Have you thought about how healthy your diet is, before trying to fall pregnant?
Many factors can influence fertility, including your age, genetic factors, stress levels, weight, alcohol intake, smoking habits, poor nutrition and even environmental factors. A healthy diet can positively impact fertility and is something that is totally under your control.
Make positive changes a few months before trying to conceive, to ensure you are at optimal health. There is evidence that nutrition plays a role in both male and female fertility, and it’s therefore important that both you and your partner focus on healthy eating. Whilst an overall healthy diet is indicated, there are some nutrients that have a greater impact on reproductive health, such as folic acid, Vitamin E and other antioxidants. This is a good time to stop smoking and limit your intake of alcohol to small quantities. Once pregnant, it is very important for women to abstain from drinking alcohol and smoking.
In addition to eating a healthy diet, men should take an antioxidant supplement which contains the nutrients folic acid, lycopene and Vitamin E to help improve the quality of sperm.
When congratulations are in order and you have fallen pregnant, it is important to look after your diet very carefully because your baby will be relying on you for an optimal start to life! Your body will have an increased requirement for energy and nutrients from foods, in order to assist the growth of new tissue and to increase your own blood volume. The increased blood volume helps to carry nutrients to the baby and to carry waste products away.
Here are some more specific guidelines for you to follow before and during pregnancy:
- Iron helps to form red blood cells. A lack of iron will lead to anaemia and cause extreme tiredness. Iron is found in red meat, pork, chicken, liver, eggs, spinach, dried beans and dried fruit. If you are a vegetarian it’s important to have more of the non-meat sources. It might be necessary to take a supplement if your iron levels are low – discuss this with your doctor or dietician.
- Vitamin C helps to increase the absorption of iron from food, so eat foods high in vitamin C together with food high in iron. Sources of foods high in vitamin C include oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, fruit juice, guavas tomatoes, green and red peppers, broccoli and cabbage.
- It is VERY important to take a folic acid supplement, especially as it will help prevent any spinal defects in your baby. You should take a supplement that provides a minimum of 400 micrograms of folic acid per day (you can take up to 800 micrograms). Eat more food that’s rich in folic acid such as spinach, cabbage, broccoli, dark lettuce, avocados, nuts and wholegrain cereals.
- Calcium is important for the development of strong bones. You will need extra calcium in your diet, as it will be taken from your own bones for your baby’s development if there is not enough! You need the equivalent of a litre of milk daily –but try to include a variety of low fat milk, yoghurt, cheese, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and tinned sardines or salmon with the bones.
- Essential fatty acids promote healthy nerve and brain development in your baby. You need a combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in sesame and sunflower seeds and oils.
- Fibre helps to control bowel movements. Digestion slows down during pregnancy to allow the gut to absorb more nutrients, which can lead to constipation, so include more fibre and water to help prevent this.
Good high fibre foods
Foods to Avoid
- soft, mouldy cheese such as brie, camembert or Roquefort raw meat and raw fish (sushi). Always rinse and cook foods well and eat foods before the expiry/ best-before date.
Dealing with discomforts during pregnancy
- Nausea is common during pregnancy and for this it may help to try eat small regular meals during the day. Many moms-to-be find it helpful to eat dry biscuits upon waking. You can also try drinking fresh ginger tea, ginger ale or diluted apple juice. If you are vomiting a lot, a liquid supplement may help. Ensure that you are drinking enough fluid at all times so that you don’t become dehydrated.
- Heartburn is also very common. To help prevent this, eat small, regular meals. Avoid extremely spicy foods. Milk often helps soothe heartburn or, alternatively, discuss a suitable antacid with your Doctor.