Why can't I get pregnant?
The importance for pre-conceptual care cannot be overstated. If you are trying to conceive it is vital that you have good stores of certain nutrients, such as vitamin D, folic acid, Iodine and Zinc. The reasons for this will be explained below.
You may have heard a lot about the importance of vitamin D in the news, but you may be surprised that studies have shown that having the correct levels may help you fall pregnant. As most people are deficient for at least half the year, supplementing with vitamin D is a good idea, as you cannot get sufficient amounts in your diet alone.
Zinc and folic acid are required for proper cell division and both play a critical role in foetal development. Low zinc levels are linked to premature births, low birth weight, growth retardation and prepeclampsia. Animal studies have shown that zinc deficient mother give birth to babies who have a reduced immune capacity – even when the zinc deficiency is corrected in the animal mother and baby. You may already be aware of the importance in folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects (NTDs) in your baby, which is why it is so important to supplement the minute you decide to try for a baby.
Lastly, if you have a deficiency of iodine when you are pregnant, your baby’s brain may not develop as well as it could and this could affect your child’s ability to learn in later years; for instance, your child could have a lower IQ or poorer reading ability. So, while it may not help you fall pregnant, adequate stores, may prevent problems later on.
So, if you are having trouble conceiving (either you or your partner), then it would be a good idea to ask a trained nutritionist to organise for you to be tested to see if you have adequate stores of the above nutrients.
However, as you find zinc, folic acid and Iodine in food, the below guidelines may also help.
1. Eat unprocessed, unrefined carbohydrates and avoid junk food to maximise nutrient absorption rate for your reproductive system (e.g. B vitamins such as B6 and folic acid are important in hormone functioning and zinc for testicular health).
2. Make sure you include oily fish in your diet as this is a good source or Iodine and the omega-3 essential fats which are needed for hormone and sperm health, so a deficiency may affect your fertility.
3. Make sure you are getting your ‘five-a-day’. Fruit and vegetables contain highly absorbable nutrients and a wide range of antioxidants helping to protect your eggs and sperm while they grow.
4. Eliminate alcohol and avoid coffee. Drinking alcohol can reduce your fertility and the more you drink the less likely you are to conceive. Research has also shown that caffeine (found in tea and coffee) can also decrease fertility and increase miscarriage rate.
5. Seek help to lose weight. If you are overweight it significantly reduces your chances of conceiving as it affects ovulation in women and sperm quality in men.
While, not nutrition advice...
6. If you or your partner smoke, seek help to quit smoking. Smoking doubles the risk of ectopic pregnancy and damages the quality of eggs. Smoking also impairs a man’s fertility by reducing the amount of blood supply reaching the testes where sperm is made.
7. Regular aerobic exercise increases oxygen flow around the body and aids the passage of nutrients in and toxins out of cells. Exercise also helps you unwind, as long as it’s not over-done.
And last but not least, relax! Stress is an everyday fact of life, and a little bit of stress is good for us, but too much can reduce your fertility and play havoc with other areas of health. Good ways to relax include yoga, listening to relaxing music, meditation or having a massage (all things you need to practice for pregnancy and for a more relaxed birth).
If you are interested in finding out how to improve your diet further, asking a trained nutritional therapist to carry out a dietary evaluation is a sensible step, as they will be able to work out from your diet history how to improve what you are eating or if you may be low in certain minerals or vitamins, in which case diagnostic testing may be recommended.
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