22 January 2021

5 healthy foods that can help you get pregnant

Doctor
Medical Director
Cesar Diaz-Garcia
MD PhD Assoc Prof
IVI London

 

Who knew that what you serve up on your dinner plate could have a bearing on becoming a parent?

No amount of healthy fats, vegetables, or superfood smoothies can guarantee to get you pregnant, but it seems that what we eat really could have an impact.

When it comes to how to get pregnant, while no diet is going to guarantee a baby, it could be worth making some small tweaks to ensure that you include plenty of baby-boosting foods. Even during the most fertile days of your cycle, the likelihood of getting pregnant is still only 30 per cent. Whether you’re undergoing a fertility treatment or letting Mother Nature take her course, there are achievable changes such as boosting your intake of certain foods, alongside stopping smoking and maintaining a healthy weight that could tip the balance in your favour.

In this blog, we take a closer look at some of the foods you should be adding to your diet to maximise your chances of getting pregnant.

 

1. Fruit and vegetables

 

As they’re the basis of a healthy, balanced diet, it will come as no surprise that eating plenty of fruit and vegetables becomes even more important once you’re trying to get pregnant. Eating colourful fruit and veg is one of the best ways to get plenty of antioxidants in your body, including folate: the powerful antioxidant needed during pregnancy. Folate can switch off harmful free radicals that can damage both egg cells and sperm, with studies finding a higher folate intake is linked to improved rates of implantation, pregnancy and live birth.

Spinach also deserves a special mention. This leafy green vegetable is a powerhouse for pre-pregnancy nutrition. It’s packed with excellent sources of vitamin C and iron, as well as calcium, potassium and folate. Sufficient iron levels are vital during pregnancy, but also while you’re trying to conceive. Vitamin C is a key nutrient to help your body absorb iron from your diet, plus you can easily also load up on this vitamin with a diet rich in oranges, broccoli and peppers.

Vitamin C is not just for prospective mums either: it’s also a useful nutrient for dads-to-be as it helps to protect their sperm from oxidative stress, a leading cause of male infertility.

 

2. Red meat (in moderation)

 

Red meat is also a beneficial food to include in your diet if you’re trying to get pregnant. This is because eating red meat helps to ensure healthy levels of iron for women, which in turn helps to ensure you produce healthy eggs. For men, it’s the L-carnitine – of which red meat is the best source – that can boost fertility. This amino acid is vital for normal functioning sperm cells and can help enhance sperm motility.  

For both partners involved, there are strong links between iron intake and the chances of successfully conceiving. This is not an excuse to dine out on steak every night though – the NHS currently recommends eating no more than 70g per day.

Vegetarians don’t need to miss out on this fertility boost – foods such as pulses and pumpkin seeds are an excellent alternative iron source, while beans can help boost L-carnitine levels.

 

3. Complex carbohydrates

 

Eating more complex carbohydrates can help boost your fertility, but only if you’re switching from refined carbohydrates. Eating too many refined carbs – that’s sugary foods like cakes, biscuits, fizzy drinks and processed grains like white rice, pasta or bread – could hinder your efforts if you’re trying to conceive. These refined carbohydrates have a high glycaemic index (GI) which causes your blood sugar levels to rise. This in turn leads to your pancreas releasing insulin in the bloodstream.

Insulin and ovarian hormones are chemically very similar and the hormones produced are used by the body to help our eggs mature. However, if we consistently have raised insulin levels, it can prompt the body to produce fewer of the hormones needed for reproduction because it thinks the body doesn’t need them. With fewer of those reproductive hormones, it can trigger a drop in ovulation levels and egg maturation, meaning it could take longer to get pregnant.

Loading up on complex carbs like quinoa, wholegrain bread, lentils and beans will keep your blood sugar levels stable by breaking down into sugar at a slower rate.

 

4. Full fat dairy

 

If you have spent years reluctantly swapping creamy brie for half fat cheddar, or even cutting out dairy all together, then we’ve got welcome news. One study revealed that women who ate at least one serving of full fat dairy each week were 27 per cent less likely to have fertility issues than those who ate low fat dairy products. The team behind the research suggested that full fat dairy products contain higher levels of oestrogen, the hormone responsible for regulating fertility.

The same study even had encouraging news for ice cream fans: enjoying the frozen treat at least twice a week led to a 38 per cent lower risk of fertility issues compared to indulging in it once a week or less. However, you should keep in mind that it’s important for women trying to get pregnant to maintain a healthy weight and eat a balanced diet.

 

5. Fish

 

You may already know of the oyster’s reputation as an aphrodisiac, but did you know it’s also a top choice for men pre-conception? Oysters are naturally rich in zinc, which plays a key role in increasing levels of testosterone and sperm production.

In general, putting fish on the menu is a positive way to see your chances of getting pregnant improve. The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, mackerel and other oily fish help regulate the hormones which are responsible for inducing ovulation, as well as increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs. One study even found that eating more fish had a direct link with an increased likelihood of a live birth following fertility treatment. Follow the advice of the NHS and dine on fish twice a week.

 

At IVI, we’re here to help

 

At IVI, we’re here if you need a helping hand in becoming a parent. While changing your diet can have life-changing benefits for your health and can improve your chances of having a baby, it’s okay to need extra support too. Our friendly team are here to answer any questions you have about fertility – just contact us if you would like to make an appointment.

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