The causes of infertility involve many factors including lifestyle-related, such as eating habits, weight, physical exercise, consumption of alcohol etc., which care affect the fertility of either partner. A nutritious, varied, and balanced diet which consists of whole foods, vegetables, fruit, lean meat, fish, quality dairy and fats will provide the necessary macro and microelements involved in optimising the reproductive capacity of both partners.
Research into the relationship between nutrition and fertility has demonstrated that certain dietary choices can improve general health as well as reproductive ability:
- limiting the consumption of trans fats found mainly in processed foods
- limiting the consumption of sweetened beverages and of products with high sugar contents
- increasing the consumption of green vegetables to ensure adequate intake of folate
- integrating intensely coloured vegetables and fruit in one’s diet to ensure adequate intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
- adjusting portion sizes to ensure adequate caloric intake and prevent metabolic disorders which may hinder conception
Also, nutrition intervention can help with reaching optimal body weight, because being either underweight, overweight or obese is a type of health imbalance which may affect reproductive capacity.
Our health is greatly impacted by our diet. In the context of planning a pregnancy and during the pregnancy itself, adequate nutrition promotes the harmonious development of the foetus. Correcting nutrition deficits, improving eating habits, and reaching optimal weight prior to the pregnancy (losing or gaining weight, depending on the case) can be the focus of nutrition counselling and intervention in the preconception period.
Nutrition before pregnancy
Nutrition in the preconception period is based on the principles of healthy, balanced eating, such as the consumption of whole grains, fruit and vegetables, lean meat, eggs, dairy products, and unsaturated fats. However, there are several essential differences with regard to the dietary intake of certain vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, folic acid, iron, calcium. These are not only generally necessary but play specific and important roles in the harmonious development of the foetus and the health of the mother during pregnancy.
Nutrition during pregnancy
Nutrition during pregnancy follows the principles of healthy eating. During this time, the mother’s diet must provide adequate energy in order for the body to meet the needs of the pregnancy and of the growing foetus. The energy requirements during the first trimester are generally the same as for women who are not pregnant, but they increase during weeks 10 to 30 of gestation, when the growth of maternal and foetal tissue is at its peak. To ensure adequate energy supply, nutrition recommendations will take into consideration the weight and body mass index of the mother, as well as her level of physical activity.
Improving dietary habits
When we talk about improving dietary habits, we refer to a balanced eating behaviour which includes adequate intake of macro and micronutrients, adequate hydration, optimal intake of fibres, as well as eating regular meals and observing the need for the digestive system to rest in between meals.
Reaching optimal body weight
Both excess and insufficient body weight can be obstacles in the way of obtaining and maintaining a pregnancy. The maternal weight, the pregestational body mass index, and the weight gain during pregnancy are directly involved in the progression of the pregnancy, as well as in the growth and development of the foetus.