Top 4 mistakes you are making with your fertility diet
As a specialist fertility dietitian, my aim is to provide you with evidence-based information on diet and fertility that you can trust. As a result, I want to highlight the top four fertility-related issues that I come across in clinic.
So, let’s get straight into it. Here are the four most common tips that I suggest to clients when they first come to my clinic.
1. Both partners can make changes
It takes two to tango. Therefore, when trying to optimise your chances of conceiving, it is essential for a man to also make changes to his lifestyle and diet. Why? Because of the following reasons:
- Approximately half of all infertility cases are secondary to male factors!
- Nutrition can influence sperm quality which is assessed by the following parameters:
- semen volume
- sperm motility (the ability of sperm to swim in the right direction)
- sperm morphology (the shape and size of the sperm)
- sperm concentration
- sperm count
- sperm DNA fragmentation (tests the genetic material within the sperm)
By influencing the above via the correct nutrition, you can decrease the risk of DNA damage in the sperm, decrease the risk of miscarriage, decrease the risk of stillbirth, improve the chances of conception, improve artificial reproductive technique success, improve IVF success and influence the health of your future child. So, all in all, sperm health is something that certainly needs to be taken seriously.
2. Eating more omega 3
By now, most of us have heard of omega 3 and can probably identify it as playing a role in improving heart health, brain health and having anti-inflammatory effects within the body.
But, did you know that it can also support fertility? The evidence surrounding omega 3 and fertility is pretty clear-cut. Not having enough does impact both sperm and egg quality and ultimately decreases the chance of conception. Studies have shown that a diet high in these essential fats increases the lifespan and quality of a woman’s eggs in addition to improving sperm quality.
What are omega 3 fats?
They are an essential type of fat that our body cannot make, and so we must obtain sufficient amounts from our diet in order to function optimally. You will find some plant sources that contain omega 3 but the key types that have been shown to promote fertility are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
The main sources of these fats come from oily fish which include herring, pilchards, sardines, sprats, salmon, trout and mackerel. If you are not keen on oily fish and don’t have it regularly in your diet, then it is worth chatting with a registered dietitian or your healthcare provider to consider appropriate supplementation.
3. Limiting saturated fats and trans-saturated fats
Fats are not inherently bad for us (despite having been demonised for several years). However, there are different types of fat in the diet and we want to aim to have less of certain types of fat. The fats that we want to limit in our diet are called saturated fats and trans-saturated fats.
When it comes to male fertility, studies have repeatedly shown that semen quality, sperm motility and total sperm count are negatively influenced by these fats. In regards to female fertility, research has consistently shown that high intakes are associated with poor egg quality, higher rates of ovulatory infertility and a reduced likelihood of conceiving in a given month.
In view of the above evidence, the aim is to reduce the consumption of foods high in trans-fat as much as possible - the closer to zero, the better. In relation to saturated fats, I would encourage everyone trying to conceive to minimise their intake to less than 10% of the total energy intake throughout the day. Saturated fat is found in butter, coconut oil, lard, pastries, the visible fat on meat and fried foods. Trans fat is found in fried foods, and some types of cakes, biscuits and margarine.
4. Try a targeted supplement regime
Now, when it comes to a supplement, generally speaking, I will always support people to make their diet well-balanced and nourishing to ensure that they are getting all the nutrients they need before, during and after pregnancy. However, I would also recommend a good-quality pregnancy multivitamin and mineral supplement to ensure that they are creating an ideal environment in which a healthy baby can grow.
Furthermore, emerging research suggests that the benefits of a pregnancy supplement extend to improving ovulation, egg quality, egg maturation, fertilisation and implantation of the egg into the uterus.
If you are actively planning for a baby, then ideally you would start making those changes and adding a supplement three to six months before conceiving. However, we all know that not all pregnancies are planned or perhaps you get pregnant quicker than expected- in this case, just start a pregnancy supplement as soon as possible.
The problem with supplements is that they are just being taken generically with nothing being tailored to each individual. Age, medical history, previous pregnancy complications, dietary patterns can all influence which additional nutrients a person may need and also how much of it they need. Not having a targeted supplement regime just for you essentially means that you are not optimising your chance of conceiving.
By working with a registered dietitian, you can get the help you need to get one step closer to your goal - getting pregnant. If you want to find out more, sign up for my live and free masterclass on how you can fuel your fertility.
Remember, there are many factors that affect fertility. Everyone is different and is going through a different stage in their fertility journey, which is why it’s important to seek individualised advice where possible.