Getting Pregnant: Diet and Infertility

Diet is one of the most important lifestyle factors to consider when trying to get pregnant. A poor diet can contribute to infertility in otherwise healthy couples, while a well balanced and healthy diet can increase the odds of getting pregnant for couples trying to conceive. But just how does diet and nutrition affect both female and male fertility? And what types of foods should be avoided?

How Diet Affects Fertility

When we don't eat well-balanced meals as a regular part of our diet, we do not receive the proper nutrients necessary to maintain reproductive health. Your body requires appropriate levels of particular nutrients in order to create an ideal environment for fertility and conception.

In men, a poor diet can contribute to male infertility, since the body requires sufficient levels of zinc, vitamin B12 and vitamin C in order to produce healthy sperm. A nutritional deficiency can seriously affect sperm counts as well as sperm motility.

Maintaining a healthy diet means ensuring overall health, which includes strengthening an immune system and maintaining a healthy weight. In women, being either underweight or overweight and having an unhealthy body mass index (BMI) can lead to irregular menstruation or ovulation cycles and cause infertility. Ensuring a physical health is important in order to prepare the body to be fit for pregnancy.

Fertility: Essential Nutrients

Nutrition affects fertility in a variety of ways, and sufficient levels of certain nutrients are essential to maintaining fertility health. For example, zinc not only helps sperm production, but it is also necessary for the body's testosterone hormone metabolism - two functions that are integral to fertility. Zinc is also a necessary nutrient for the production of eggs in women, and is important to maintaining an overall healthy immune system.

Folic acid is known to prevent a variety of birth defects, such as spina bifida. Low iron levels increase the risk of ovulatory infertility in women. Fiber is helpful in flushing toxins out of the body and also reduces the risk of pregnancy complications such as diabetes. Water is also important in body detoxification, and unsaturated fats strengthen the immune system.

Harmful Foods

Certain foods are known to negatively affect reproductive health and may contribute to symptoms of infertility. Foods that contain preservatives and other chemicals such as artificial sweeteners (aspartame) and food additives (MSG) should be avoided as these can affect blood sugar levels as well as hormonal balance.

Foods containing caffeine constrict blood vessels, which can reduce blood flow to the uterus and prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. It especially important to avoid caffeine if a couple is undergoing IVF treatment.

Eating a lot of meat is also not recommended for couples trying to get pregnant. This is because meat tends to raise the body's ammonia levels, which can inhibit implantation in the uterus as well as sperm activity. Alcohol, illicit drugs, and smoking cigarettes should also be avoided.

For more information on diet and fertility, read an article providing tips on how to maintain a healthy fertility diet or check out our pregnancy videos.

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