All About Fertility

Sterility and Infertility - "Diet and Infertility"

A bad diet can affect fertility, and both men and women should try to eat healthily if they are trying to have a baby. Instead of concentrating on particular types of food, it is best for couples to aim for overall good nutrition.

A variety of foods from all the food groups, low in fat and with a high nutritional value, will ensure that couples get all the necessary vitamins and minerals for optimum reproductive function. These are lifestyle changes which should be made before you try to become pregnant, and which should be maintained throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Remember that “more” does not always mean “better”, and that you should not overdo it. For example, an excessive amount of vitamins or minerals could make fertility levels decrease. In the same way, a diet which is low in calories, a deficiency of nutrients and being overweight can all jeopardise ovulation.

diet

Caffeine

In women: research has shown a correlation between high caffeine consumption and difficulties in getting pregnant. If giving up coffee altogether is too difficult a task, try to limit your consumption to two or three cups per day and/or think about swapping to decaffeinated coffee. Remember that fizzy drinks and chocolate also contain caffeine.

Calcium

  • In women: although women are generally aware of the importance of calcium for many medical reasons, it is possible that some do not know about the role that calcium plays during pregnancy.
    For pregnant women who do not get enough calcium in their diet, the foetus takes it from their bones, which can be damaging to the mother’s health later on. After a woman becomes pregnant, her baby needs calcium for its bones, teeth, nerves, muscles and heart.
  • In men: a study has shown that daily consumption of 1000 milligrams of calcium and 10 micrograms of vitamin D can improve male fertility. Good sources of these are yoghurt, skimmed milk, calcium-enriched orange juice, cheese, rice and tofu.

Folic Acid

Women who do not ingest enough folic acid are at greater risk of having a spontaneous miscarriage and of their child having birth defects. It is important that women who are trying to get pregnant take sufficient folic acid (400 micrograms or 0.4 milligrams) before they become pregnant, as the foetus needs folic acid from an early stage in order to avoid nerve sheath deficiencies.

Some good sources of folic acid are: leafy green vegetables, chicken liver, calf liver, lentils, asparagus, papaya, broccoli, hard-boiled eggs and wheat germ. Women should also think about taking dietary supplements or multivitamins which contain folic acid.

Vitamin C

A healthy and varied diet, which contains enough fruit and vegetables, is important for health in general. A Vitamin C deficiency in men’s diet can contribute to decreased sperm fertility.

Zinc

  • Women: pregnant women with very low levels of zinc may be at a greater risk of having a miscarriage, a longer pregnancy and prolonged labour. An additional advantage of zinc is that it helps to prevent stretch marks.
  • In men: low levels of zinc, even for a short period of time, can reduce semen volumes and testosterone levels.
  • Good sources: there are very few foods rich in zinc, except for oysters. Beef, seafood – including fish, shellfish and crustaceans – lamb, toasted wheat germ and miso all contain zinc; but a good prenatal vitamin supplement will provide the required zinc.

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