Eyeing some cute maternity clothes or your friend’s latest newborn photos? Seeking a belly bump anytime soon? As women, what we eat impacts more than just ourselves. Whether you’re ready for motherhood or not, focusing on our nutrition now is an important factor in our future ability to conceive.
Nutrition is more than just a piece in the puzzle of conception; it’s the cardboard base serving as the backbone. Essential nutrients, those that we get from our diet that our body can’t make, can affect hormone production, impact our energy levels, and affect the masterful development of a future baby growing inside us. Which is why now is a better time than ever to focus on getting a variety of nutrients while also developing eating habits that will prove successful throughout pregnancy and afterwards during breastfeeding.
While general nutrition messages still hold true — get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, limit added sugars or trans-fats, and choose whole grains over their processed counterparts — try incorporating some of these additional tips to enhance your fertility through food:
Maintain a healthy weight. If you are over or under-weight, it may impact the health of your future child or your ability to conceive. Both excessive thinness and obesity are associated with ovulation disorders and, therefore, infertility. Prior to pregnancy is the best time to work on healthy eating patterns. Work on portion sizes and stick to scheduled meals and snacks to obtain a healthy goal weight within the normal range of the body mass index (BMI of 18.5-25 kg/m2 is considered a normal healthy weight). Due to the nutrient needs of a growing fetus, pregnancy is not the time to restrict energy needs and weight loss is not recommended.
Getting plenty of good fats and proteins from Mediterranean diet sources like vegetable oils, seeds, legumes, and fatty-fish (such as salmon) may help aid fertility. On the other hand, increased trans-fat intake has been associated with infertility, so stay away from processed pastry products and hydrogenated vegetable oils.
There is much debate about how much is “too much” prior to, but since it is recommended not to consume alcohol during pregnancy it’s a good idea to start practicing now. Try not to drink more than one 5 ounce glass of wine or one 12 ounce beer a day, as excess alcohol consumption was shown to be associated with infertility in women. If you do choose to drink, you may wait till you get your period to wind down with a glass of red wine, since it is the safest point during the ovulation cycle to drink and it will give some antioxidants at the same time.
While multivitamins may not be necessary if we get adequate nutrients from our food, it’s often hard to get the increased requirements of folic acid and iron that pregnancy requires, thus supplementation is recommended during pregnancy. Supplementation of folate is recommended at least 3 months prior to conception.
Men and their ability to produce strong sperm are sometimes a forgotten part of the picture, but their diet also impacts fertility. Strong sperm production and viability require a healthy diet with adequate zinc and antioxidant intake. Lamb, meats, and seafood are all high in zinc, as well as pumpkin seeds, dairy products and nuts.
Since each individual has unique nutritional needs, it’s important to know where yours stand when you are trying to get pregnant. Nutrition is just one aspect of the many factors that are involved in the process, but it’s one worth the time investment prior to pregnancy, knowing that it remains so important long after conception. For further advice and health monitoring, it’s very important to check-in with your gynecologist prior to and after getting pregnant.
With so many changes to come, before motherhood is a great time to practice a diet that would make you a proud example for a little one. For those that are not looking to get pregnant anytime soon, it’s never too early to start eating healthfully as if you are.
Image via Sprouted Kitchen