Food, Fertility and You
Nutrition has a big impact on easy or hard it is for someone to become pregnant. Being overweight (link to weight management page) or underweight can disrupt fertility hormones, lack vitamins and minerals can delay conception and lack of protein can leave the body without the basic materials it needs to allow a pregnancy to go ahead. Once you are pregnant, your baby uses nutrients already in your body for about the first 3 months – so preparing your body for pregnancy by eating well is crucial. We work with women to get the best balance of the key nutrients needed for conception and pregnancy.
We will assess your diet to see what you might be missing and we will advise you on the foods and supplements you need. We work with women to get to a healthy weight, whether you need to gain weight or to lose it. Being a healthy weight is particularly important for fertility treatments like IVF. You can check if you are a healthy weight here (link to are you a healthy weight page). If you are trying to become pregnant it is best to have a BMI between 20 and 25.
Why is a Healthy Weight so Important?
Being a healthy weight is very important in boosting fertility. The hormone oestrodiol, which is needed for ovulation, is produced by fat cells as well as ovaries. Too little fat on your body and you don’t make enough oestrodiol to ovulate, too much fat and the levels of this hormone become too high. Getting to a healthy weight is very important, especially if you have been having difficulty conceiving. However, if you need to lose weight, make sure you do it carefully. A crash diet can mean a loss of nutrients along with your weight and this can make conceiving even harder! Working with a qualified dietitian means that you can lose weight whilst making sure you are still getting all of the nutrients you need.
Fathers & Fertility
For centuries fertility or lack of it was seen as woman’s problem, but male factors have as big an impact as female ones. Poor diet in men can lead to poor quality sperm and low sperm counts. Overweight fathers are less likely to successfully father a child and alcohol and smoking in potential fathers does reduce fertility. For the best chance at becoming pregnant – or for a healthy pregnancy, men need to look after their weight and nutrition just as much as women.
Almost everyone has heard of the importance of folic acid in a healthy pregnancy –yet hardly anyone takes it at the right time. Folic acid reduces your chances of having a baby with spina bifida by more than 70%. However, you need to start taking folic acid 14 weeks before conception. As many pregnancies are unplanned, the Department of Health recommends that sexually active women take 400mcg of folic acid everyday, whether they are planning a pregnancy or not. Many women don’t start taking folic acid until after they are pregnant – and this is better than nothing – but for the best benefit start taking it as soon as you start thinking about having a baby – or just take it all the time.
Folic Acid – How much?
Most women need 400mcg (micrograms) of folic acid per day for a healthy pregnancy. However, where there is a family history of spina bifida (on either side) or if you are obese, (link to are you a healthy weight page) you need to take 5000mcg of folic acid per day as you are at an increased risk of having a baby with spina bifida. You will need a prescription from your GP for the high dose folic acid. Start as soon as you think about becoming pregnant.
Coeliac disease is a common cause of infertility and is linked to a difficulty in becoming pregnant as well as a higher risk of miscarriage. 1 in 100 people in Ireland are coeliac but many do not know that they have it. We recommend that you and your partner are tested for coeliac disease before you come to see us.