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Frequently Asked Questions About Diet And Fertility

By Hillary Wright, Med, RD, LDN, Director, Nutrition Counseling, Domar for Mind/Body Health


The most comprehensive way to determine what, if anything, you could be doing to ready your body for pregnancy is to meet with a nutritionist for a full assessment and individualized recommendations, but the following are some frequently asked questions.


Are there certain foods that enhance fertility?

Although it would be wonderful if solving fertility issues were as simple as eating more of certain foods, research has pointed more towards the importance of looking at the diet as a whole and whether it plays a role in managing any fertility related health problems such as using diet to manage insulin resistance in polycystic ovary syndrome.


Is it ok to take herbs when you're trying to get pregnant?

Despite being "all natural", some herbs have hormonal effects on the body and so can't be assumed to be safe. It also can never be known how herbs and infertility drugs may interact with each other when they're present in your system at the same time, for example, if a herb and drug are processed through the same pathway in the liver, the possibility exists that some herbs may have the ability to either delay or accelerate the rate at which your system processes the drugs.


What kind of dietary supplements should I be taking, or is safe to take, when I'm trying to get pregnant?

A basic multivitamin with minerals containing at least 400 micrograms of folic acid should be considered mandatory when trying to conceive ideally starting several months before conception - to lower the risks of having a baby with a neutral tube defect. Some physicians recommend a prenatal diet during this time; in some situations, higher levels of folic acid specifically are recommended. It's also ok to take calcium supplements and fish oil capsules for conservative dose of around 500 milligrams of combined DHA and EPA, the two omega-3 fats in fish oil capsules is reasonable. Once you become pregnant, an omega-3 supplement made specifically for pregnancy and assured to be mercury-free such as Expecta Lipil (www.expectalipil.com) should be used. Doses of vitamin A form supplements should be limited to no more than 5000 iu's due to a potential increased risk of birth defects.


Is there anything my husband should be doing to enhance his fertility?

Men's sperm quality May benefit from taking a multivitamin with minerals. Research has also correlated being overweight or obese with lower fertility rates.


How do I know whether I should see a nutritionist?

Anyone with a diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) should see a nutritionist, as the underlying cause in the vast majority of cases is insulin resistance, for which diet modification and exercise are the primary treatments. Anyone who is overweight may also benefit from the support of a nutritionist around weight loss, as being overweight is known to increase infertility and for managing any underlying sub-clinical insulin resistance, which may be present in any woman with a body mass index (BMI) over 30, even if they don't have a full diagnosis of PCOS. Anyone who is significantly underweight or has a history of an eating disorder should also benefit from a visit to a nutritionist, as with anyone who is just interested in finding out if they're doing everything they can to eat healthfully.


What about alcohol? Is it ok to have an occasional glass of wine, a beer or cocktail?

Because alcohol crosses the placenta and regular use is known to potentially affect fetal development, the American college of obstetrics and gynecology recommends alcohol be avoided in the preconception phase. Whether a small amount of alcohol taken on occasion will cause a problem in the preconception phase, is a matter of debate and should be discussed with your fertility doctor.


What about pineapple? Should I be eating after embryo transfer to thicken my uterine lining?

Despite the existence of a very small body of research looking at the subject dating back to the late 1950's and early 1960s and the Urban legend associated with eating pineapple for the bromelain cited on infertility blogs and chat rooms, scientific evidence that it affects implantation is lacking. Having said that, pineapple is good for you so there's no downside to including it in your diet during this time.

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