Treating secondary infertility

Now that we’ve gotten the doom and gloom out of the way, let’s talk about strategies that can help you in overcoming secondary infertility. By nourishing our bodies with the right nutrients, you are creating an environment in which your eggs and sperm can mature at their optimal levels which, in turn, increases the chance of getting and staying pregnant.

Here are some key nutrients to include more of in your diet: 

1. Nuts

Nuts are powerhouses. Why? Because they are rich in healthy fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, fibre and antioxidants - all of which we know help to improve fertility. It is recommended that you have a 30g mix of nuts daily as the mix of nutrient profile in the nuts can help at all stages of fertility including: 

  • improving egg and sperm quality 
  • increasing the likelihood of fertilisation 
  • increasing the likelihood of implantation 
  • reducing miscarriage

Not keen on nuts? Here are some tips to help: 

  • Ground them and add to smoothies. 
  • Walnuts and pine nuts are a great addition to summer salads. 
  • Nuts make a delicious topping for porridge. 
  • Nut butters count as well! Try having some almond or peanut butter on wholegrain toast with banana and a drizzle of honey. Alternatively, you can add nut butters into a stirfry or have them alongside fruit. 
  • Try adding cashew nuts to a stir-fry - gamechanger! 
  • Nuts and dried fruit are a terrific combination. Halve some dates/apricots and add the nut into the middle.

2. Oily fish

Oily fish contain a specific type of healthy fat called omega 3 fats. Now, you may have heard of this fat being important for brain and heart health but are you aware that it can play a huge role in improving fertility potential? This is because research has shown that omega 3 fats not only improve the quality of sperm and eggs but also lengthen their lifespan.

In men, an increasing amount of omega 3 fat deposits in the sperm membrane as the sperm cell matures, which has led to suggestions that it plays an important role when the sperm fertilises the egg.

It has also been found that omega 3 fats improve the blood flow to the uterus, potentially increasing the chance of an embryo implanting after the sperm has fertilised the egg.

3. Antioxidants

The wisdom behind your five-a-day isn’t just for general health, but also for fertility. Fruit and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which help reverse damage done to eggs and sperm. Less damaged eggs and sperm mean better quality genetic material.

4. A targeted supplement plan

Your nutritional needs to conceive and maintain a pregnancy are unique to your medical history, age, weight, diet and blood work. By taking a generic supplement, you may not be covering all bases which is why it is important to have a personalised supplement plan tailored just for you. I regularly see low vitamin D and iron levels in clinic and your general over-the-counter supplement will not do much to boost them to the required levels.

And there you have my top tips to help you overcome secondary infertility. If you feel that you would benefit from some tailored advice, don’t hesitate to reach out for a free discovery call where we will discuss your nutrition goals, health history and how can help you boost your fertility.

Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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London SW14 & E18
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Written by Rania Salman, Registered Dietitian, PgDip (Merit), BSc (Honours), MBDA
London SW14 & E18

Rania Salman is a trained dietitian who uses an evidence-based approach to support you in reaching your goals. Her areas of expertise include Fertility, PCOS, weight loss/gain in addition to general health and well-being. She has worked in some of the most well-known NHS trusts, in addition to working for the private sector.

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