We're talking fertility this week, to mark National Fertility Awareness Week. One important thing to consider is how healthy you are, and how that affects your fertility.
When you're trying to conceive, it's vital that your body is in tip top condition. Here, we get tips from Dr Sally Norton,consultant weight loss expert and founder of Vavista on how to be as healthy as you can...
1. Take supplements and eat the right food
Low levels of certain nutrients can affect your chances of conception and the development of your new baby, before you even know you’re expecting. Ensure you're getting enough:
- Folic Acid
Start taking folic acid supplements even before you start trying to become pregnant until at least 10 weeks gestation - essential for healthy nervous system development and to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. How? A supplement of 400micrograms per day is essential; try to also include folate-rich foods in your diet - dark green leafy veggies like kale, spinach, broccoli and cabbage and pulses such as chickpeas and lentils.
Important for fertility; especially sperm development, so good for you and your partner. How? Supplements of 75 micrograms per day for men and 60 micrograms per day for women or add selenium rich foods to the diet: brazil nuts (just one per day is enough!), seafood, egg yolk, meat and mushrooms.
- Calcium and Vitamin D
Important for bone and other essential development. Get from sunlight, vitamin D supplements (10 micrograms per day is recommended for all adults), fortified breakfast cereals and dairy or alternative products, eggs and oily fish.
Up your calcium intake by eating three portions of low fat, low sugar dairy products per day. If you’re not a fan of dairy, try these dried apricots, almonds, canned fish with edible bones (salmon, sardines, pilchards, green leafy veggies or tofu).
(Pregnacare supplements contain all of the above and more - Ed)
2. Avoid certain food and drink
We know about all the foods we should be avoiding once pregnant – raw eggs, soft cheeses, pates and cured meats – but what about when you’re trying to conceive?
Evidence on the link between caffeine and fertility is mixed but it's probably best to avoid or keep to a lower limit, such as two mugs instant coffee (100mg each) or one mug filter coffee (140mg each) ...and don't forget there's caffeine in energy drinks, cola and chocolate too!
Avoiding alcohol as far as possible is also recommended - if not a maximum of two small glasses of wine per week or equivalent is advised.
3. Stay active
It’s a natural feeling to want to protect your baby - a mother’s instinct can kick in even before conception! Especially in those early days, any pregnancy can seem fragile – especially for those who have had difficulty in conceiving or have suffered miscarriages in the past. That said, regular exercise will reduce your risk of infertility, but it has also been proven to help you cope with stress and 'low mood' feelings that often go hand-in-hand with infertility. Taking a pro-active approach and really focusing on your health and fitness will help you feel like you are in control of your body, and you will be building strength and stores of energy to ensure that once you do conceive, your body is ready for the task ahead!
4. Maintain a healthy BMI
When it comes to an ideal weight for conception, there is a sweet spot. Being underweight can be detrimental for fertility, as can being overweight. A healthy BMI of between 18.5-24.9 is considered optimal for fertility.
If you are overweight, small changes can produce big results as studies have shown that for women with PCOS who have infertility due to problems with ovulation, even a 10% loss in weight can result in return to normal ovulation. As such, losing weight before trying to conceive will improve the likelihood of ovulation, improve fertility and reduce the risk of problems in pregnancy and improve the chance of having a healthy baby.
5. Stress less
Stress is a huge factor for conception success – which isn’t an easy topic to tackle as infertility, IVF treatment and often strained relationships are not conducive to combating stress!
Maintain an open, frank and honest conversation with your partner about your conception journey, don’t become isolated and take pro-active steps together to do all you can to boost your fertility to retain a sense of control.
The common ‘go-to’ stress busters will work well – yoga, meditation, exercise… just be careful that you don’t turn to comfort foods to give you that ‘feel good’ boost.
You can read more about National Fertility Awareness Week, the decision to start a family and apps that will help you on your journey to conceive.