The sooner you make positive changes to your diet, the more likely you are to successfully conceive. For both genders, nutrition and fertility are intertwined. You need to maintain a healthy diet to improve your odds of getting pregnant and of giving birth to a healthy baby.
Consume several portions of fruits, vegetables, grains such as multigrain bread and calcium-rich choices like yogurt, cheese, and milk each day. Certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins C and E, zinc, and folic acid, are important for producing quality sperm. A nutritional deficiency can impact your periods, making ovulation prediction difficult. In addition, you may not ovulate at all if you’ve lost a large amount of weight or are significantly overweight.
What to Avoid
If your eating habits are not ideal, you’ll have to make different choices. Cut out or greatly reduce your alcohol intake. For non-alcoholic alternatives, see our list of the best virgin drinks. Cease any recreational drugs and, if you smoke cigarettes, start on the road to cessation now. All of these substances and habits can cause harm to a developing child.
You may also want to scale back your caffeine consumption. Medical opinions on whether or not caffeine impacts fertility is mixed. Researchers generally agree that low to moderate caffeine consumption consisting of less than 300 mg a day, about the equivalent of two 8-ounce cups of coffee, won’t affect your fertility, but your doctor may recommend that you quit caffeine entirely to play it safe. You can learn more about caffeine and fertility here.
Although fish is generally regarded as a superfood, certain species are high in mercury, which can be dangerous to a developing fetus. Mercury can build up in your cells and linger there for more than a year, so it’s a good idea to avoid high-mercury fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish while you’re trying to get pregnant. Instead, eat lower-mercury fish such as salmon and canned light tuna a few times a week. You should avoid albacore altogether, as it’s high in mercury. You can read more on eating fish while trying to conceive here.
Processed meats should only be eaten in small amounts, and smoked or raw meats should be avoided entirely during gestation. Even hot dogs or deli meats should be heated until they are steaming before you eat them once you conceive.
Take a Vitamin-Mineral Supplement
Although you can meet nearly all of your nutritional needs by eating a balanced diet, many researchers believe that even the healthiest eaters can benefit from supplements. You may find it difficult to eat well when you’re working or parenting other children, so taking a prenatal vitamin ensures that you’re getting enough folic acid and other nutrients to boost your odds of getting pregnant.
Remember that a supplement is a safety net, not a substitute for healthy choices. Since regular over-the-counter multivitamins may contain huge doses of vitamins and minerals that could be harmful to a developing fetus, it’s a good idea to switch to a pill formulated specifically for pregnant women. Those who follow a vegetarian diet may also need Vitamin D and B-12 supplements in addition to extra protein. Talk with your doctor about your choice of prenatal vitamin.
Get lots of folic acid, at least 400 micrograms a day.
Folic acid has been proven to reduce a baby’s risk of neural-tube birth defects such as spina bifida. It is also believed to a lower incidence of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and diabetes.
Most women of child-bearing age should get 400 micrograms (mcg) daily, the equivalent of 0.4 milligrams (mg), according to the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS). If you have a family history of neural-tube birth defects or take medication for seizures, your doctor may tell you to increase your daily intake to 4,000 mcg, or 4 mg, beginning at least one month before you conceive and continuing until the end of your first trimester. If you’re expecting twins or triplets, your doctor will likely suggest that you to increase your folic acid intake to at least 400 mcg per fetus.
An excellent over-the-counter prenatal vitamin should contain more than the minimum recommendation of folic acid, between 600 and 800 mcg, what you’ll need during pregnancy. In addition, you should eat folate-rich foods, such as dark green leafy vegetables like spinach or kale, citrus fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and fortified breads and cereals. Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin, so your body will flush out the excess if you eat too much. However, there’s a drawback to being water-soluble, too. You can lose a lot of this vitamin in cooking water, so steaming or cooking vegetables in a small amount of water to preserve the folate is crucial.
For some ladies, there’s an exception to this rule. Getting too much folate may hide a B-12 deficiency, which is an issue for some vegetarians. Ask your doctor or midwife if you’re concerned about this possibility.
Find Your Ideal Body Weight
Losing a few pounds, or gaining some if you’re underweight, while you’re attempting to get pregnant is a great idea because you want to be as close as possible to your ideal weight when you get pregnant. Being over- or underweight can make it more difficult to conceive. Also, obese ladies have more pregnancy and birth complications, and underweight ladies are more likely to have a low-birth-weight baby.
While you’re following a healthy diet with low-fat, high-fiber foods, start or increase an exercise routine. If you’re overweight, aim to lose one to two pounds a week, which is generally regarded as safe weight loss. Unhealthy weight loss from crash dieting can deplete your body’s nutritional stores, which isn’t a good idea for those trying to conceive.