Eating to prepare for pregnancy can mean improving how you eat a minimum of 4 to 6 months before you start trying to conceive.
An egg takes 150 days to fully mature in its ovarian follicle – which gives you a four month window to influence how well an egg develops.
But even if you don’t feel you have that much time to prepare whatever positive changes you make can quickly get results.
A diet rich in nutrient dense whole foods, unrefined, natural, and organic wherever possible will provide your body with the best possible ingredients to optimise your fertility.
It will also involve both of you. How YOU eat will improve your hormone balance, the quality of your eggs and the lining of your womb. How your partner ensures healthy sperm development. How they swim, how many there are, whether they’re strong enough to make it to the egg, break through the egg’s outer membrane and fertilise it. The combined health of both of you reduces your miscarriage risk and influences the genetic health of your child for the rest of his or her life.
A fertility diet looks very much like any healthy diet – it should be high on fresh, organic and unrefined whole foods, good quality grass-fed, organic or free range animal protein – fish, meat, dairy, plus nuts, seeds, pulses and beans; fresh fruit and vegetables and low in sugar, refined carbohydrates made from sugar and white flour, pesticides and preservatives, alcohol and excess stimulants like coffee, black tea and fizzy drinks.
Then there are basic common sense rules which help you keep stress and hormones in balance, deepen sleep and keep you detoxing healthily:-
- Start the day with a large mug of hot water and lemon to kick start your liver and your digestive juices.
- Never skip meals but especially not breakfast. Regular meals and snacks which are high in protein and low GI will help balance your blood sugar, your cortisol levels and your hormones. A diet high in sugary white refined flour, cakes, biscuits, pasta, coffee and skipped or rushed meals causes a roller coaster of high blood sugar, low blood sugar dips and high cortisol release. Weeks, months and years of poor blood sugar control leaves you tired but wired, anxious and can lead to short cycles, spotting, missed ovulation and hormone imbalance.
- Have a high protein breakfast before you leave the house. A breakfast protein smoothie – protein powder, berries, seeds or spirulina, kiwi, spinach and apple. Birchir muesli with oats, nuts, seeds, yoghurt and berries or eggs, avocado and tomato on toast.
- Have a snack mid morning and mid afternoon – handful of walnuts, almonds, brazils and a few grapes or an apple or hummus and oat cakes.
- Sit down for your meals, switch off your phone, your laptop and take time to relax, chew and digest.
- Take leftovers from the night before in to work for your lunch. Cook extra the night before to save time and give you both enough for lunch. Take a big homemade salad and/or soup into work.
- Have 7-10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Have a rainbow of fruit and vegetables a day. Salads, soups and smoothies can help you pack more in. Plants are full of antioxidants, phytochemicals and nutrients which help us detox, protects our sperm and eggs from oxidative damage and improves egg and sperm quality.
- Drink 1 ½ – 2 litres of filtered water or decaffeinated herbal teas a day. I coffee and a couple of black teas if you have to but always have them after breakfast with a protein snack or meal. We need to be well hydrated to eliminate toxins via the bowel and the kidneys and keep cells working optimally.
- Oils and fats are good for fertility. Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) help us make prostaglandins, hormones and the cell membranes of all cells, including sperm and eggs. Cell membranes need to be fluid so toxins are able to leave the cells and enzymes and hormones, in the case of eggs and follicles can trigger them to grow and release at ovulation. Good fats are MUFA’s and PUFA’s from seeds, nuts, coconut oil, olive oil and saturated fats from organic grass fed butter and best of all EPA and DHA from fish oil and oily fish ( SMASH – salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring) Try and have 3 portions a week.
- If you eat meat then organic, grass fed meat is good for you once or twice a week. Its rich in B12, iron, L-Carnitine, COQ10, zinc essential for sperm and female health. Meats which are processed or smoked like bacon and preserved like ham, salami, chorizo and some sausages should ideally be avoided.
- Exercise moderately 4-5 times a week for 20-25 minutes – a mixture of aerobic (run, spin class, swim) and relaxing low impact exercise (pilates, yoga, body balance.) Exercise relieves stress, improves blood flow to the pelvis, uterus and ovaries, improves how the body functions on all levels. However, over exercising will use up resources your body needs to prepare for pregnancy and to use to make hormones.
- Reduce stress – stress always wins. If we are over-working, over-exercising, eating irregularly and skipping meals or are juggling too many dilemmas the body will be in flight and fight survival mode rather than baby nurturing mode. Go to bed earlier, stay in more, spend more time in nature, sleep in, do less, create more space to attend to your needs, get more help, seek emotional support professionally if you feel overwhelmed either at home or at work.