Fertility, Diet and Nutrition
Women are born with millions of immature, primordial eggs. After puberty it still takes 100 days for each immature egg to mature. Once a month one of those eggs completes its cycle of growth and is ready for ovulation.
You can use this 100 day (116 for men) period for preconception fertility to prepare your body to produce the healthiest eggs and sperm possible.
What goes into your body and what you are exposed to will affect not only your ability to conceive, but the health of your unborn child.
The Mediterranean diet features fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, seafood, and whole grains. Diets that avoid white flour and sugar, sugary drinks, processed food, red meats, lots of rich dairy products such as butter and cheese are healthier for both parents before conception and for the health of the mother and unborn child during pregnancy.
The difference can be significant. For example, mothers with healthy diets give birth to children with a much lower risk of leukemia1, allergies and respiratory disorders,2 diabetes,3 and weight and cardiovascular problems.4
Go organic, buy fresh, buy local
- Eat organically grown produce which has not been sprayed with herbicides, pesticides, or insecticides at any phase of its growth.
- Eat free-range, grass-fed if possible, organically raised eggs and dairy products.
- Eat wild-grown fish rather than fish raised in fish farms (which are less than clean)!
- If you eat meat, again, look for organic, grass-fed beef and poultry.
Both male and female fertility are negatively affected by alcohol consumption, in the case of both IVF and natural conception. For women alcohol consumption in the year before an IVF attempt reduces the number of retrievable eggs by 13%. A glass a day in the month before IVF more than doubles chances of failure. A glass a day in the week before IVF more than doubles the chance of miscarriage.5
For men, similar alcohol consumption before IVF increase the risk of failure as much as eight times. Men's alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of their partner's miscarriage as much 38 times.6 Women who consume ten or more drinks a week during the week before conception have a two to three times greater risk of miscarriage. For men, the risk is from two to five times greater.7
Caffeine affects fertility through changing ovulation, menstual patterns, or sperm health. Caffeine consumption in coffee and teas lowers the ability to become pregnant. The greater the caffeine consumption, the higher the risk: 1 cup a day, 55% higher risk; 3 cups or more daily, 176% higher risk of infertility.7 Coffee drinking 2-3 cups a day is also linked to miscarriage.7
SUPPLEMENT IF NEEDED
Consult with your health professional to see whether nutritional supplementation (e.g. CoQ10) will be helpful if you are infertile.
- Folic acid. Health professionals recommend 400 to 800 mcg daily folic acid for both men and women. It can be somewhat helpful, especially when combined with zinc for sperm health in men with only mildly compromised sperm quality.8
- CoQ10 - Research demonstrates that CoQ10 improves sperm count and that intake from food alone may not be sufficient.9
- Vitamin E plus C reduces sperm DNA damage, and alpha-tocopherol, a type of vitamin E also improves sperm count.10
- Carnitine supplementation also results in positive effects on sperm motility and morphology.10
Paying attention to your diet by following the Mediterranean diet guidelines is a great way to prepare for pregnancy. We recommend the following:
- Fruits - every day, every meal (1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw)
- Vegetables - every day, every meal (1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw)
- Whole grains, potatoes, legumes - every day
- Dairy - 1-2 times a day, but limit cheeses, butter, high fat dairy
- Seafood - 2-3 times a week, favor wild-caught fish
- Poultry, Eggs - 2-3 times a week
- Seeds and nuts - 2 times a week
- Olive oil - daily
- Pure water - daily
- Meats and sweets - once a week, avoid processed foods.
- Favor organic fruits, grains, legumes and vegetables
Receiving acupuncture in addition to paying attention to diet improves your ability to become pregnant.11 Because you are bringing your physiology into balance through acupuncture it becomes easier to start - and continue - the lifestyle habits you want to enjoy.
1. N. Dessypris, M.A. Karalexi, et al, Association of maternal and index child's diet with subsequent leukemia risk: A systematic review and meta analysis, Cancer Epidemiology, April, 2017
2. E. Verduci, A. Martelli, et al, Nutrition in the first 1000 days and respiratory health: A descriptive review of the last five years' literature, April, 2017
3. M. Donazar-Ezcurra, et al, Soft drink consumption and gestational diabetes risk in the SUN project, Clinical Nutrition, February, 2017.
4. L. Chatzi, S.L. Rifas-Shiman, Adherence to the Mediterranean diet during pregnancy and offspring adiposity and cardiometabolic traits in childhood, February, 2017.
5. H. Klonoff-Cohen, P. Lam-Kruglick, et al, Effects of maternal and paternal alcohol consumption on the success rates of in vitro fertilization and gamete intrafallopian transfer, Fertility & Sterility, February, 2003
6. T.B. Henriksen, N.H. Hjollund, Alcohol consumption at the time of conception and spontaneous abortion, American Journal of Epidemiology, October, 2004
7. Yale University School of Medicine. Epidemiologic Reviews, Vol 14, 1992
8. M. Raigani, B. Yaghmaei, et al, The micronutrient supplements, zinc sulphate and folic acid, did not ameliorate sperm functional parameters in oligoasthenoteratozoospermic men, Andrologia, October, 2014.
9. B.C. Tiseo, A.J. Gaskins, Coenzyme Q10 Intake From Food and Semen Parameters in a Subfertile Population, Urology, April, 2017.
10. S. Ahmadi, R. Bashiri, et al, Antioxidant supplements and semen parameters: An evidence based review, International Journal of Reproductive Biomedicine, December, 2016.
11. S. Cochrane, C.A. Smith, et. al., Prior to Conception: The Role of an Acupuncture Protocol in Improving Women's Reproductive Functioning Assessed by a Pilot Pragmatic Randomised Controlled Trial, May, 2016.