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
A common question asked in a new fertility evaluation is: “Which prenatal vitamin is best?” We have previously tried to provide some guidance in choosing the best vitamin. The ingredient list in your prenatal vitamin needs to be considered.
In particular, iodine is an often-overlooked but extremely important component that should be considered in a prenatal vitamin. Iodine is a mineral used by the body to regulate metabolism; it is also very important for brain development in children. It is often found in seafood, iodized salt, dairy, and some fruits and vegetables.
A new study shows that women who have low iodine levels take longer to get pregnant than women who have normal iodine levels.
Take home points:
- Iodine is important in pregnancy and when you are trying to conceive
- Boost your fertility naturally with iodine
- Make sure you are on a good prenatal vitamin
- Talk to your doctor about what levels of iodine are best for you
Bisphenol A (BPA) is commonly found in plastics and the majority of us are exposed to this hormone disruptor multiple times daily. We previously introduced BPA and the negative health impacts here. We know that BPA exposure when trying to conceive can negatively impact multiple aspects of your health, including your fertility and the likelihood of your children having health problems.
New basic science research is adding to our previous concerns about this endocrine disrupting chemical:
- BPA negatively impacts how an egg matures and egg quality by increasing DNA damage and oxidative stress. This study also shows the potential for the damage that BPA causes for mom to impact her future children.
- BPA can decrease sperm count in males and lead to neurodevelopment problems in their children. This study also was associated with increased obesity in female offspring.
What you can do:
- Switch to BPA free drinking bottles like those with a #5 stamped on them or use either glass or metal instead;
- Purchase soups and foods packaged in cardboard cartons or glass instead of the plastic lined cans;
- Hand wash plastic dishware with mild soap in warm water instead of using dishwashers for these products;
- Don’t place plastic ware in microwave ovens to warm;
- Express your support to companies that are voluntarily phasing out the use of BPA in their products.
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.
My goal as a REI is to help provide patients with the information they need to not only boost their natural fertility, but also to help them have a healthy pregnancy and to, ultimately, bring home a happy healthy kiddo. Those of you who know a family affected by autism, know how terrifying the condition can be. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, impaired verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior.
Autism is thought to develop during pregnancy. Many neurodevelopmental disorders, like problems with the baby’s spinal cord, are known to be impacted by maternal nutrition during pregnancy. New research suggests that what mom eats during her pregnancy may alter the risk of her child developing autism.
In this large study of over 270,000 mother-child pairs, women were screened for vitamin use and their children were followed to see if they developed autism throughout childhood. Maternal multivitamin use with or without additional iron or folic acid, or both was associated with lower odds of having an autistic child with intellectual disability in the child compared with mothers who did not use multivitamins, iron, and folic acid (odds ratio 0.69). This study suggests that maternal multivitamin supplementation during pregnancy may be something women can do to decrease their risk of having a child with autism.
What you can do:
- Take a prenatal vitamin when you are trying to conceive and throughout your pregnancy
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