At the initial patient visit, I try to learn about any special dietary restrictions my patients may have. A common diet is going “low carb” in an effort to lose weight. Emerging research, however, suggests that this could be dangerous when trying to conceive.
Folic acid is a vitamin that reduces the risk of having a child with a problem with it’s spinal cord, known as a neural tube defect. Folic acid is added to many common meals, like cereal, in order to fortify the food. Women who intentionally avoid carbohydrates, thereby consuming fewer fortified foods, may not have adequate dietary intake of folic acid.
This study found that women eating low carb had significantly lower dietary intake of folic acid. Women eating low carb were 30% more likely to have an infant with a severe neural tube defect such as anencephaly or spina bifida.
What you should do:
- Talk to your doctor about any special diets you have before trying to conceive
- Women should take a daily prenatal vitamin in addition to having a well-balanced diet while trying to conceive
Has anyone else noticed that just about everything is available now as “organic?!” Should we buy organic everything? I mean, Oreo’s?! How is that even an option? Is buying organic worth it?
Organic food refers to food produced with limited pesticides, fertilizers, and additives. Organic foods tend to be higher in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidant content compared to conventionally grown food. Conventionally produced food is associated with higher rates of various cancers compared to organic foods.
Organic food is usually more expensive than conventionally produced food. But is the cost worth it?
A recent study evaluated pesticide exposure in couples going to a fertility clinic. They found that the more pesticides a couple consumed, the less likely they were to get pregnant and bring home a healthy child. This finding was dose dependent: women with the highest pesticide exposure had the lowest pregnancy rates. This was true even though the couples were going through fertility treatments. This suggests that dietary pesticide exposure can be associated with difficulty conceiving.
Switching to organic products can also reduce your exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals and support beneficial practices for our environment.
What you can do:
- Buy organic produce whenever possible. Some products are more worth the cost than others. Consider being selectively organic to keep your budget on track.
- Just because something is labeled as “organic” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Organic junk food is still junk food.
- Buying organic doesn’t fix everything. Organic food has just as many calories as conventional food. And buying organic is healthy, but should not be used as a substitute for going to the gym.
Nearly 40-50% of couples who are having trouble getting pregnant have a male factor impacting their ability to conceive. Part of the evaluation includes performing a semen analysis, which measures how much sperm is produced. These results can help us learn if there is a male factor contributing to your infertility.
The majority of preconception counseling involves preparing a woman for a healthy pregnancy. I go even further and encourage your entire family to make positive changes to their nutrition when trying to conceive. Not only will you all become healthier, which will enhance your fertility as a couple, but you will also keep one another motivated because it’s hard work!
We have previously reviewed what guys can do to boost their fertility and improve their numbers on this test. A recent study adds to this: what you eat impacts your semen analysis results and, ultimately, how easy it is for a couple to conceive. Men who stick to a healthy diet were found to have more sperm and a greater number of swimming sperm. This suggests that men with poor sperm counts could potentially improve their numbers with their nutrition when trying to conceive.
So keep up the good work and continue to motivate one another to be the healthiest you can be when trying to conceive. Fertility and enhancing fertility is a team effort.
Anyone who has met me in clinic or has read this blog knows that I firmly believe that our diet and environment impact our health. The old saying of “You are what you eat” couldn’t be more true- what you eat absolutely impacts how we feel and our overall health.
New research is adding to this old saying- what you drink may be just as important as what you eat, when it comes to fertility.
This study looked at what couples drank during an IVF cycle and monitored their outcomes. They found that couples that drank more sugary drinks like soda did worse in IVF: fewer eggs and fewer good quality embryos.
The good news is that no associations were found between consumption of coffee or caffeine and IVF outcome. As we have posted before, caffeine gets a bad reputation without cause when it comes to fertility. Similarly, some of the decaffeinated beverages may actually be more dangerous than the caffeine itself. If you are interested in reading more about the risks associated with decaf, please check this link out.
Take home points:
- What you drink matters in terms of fertility, especially during an IVF cycle
- Avoid sugary drinks, especially during an IVF cycle
- It’s ok to keep drinking moderate amounts of caffeine during an IVF cycle
Unexplained infertility is a frustrating diagnosis and 15% of couples are affected by unexplained infertility. It means that despite undergoing all the costly evaluations, we don’t know why you are having trouble getting pregnant. Many cases of unexplained infertility are probably caused by the presence of multiple subtle factors, each of which on their own do not significantly reduce fertility, but reduce the pregnancy rate when combined.
Research is now suggesting that your nutrition could be a potential reason for unexplained infertility. A recent study compared women who had the diagnosis of unexplained infertility to women who conceived naturally. They found that women with unexplained infertility had significant abnormalities in their dietary habits. These differences ranged from minor imbalances in micronutrients to severe combined macronutrient and micronutrient imbalances. This study suggests that paying attention to your diet could potentially cure cases of unexplained infertility, improve IVF treatment, and even restore natural fertility.
What you can do:
- Take a daily prenatal vitamin to help your micronutrient balance
- Eat a well-balanced meal when trying to conceive
- Consider talking to a nutritionist for formal recommendations about your diet if you are concerned you may have an imbalance in your macronutrients
Good morning! I wanted to start of the week with a great resource.
There are hundreds of prenatal vitamins available. As we have previously discussed in the blog, it’s important to know exactly what is in your prenatal vitamin. For those of you who are still on the hunt for the best fit, consider checking out this website for detailed comparisons of the commercially available prenatal vitamins.
Wishing you a great week!
Probiotics have been all over the news recently and many of my patients ask me about them in our visit. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that may be beneficial to our health, especially our gut health. We are learning that our gut health can impact our overall health including health conditions like diabetes and autoimmune conditions. Emerging studies are demonstrating that what we eat can alters our gut health can impact our natural fertility.
A recent study provided the probiotic, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, to obese mice and found that the mice lost weight and had improved sperm function. This could mean that adding more probiotics to your diet, could help you boost your naturally fertility and help you lose weight, too.
I’m cautiously optimistic with this study. Improving obesity and sperm function in mice is not the same as improving sperm function in humans so more studies are needed to prove that this actually works. In the meantime, consider adding probiotics and pre-biotics to your diet. You will probably feel better, but it may help you get pregnant sooner, too.
For more information about probiotics, consider checking out this.