April 19-25 is National Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility has become a more common topic to speak up about since celebrities began sharing their struggles through social media. The fact of the matter is, one in eight couples will deal with infertility and have trouble conceiving according to Resolve, the National Infertility Association. Can a healthy diet influence fertility? The good news is, studies show that couples may increase their fertility levels by maintaining a healthy diet and weight.
Two big proponents of this theory are Drs. Jorge Chavarro and Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health
who wrote a book called, “The Fertility Diet: Groundbreaking Research Reveals Natural Ways to Boost Ovulation and Improve Your Chances of Getting Pregnant,” which was based on their data analysis of the Nurses’ Health Study, a study of 18,000 women’s health in America.
In their book, Chavarro and Willett recommend strategies that could improve the chances of a woman becoming pregnant and increase ovulation. These included avoiding trans fats, using unsaturated vegetable oils, eating more vegetable protein and less animal protein and avoiding highly refined carbohydrates. The authors also recommended switching to whole milk and full-fat dairy products.
There were other, more obvious, recommendations, like no smoking, limiting caffeine and alcohol and staying away from sugared sodas. They also recommended becoming physically active if you aren’t already, and the importance of getting to a healthy weight.
Dr. Ashley Walsh of Gainesville OBGYN completely agreed. “Being in overall good health is important when trying to conceive,” she added. “Not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation or not at all, and maintaining a healthy diet can contribute to success when trying to conceive.”
She recommended sticking to whole grains, fish, food that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, lots of fruits and vegetables and healthy oils and fats to maintain a healthy diet. She also suggested staying away from processed food and excess sugar and simple carbs.
Women trying to become pregnant should also take a multivitamin that includes folic acid. Other supplements she recommended were vitamin D3, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids.
“Refined, processed carbohydrates and sugar itself can be associated with decreased fertility,” Walsh said. “High insulin levels in the body impact normal hormone function in the ovaries and may impact egg quality.”
In the “Nurses’ Health” study, women who had the highest intake of a “fertility diet” comprised of plant protein from vegetable sources, full-fat dairy foods, iron, and monounsaturated fats during the preconception period were found to have a 66% lower risk of infertility related to ovulatory disorders and a 27% lower risk of infertility due to other causes compared to women with the lowest intake of this diet.
If a couple has been trying to conceive for six months with no such luck or if woman is 35 or older, Walsh said they should visit their gynecologist for a consultation.
*Please remember to consult a doctor anytime you wish to make a change in your diet, and if you are experiencing concerns about your fertility.