This week’s blog is written by our two in-store Nutritionists, Eve and Jody. You can book a consultation with Clinical Nutritionist Jody here, to help you on your individual health journey.
It is well known that a mother should eat healthy and take care of her health during pregnancy, but what about before falling pregnant? Nutrition and lifestyle influences are just as crucial for fertility and preconception care as they are for pregnancy.
What is preconception?
Preconception is defined as the time leading up to conception occurring. The male’s health during this time is just as important as the females, to ensure healthy offspring. Starting preconception care a minimum of 3 months prior to conceiving is recommended, as it takes approximately 100 days for a follicle to mature into an egg and reach ovulation. Additionally for males, a sperm cycle takes around 64 days.
What is considered infertility?
New research indicates that the fertility rate is reaching an all-time low. Infertility affects 1 in 6 Australian couples and is defined as the inability to conceive after a minimum of 12 months of actively trying. There are many causes of infertility involving the female, male, or a combination of both.
This blog dives into our Clinical Nutritionists’ top tips for preconception and fertility, to give you the best chance of conceiving a healthy baby.
1. Check Your Nutrient Levels
The first thing that should be done when you decide that you are ready to start a family, is to check in with your GP and get a full panel of blood tests. This will highlight any nutrient deficiencies that might need correcting before conception, to make conceiving easier and ensure mother and baby are at optimal health throughout pregnancy and beyond. Focus on iron, vitamin D, and folic acid, as well as thyroid function and all hormone levels.
A female should also begin taking a good quality prenatal supplement a few months before conceiving. Come and chat to us in store for our top recommendations!
2. Take a Look at Your Diet
Diet is important when it comes to preconception, as a healthy diet can improve both male and female fertility. To optimise reproductive health, we need to be meeting our daily energy requirements by consuming a wide variety of plant-based foods and limiting processed sugary foods. The Mediterranean diet is the best diet to follow as it is rich in nutrients, fibre, healthy fats, and lean protein.
Studies in men have shown that sperm quality, concentration, and motility increased when a Mediterranean diet was consumed, compared to those consuming a typical Western diet high in saturated fat, sugary food and drinks, and minimal fibre.
Similarly, consumption of a Mediterranean style diet positively impacts female fertility. Females need to ensure they are meeting the requirements for vitamins and minerals through their diet, in particular iron, iodine, vitamin B12, folate, and omega 3s.
Alcohol consumption also needs to be considered during this time. Both males and females should limit their alcohol intake as soon as they decide they want to conceive. Alcohol can impact fertility and increase the length of time it takes to fall pregnant by lowering sex drive, impacting the process of implantation, and disrupt conception.
3. Reach and Maintain a Healthy Weight
Weight is important when it comes to preconception and pregnancy, and it is recommended that both parents sit within the healthy weight range. Being under or over a healthy weight can impact fertility, egg or sperm health, the length of time it takes to conceive, and the health of your future baby.
Being underweight can put stress on the body and result in the reproductive system shutting down. In females, this means that ovulation does not occur, and conceiving is not possible until a healthy weight is maintained and ovulation it is restored.
Parental overweight has a strong association with childhood overweight or obesity. Research has shown that a child with one overweight parent has a 50% chance of being overweight, and when both parents are overweight this percentage triples. Being overweight can also increase the likelihood of the female developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
4. Understand Your Cycle
Many women are on hormonal contraception for years before trying to conceive. Sometimes this means that the woman isn’t familiar with her regular cycle and whether it is considered ‘normal’. It may take several months for a menstrual cycle to become regular after coming off hormonal contraception, so allow plenty of time for this.
Commonly, females are prescribed hormonal birth control to reduce difficult menstrual symptoms such as heavy bleeding, pain and hormonal acne. This may mask an underlying issue regarding their reproductive health. If there are difficulties with achieving a regular cycle, further investigations may be necessary before trying to conceive.