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
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.
Changing your habits is HARD– it’s hard to change what you eat, to make time for regular exercise, and to prioritize your well-being. But it’s absolutely worth it!
So many patients with infertility tell me they feel powerless and hopeless. I want to empower you to believe that there are some things that you can do to boost your fertility. And it starts with taking care of yourself.
Your weight is very important for your health and your fertility. So important that we have discussed it here, here, here, and even here. It’s a recurring topic on the blog because it’s important and it is, unlikely your age, something that you can change.
A study was recently published that the hard work that is needed to lose weight is worth it. Women who consumed fewer calories and started exercising were much more likely to lose weight, ovulate on their own, and get pregnant compared to people who didn’t make these changes. A combination of fewer calories by reducing fat and refined carbohydrate intake, and increased aerobic exercise is the cornerstone of healthy weight loss.
What you can do
- Do something, ANYTHING for exercise 30 minutes, 5 days a week.
- Consider using a fitness tracker or pedometer like FitBit
- Schedule your workouts when nothing will interrupt your session. Make your fitness a priority.
- Take a closer look at your diet and what you can cut out easily. Consider an app like MyFitnessPal.
- Start by eliminating refined carbohydrates found in juices, sodas, and sweets
- Don’t get discouraged. Any step is a step in the right direction.
- Talk to your doctor for more information about local support groups and fitness programs in your area.
We are learning more and more about the important role that Vitamin D plays in terms of our fertility. We have previously discussed the role of vitamin D and your sleep/wake cycle in terms of optimizing your health. Recent studies have added to this to demonstrate just how important Vitamin D is when trying to conceive.
Vitamin D may improve your ovarian reserve, a marker of how many eggs women have compared to others their age. Vitamin D may help support your ovarian function.
Similarly, women with higher vitamin D levels, are more likely to conceive than women with low vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D may also be important for treating hormone imbalances, particularly if you have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). If you are undergoing fertility treatments like IVF, Vitamin D may even help decrease your risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) and prevent dangerous complications from OHSS.
Why not consider taking a vitamin D supplement to boost your fertility naturally?
What you can do:
- Ask for your vitamin D level to be checked annually when you are trying to conceive
- Consider starting a supplement of at least 2000 IU of vitamin D to help support ovarian function
- Target a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level of >50 nmol/L to enhance your fertility
We have previously reviewed the negative impact that chemicals in plastics may be having on our health and fertility. One of the best ways that we can reduce this exposure is in our kitchen. When food is stored or heated up in plastic, the dangerous chemicals can leach into the food that we ingest. These chemicals can then interact with our endocrine system and cause disease.
When I first started considering my exposure to plastics, it felt like an impossible uphill battle. By starting in my kitchen, the task of reducing plastic exposure felt more manageable. I started by removing all plastic storage containers and making sure that we do not heat up food in plastic.
Here is a quick article that I thought I would share to help reduce your plastic exposures at home in the kitchen. I hope this helps you find reasonable solutions for limiting your plastic exposure in your home.
“If the benefits of better diet came in a pill, it would be hailed as a medical miracle.”
I spend a portion of each new patient visit evaluating diet and lifestyle. Since I started asking, I’ve been surprised by how many patients have confided in me that they are willing to try something new and want to change. I believe that as your doctor, I have the responsibility to share with you the evidence that diet and lifestyle absolutely can work for or against you in terms of fertility. I also believe that one of the most important parts of my job is helping families become the healthiest they can be BEFORE conceiving.
I want to be honest. I’m not perfect and I would never pretend to be. My family members love meat- including (gasp!) hot dogs! Being vegetarian is challenging, especially when kids and working parents are involved. I get it. My goal is to make my family as plant -based as is reasonable. I hope that it will work, but I also recognize that the benefits of a plant-based diet are not “all or nothing.” Any change is a step in the right direction. And I absolutely will not shame or judge you if this doesn’t work for your family. With that, I encourage you to consider learning more about plant-based diets and whether it might be something you would be willing to try. It can’t hurt, but it may help enhance your fertility naturally and reduce your risk of a number of medical problems.
If you are interested in learning more, here are a few links to evidence-based resources that sold me on plant-based.
I would love to hear from you. What is the biggest challenge in your family that prevents you from going plant-based? Have you tried being vegetarian? What worked? What didn’t? What are your favorite plant-based meals to help convince my family?
Obesity is a major risk factor for problems conceiving and pregnancy complications. Obesity is a potentially modifiable risk factor, meaning this is something that you can change to improve your chances of getting pregnant, having a healthy pregnancy, and having a healthy kiddo. This subject is so important that I thought I would blog about it again.
In December, our blog brought you new data that revealed that people that used low-calorie sweeteners in their lifetime were more likely to be obese than those who didn’t use these sweeteners.
Today, we want to caution you even more about using these sweeteners. Researchers have found that women who drank at least one artificially sweetened beverage per day during pregnancy had children who were more likely to be obese by the time they turned 7 years old. These findings suggest that artificially sweetened beverages during pregnancy are not likely to be any better at reducing the risk for later childhood obesity than sugar sweetened beverages! So these patients may have been drinking the diet version without any measurable benefit for their children; diet versions may have actually lead to harm! Interestingly, substituting a glass of water for a sweetened beverage reduced their children’s obesity risk by nearly 20%!
I am always cautious in interpreting data, particularly when it comes to weight because we know that so many other factors could influence children’s weight gain (Ex: physical activity, etc). Although the data doesn’t prove that maternal artificially sweetened beverage consumption caused children to gain weight, the data is strong enough for me to counsel my patients to avoid drinking any drinks with artificial sweeteners when pregnant.
Take home points:
- Limit using artificial sweeteners during pregnancy
- Consider trying some of these more natural sweeteners; note that there are limited long-term studies of these alternatives in pregnancy.
- If all the natural sweetener options are overwhelming, stick to the basics: a cold glass of water!