Everyone wants to lose weight and hit the gym more in 2023. But what if you want to have a baby? We’ve created an easy-to-follow nutrition and fitness plan for women trying to conceive. Following these simple steps can improve egg health, reduce symptoms of PCOS, regulate ovulation, increase sperm count and motility, aid in conception, and boost overall fertility.
1. Make Fresh Fruits & Veggies a Priority
When excessive free radicals are present in the body, DNA damage to eggs can occur, while deterioration in the egg cell membrane can inhibit fertilization. What can put free radicals into overdrive? Factors such as alcohol, smoking, infection, excessive exercise or obesity. The good news is that the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables can quench free radicals and stop damage.
What to eat: Red beans, blueberries, kidney beans, pinto beans, cranberries and artichokes are some of the highest-ranking antioxidant foods.
How much: Eat at least three servings of vegetables per day, and aim for 2-3 servings of fruit per day. (1/2 cup = 1 serving)
Helpful tip: Use fresh or dried herbs while cooking, especially anti-inflammatory spices such as ginger, turmeric, clove, cinnamon and oregano.
2. Aim for 25% Protein & 40% Carbohydrates in Your Diet
According to a study, eating 25% protein in the diet can boost embryo development. Eating a diet comprised of 40% or less carbohydrates also increases pregnancy rates. If you have PCOS or fall outside of the normal BMI range, this information is
What to eat: With a daily caloric intake of 1800, women should strive for 113 grams of protein.
How much: One egg, three ounces of fish, two Tablespoons almond butter or one ounce of cheese all include seven grams of protein each.
Helpful tip: This will involve paying close attention to what you’re eating, and if you’re busy you may not have the time. Make your life easier by using free resources such as MyFitness Pal. With a huge database already full of food information, you can log your diet and let the system keep count of carbs and protein for you.
3. Boost Omega-3 Intake & Avoid Omega-6
While Omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) and Omega-6 (pro-inflammatory) fats are necessary for optimal health, an excess of omega-6 can reduce egg quality, lower egg production and limit reproduction. Elevated levels of omega-3 have been shown to improve embryo development and baseline estrogen levels. Making it a priority to focus on “healthy fats” will achieve heart and fertility health.
Omega-3: Fish oil, salmon, sardines, flax oil, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts.
Omega-6: Soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil. Products containing these oils are often processed foods.
4. Put Away the Processed Meats
The World Health Organization recently deemed processed meats such as bacon, sausages and hot dogs to be cancer-causing foods. Processed meats are now in the same category of cancer risk as tobacco and asbestos. Opt for lean, unprocessed protein options instead.
What to eat: Boneless and skinless chicken breasts, turkey cutlets, Cornish hens, salmon filets.
5. Strive for a Healthy Body Mass Index
Being overweight or underweight can alter hormone patterns and affect the menstrual cycle, throwing off ovulation and making conception difficult to achieve. Obesity has also been found to alter mitochondria function and increase oxidative stress, leading to reduced fertility and egg quality.
Work towards achieving a body mass index (BMI) between 19-25.
Not sure where you fall? Enter your height and weight into a BMI Calculator to find out.
6. Move Your Body for 30 Minutes a Day
Getting healthy involves eating right and being active. Make 30 minutes of physical activity per day a priority. That can come in the form of a walk with the dog, short run, 30 minutes on the elliptical or taking a workout class.
Think of it this way. There are over 10,000 minutes in one week. You only need to be active for 210 of them. That time commitment is equal to a few episodes of The Voice!
Helpful tip: Fitness trackers like FitBit can help keep you accountable to your fitness goals and measure progress, and you can create friendly “step competitions” with other members.
7. Quit Smoking and Cut Down on Alcohol
In a study of 221 couples undergoing IVF, female drinking during the year prior to treatment was associated with a 13% decrease in the number of eggs for each additional drink consumed.
Smoking is one of the most damaging fertility habits for men and women. Women who smoke require twice as many fertility treatments. Men aren’t off the hook either – smoking and alcohol can damage the quality and quantity of healthy sperm.
How smoking harms fertility:
- Decreased ability to conceive
- Damaged egg quality
- Lowered sperm count
- Decreased fertility
- Increased miscarriage rates
- Increased preterm delivery
- Hypertension during pregnancy
- Other obstetrical risks
8. Invest in These 4 Vitamins & Supplements for Fertility
This is one of the easiest ways to boost fertility and supplement your diet. You do not need to spend a lot of money on brand name products; the generic label at your local pharmacy will be just as effective.
Pre-Natal Vitamins optimize health in the context of pregnancy. Folic acid in the prenatal vitamin significantly decreases risk of neural tube defects in a pregnancy. They should contain folic acid, calcium, and iron, and ideally also have vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, zinc and copper. These are a must if you are trying to conceive.
Melatonin can boost antioxidants, encourage ovarian function and aid in sleep. This may be particularly important for night shift workers whose circadian rhythms are negatively impacted by the schedule shift. (3mg each evening)
Co Enzyme Q10 can boost mitochondria function as well as antioxidants, improving the quality of eggs. (200 mg, 3x daily) This vitamin can also boost sperm count and motility in men.
Fish Oil (EPA/DHA) can help produce higher quality eggs and help reproductive function in advanced maternal age. (1200-1500mg EPA + DHA daily, do not exceed 3000 mg/day)
You can watch Dr. Rodgers' webinar on boosting fertility naturally here.
As always, consult your physician before beginning a new health program.
Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron is a board-certified physician in OB/GYN and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Her personal practice philosophy stems not only from her clinical expertise but from her experience as a woman and a mother. She understands the importance of individualized, comprehensive infertility care.