Infertility rates continue to rise in Canada and the US and now more than ever, couples are struggling to conceive. The reason behind this is largely unknown, but our exposure to environmental chemicals, the food system and our stress levels certainly aren’t helping.
Getting pregnant is supposed to be easy, right? Not necessarily the case.
I say this with the most compassion because I KNOW the struggle. My husband and I struggled to conceive and at the time, fertility nutrition was not an area of interest of mine, but as it became my reality, my passion for this area exploded. Once I realized that there were things I was doing (and wasn’t doing) that may have been hindering our chances of conceiving, we made some big swaps in our home and in our diets and 3 months later, we were pregnant with fraternal twin girls (I get the odd client joke about hoping I can help them conceive twins – it hasn’t happened yet but we will see what this year brings!).
The power that nutrition and lifestyle changes can have on fertility are absolutely incredible and it is my life’s mission to share this information with couples who need it.
If you’re planning on conceiving in the next 6-12 months – these nutrition tips are important for you. We can all benefit from boosting the health of our eggs and sperm – so read my top tips below and in the next 90 days, you’ll be ready to go! If you’re looking for a deeper dive on this topic and would like to work with me one-on-one, contact me here.
1. Focus on 3-4 cups of vegetables per day
This is sort of a boring tip to start with but it’s so important – it’s all about antioxidants! Our eggs and sperm are fragile and oxidative stress can cause damage to the eggs and sperm, which can result in chromosomal abnormalities (one of the major causes of miscarriage). Fruits and vegetables are a major source of dietary antioxidants and incorporating 3-4 cups in your diet each day can be a great way to really boost your intake of antioxidants. Some of my favourite vegetables for antioxidants include oranges, spinach, kale, broccoli, berries and grapes.
We want to make sure we do what we can to have the healthiest eggs and sperm possible, so get in your fruits and veggies, ladies (and your partner, too 😉 ).
2. Get enough vitamin D (and get your levels checked if you can)
One of the leading causes of miscarriage is vitamin D deficiency (crazy, hey?). Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin (if you want to learn more about it, check out my post here) and during the winter months (from October to May in Canada and the Northern US), our ability to produce enough vitamin D from sun exposure is extremely limited. Many of our diets do not include enough vitamin D to keep our levels adequate, so a supplement is often necessary.
If you’re able to get your vitamin D levels checked with your primary care physician, this is an excellent idea! You’re going to want to make sure that your levels are in adequate range before you consider trying to conceive, if you can.
A great food source of vitamin D is salmon (which is one of the superstars in the next section) and dairy products like milk and yogurt (for a list of food sources of vitamin D with exact amounts, click here).
3. Increase Your Intake of Anti-Inflammatory Omega-3 Fats
Omega-3 fats (particularly DHA and EPA) can be very anti-inflammatory in the body and are very a key piece of a well balanced fertility diet. I won’t dive deep into the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fats right now but know that if you’re not consuming 2-3 servings of fatty, cold water fish per week (salmon, sardines, herring, etc.), then a good quality supplement is what you’re going to want to look for.
4. Reduce Stress
I know – you’re probably cringing at this. When we were trying to get pregnant and someone would say this to us, I would be cursing them under my breath (and secretly wanting to punch them in the face, let’s be honest here). I want to give you the backstory though – when your body produces the stress hormone cortisol, it steals from the resources needed to produce progesterone, which is required for ovulation. Therefore, keeping your cortisol production low allows for more resources to be available for reproductive hormone production.
There are a couple of things that I like to recommend for stress reduction (but honestly, do whatever makes you feel best). I love this breathing technique here, I love this free yoga channel on YouTube and I also like to focus on some key anti-stress nutrients (you can read about them here).
5. Take your Prenatal
If you’re waiting until you find out your pregnant to take a prenatal vitamin then you’ve missed a critical window. For my clients I recommend taking a prenatal vitamin for a MINIMUM of 3 months before trying to conceive. We often think that we are born with the number of eggs that we are going to have throughout our lifetime and there really isn’t much else we can do to ensure that they are healthy. This is a HUGE misconception. The maturation cycle of an egg is about 3 months and during this time period our nutrition and lifestyle choices play a significant role in the health of our eggs and the potential for chromosomal abnormalities. This is ESPECIALLY important if you’ve been on hormonal birth control, which depletes essential pregnancy nutrients.
In a perfect world, you will take your prenatal vitamin for 6 months (longer if you can) before trying to conceive. So if you’re planning on getting pregnant this year, please make sure you start taking your prenatal today! Side note: Not all prenatal vitamins are created equally. If you have questions about your prenatal choice, let me know in the comment section below!
Okay – I hope this post is helpful for you all! Coming up soon – a post all about MALE fertility! That’s right ladies, there are things that your partner can focus on to ensure that his sperm are as healthy as possible as well!
As always, let me know if you have any questions and until next time,