16 Lifestyle Tips to Help Boost Fertility
16 Lifestyle Tips to Help Boost Fertility
If you are currently looking for some pre-pregnancy advice to optimise your chances of conception, you are in the right place. The foods you choose to eat during this time can have a big impact on your fertility (positive and negative), so it is important to know which foods are natural fertility boosters (and which ones aren’t!). Additionally, we’ll explore lifestyle changes that can play a role in optimising fertility. This blog aims to provide you with valuable tips to (hopefully) improve your journey to conception.
Why is nutrition and lifestyle important for fertility?
As the saying goes, we really are what we eat. Our diets and nutrition impact almost all of our body’s processes—all the way from our metabolism to our mental health. But one often overlooked area is how food can impact our fertility.
When trying to conceive, you’ll need a high-nutritional diet, not only to help increase those chances of conceiving but to create a healthy home for those vital first 9 months of your baby’s life.
The good news? Making small changes to your lifestyle and nutrition choices can go a long way. Here are 16 evidence-backed tips from our Registered Nurse and Associate Nutritionist, Emily Moreton to help prepare your body for pregnancy. You can also book an appointment with a Hertility Nutritionist for a personalised plan.
1. Follow a Mediterranean style diet
Whilst there are no specific guidelines for a recommended fertility diet, the Mediterranean diet, known for its abundance of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and healthy fats, is associated with improved fertility in both women and men. It is rich in antioxidants which have been shown to protect sperm and eggs from DNA damage and oxidative stress.
A study involving 15,396 participants, which looked at how different diets affect fertility, showed that sticking to the Mediterranean diet improved birth and pregnancy rates significantly, with a 91% higher chance of success.
This diet is also high in fibre and rich in vitamins and minerals that support fertility and pregnancy. Think lots of veg, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, olive oils, avocados and oily fish. Oh, and make sure to make your plate colourful to boost your antioxidant intake, which we’ll go into next.
2. Eats foods high in antioxidants
Eating a diet rich in a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables can provide a wide range of antioxidants that support fertility and overall health.
Foods high in antioxidants include fruits (such as berries, apples, and citrus fruits), vegetables (such as broccoli, spinach, kale, and carrots), nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
3. Increase intake of plant-based proteins
In general, you should focus on lowering your intake of red and processed animal meats and
focus on adding plant-based protein sources into the diet, such as fertility-friendly and micronutrient-rich beans, lentils, peas, soya beans, and chickpeas to support healthy ovulation. Plant-based protein sources are high in antioxidants and nutrients, such as iron and fibre, which are really important during pregnancy.
Low iron levels can add to your tiredness or even could cause iron deficiency anaemia. Iron deficiency during pregnancy can increase the risk of pregnancy complications. It is also important to keep your iron uptake up postpartum too, to replace any iron lost at birth.
You can switch your animal meats out for plant-based proteins such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu and nuts and seeds and you’ll also find some protein in whole grains such as quinoa If you are opting for plant-based meat alternatives (‘fake meats’), such as Quorn, a choose a brand that is not ultra-processed and low in additives
4. Cut down on sugar
Cutting down on sugar can be beneficial for fertility due to its impact on reproductive health, including hormonal balance, insulin sensitivity, and inflammation.
Limit sugary foods and high glycaemic index foods (i.e. cakes, biscuits, fizzy drinks, energy drinks, sweets, white rice etc). Check the labels for high sugar content as sugar can cause spikes in insulin which is associated with poor egg quality and sperm production and could affect implantation
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2018 found that women who consumed two or more servings of sugary drinks per day had a 50% higher risk of ovulatory infertility compared to those who consumed less than one serving per month.
Excess sugar consumption can interfere with normal ovulation and menstrual cycles. Reducing sugar intake and opting for a balanced, low-glycemic index diet can help improve insulin sensitivity and overall reproductive health.
5. Take pregnancy supplements
Folic acid: Folic acid is an important supplement during pregnancy because it decreases a risk called neural tube defects (a defect that can occur during the development of the baby’s brain and spine). If you are currently trying to become pregnant, it is advised to take at least 400 mcg of folic acid supplement every day for 12 weeks prior to conception and for at least three months after conceiving.
Some people are at an increased risk of their baby having a neural tube defect and so it is advisable to speak with your doctor as they may recommend and prescribe you a higher dose.
Prenatal Vitamins: Prenatal vitamins typically contain a combination of various vitamins and minerals that are important for both maternal and fetal health. While folic acid is a main component of prenatal vitamins, these vitamins usually contain a range of other nutrients as well, including iron, calcium, vitamin D, and other essential vitamins and minerals needed to support maternal health and the baby’s development during pregnancy.
Tip: More often than not, doctors will suggest taking prenatal vitamins instead of just folic acid supplements because they cover a wider range of needs for both mum and baby’s health. However, it’s essential to consult with your doctor to determine the most appropriate approach for your unique needs.
6. Vitamin D for pregnancy
A previous study has shown that both men’s and women’s vitamin D levels impact fertility and IVF results. It showed that Vitamin D supplements reduce risks for mums and babies, might prevent bone problems, and play a role in fetal development.
How much Vitamin D should I take?
It is recommended that all adults at all stages of life should supplement with 10 micrograms a day of Vitamin D. This is particularly true if you are trying to conceive, or you are pregnant so be sure to supplement right through from the preconception period to breastfeeding.
Prenatal vitamins often contain vitamin D, but the amount can vary between different brands. While many prenatal vitamins include vitamin D, it’s not uncommon for them to provide less than the recommended daily intake.Whether you need an additional vitamin D supplement will depend on various factors, including the dosage of your prenatal vitamin supplement, sun exposure, and your doctor’s recommendations. To determine if you should take a separate vitamin D supplement along with your prenatal vitamins consult with your doctor and determine the above factors.
7. Vegan supplements
If you’re on a strict plant-based diet, speak to a healthcare professional about supplementing with at least 10mcg of vitamin B12, 150 mcg of iodine and omega-3 PUFAs since you can only get these micronutrients from animal products. You’ll also want to make sure you’re getting enough selenium, so consider supplementing with 60 mcg per day. Lots of these nutrients will be found in prenatal supplements, which can also be a great option.
Tip for taking any supplements: Make sure you check the ingredient lists of anything you are taking and check in with your doctor or a nutritionist/dietician to ensure that you are not taking more than your recommended daily allowance.
8. Avoid pregnancy ‘red flag’ foods
Some foods to avoid for fertility include:
- Raw shellfish, meat, and fish, as well as swordfish, marlin, and shark due to their high mercury content. This includes sushi.
- Unpasteurised cheeses carry a higher risk of containing harmful bacteria, such as Listeria, which can lead to infections and potentially harm the developing fetus. Unpasteurised cheeses include brie, camembert, feta, and gorgonzola (you can check the label on the cheese to clarify).
- Eggs that lack the British Lion stamp have not been subject to strict safety controls, which increases the risk of Salmonella.
- Cured meats, such as prosciutto and salami, may contain harmful bacteria or parasites that can be harmful to both you and the fetus during pregnancy.
- Additionally, it’s wise to limit your intake of vitamin A. High levels of Vitamin A are commonly found in liver and pâté. So avoid these foods too.
9. Avoid excessive alcohol intake, smoking and recreational drugs
Alcohol and fertility
You should try to completely cut out alcohol when trying to conceive. Moderate to heavy drinking can impact egg production and disrupt ovulation, making the chances of conceiving a lot harder. Drinking alcohol during the ‘two-week wait’ can also decrease the chances of falling pregnant at that time.
Smoking and Fertility
The risk of infertility in smokers is 41.8% more likely, compared to those who do not smoke. Studies have shown that smoking can lead to reduced ovarian reserve, hinder embryo implantation, and increase the risk of miscarriage in women. Smoking can also disrupt hormone regulation, causing irregular menstrual cycles.
In men, smoking is linked to decreased sperm quality, count and mobility. Therefore, individuals trying to conceive are strongly advised to quit smoking to improve their chances of a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Recreational Drugs and Fertility
This study concludes that the use of recreational drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and other substances can disrupt the balance of hormones and affect the uterus – which can lead to irregular menstrual cycles and ovulation issues in women. For men, recreational drugs often result in lower sperm count and quality, reduce testosterone and impair various aspects of sperm function.
It’s crucial for those aiming to conceive to avoid recreational drug use to protect their reproductive health and give their body a fertility boost.
10. Swap to decaf
It’s a good idea to lower your caffeine intake as much as possible when trying to conceive and during pregnancy. Caffeine is a strong stimulant which can cause harm to a foetus and may increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, and stillbirth.
Keep caffeine limited to no more than 200 milligrams a day. As well as being found in teas and coffee, caffeine can be found in fizzy drinks, energy drinks, and even chocolate bars. Look out for caffeine in your food products by checking out the nutritional information.
11. Be active (moderately)
Exercise is brilliant for keeping our hormones happy, but like everything in life, it’s all about balance. If you’re doing high-intensity training (marathons for example) be mindful that you’re adequately fueling your body, as excessive exercise without proper nutrition can disrupt our hormones too. Most importantly, find a form of exercise you really enjoy and move as often as you can.
Great moderate exercises for those who are trying to get pregnant include: Walking, running, yoga, pilates, cycling, swimming, and strength training.
12. Maintain a healthy weight
Eating healthy and exercising regularly are important to maintain a healthy weight.
Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to work out if your weight is in a healthy range. Although it is not the perfect way to measure your weight because it can’t tell the difference between fat, muscle or bone, it is still one of the most widely used measures.
Maintaining a healthy weight is important when trying to conceive as having a very high or low BMI is associated with difficulties when trying to conceive as it could cause hormonal imbalances and ovulation issues along with increasing the risk of pregnancy-related complications.
13. Focus on getting good quality sleep
Focus on getting good quality sleep. In general, seven to nine hours of good quality sleep is essential for just about everything, including regulating our hormones. Try to reduce your screen time for up to an hour before bed and prioritise going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.
14. Cut out as much stress as you can
Whilst our lives are full of unavoidable stress, try to control what you can. On top of stress being literally the worst for our health in general, it can also disrupt our eating habits, as well as the menstrual cycle. It’s time to put yourself first, shake off all of those things that aren’t serving you, and consider trying out some meditation, yoga, journalling or mindfulness.
15. Ditch your frying pans for a steamer
Poaching, stewing, steaming, and even microwaving your food are much healthier cooking methods that can actually lower your levels of oxidative stress. Too much oxidative stress can damage both eggs and sperm—so keep your frying, roasting, toasting, barbecuing or grilling to a minimum.
16. Don’t forget about your partner’s diet too
If you’re planning a baby with a male partner or doing shared motherhood, get your partner to focus on their nutrition and diet too to optimise their fertility and health. Their fertility is just as important as yours in creating a baby.
And that’s a wrap – So there you have it. Follow these fertility nutrition tips and you’ll be well on your way to boosting your chances of conception. We know that making changes to your diet and lifestyle might feel a little overwhelming and it can be hard to know where to start.
Our Fertility Nutritionists and dieticians can offer you personalised support to help you pre-conception and during pregnancy, to balance hormonal symptoms and more.
And that’s a wrap
So there you have it—follow these fertility nutrition tips and you’ll be well on your way to boosting your chances of conception.
We know that making changes to your diet and lifestyle might feel a little overwhelming and it can be hard to know where to start.