Eating Right while Trying to Conceive
When we were diagnosed with infertility I went on a mission to “get healthy.” It’s not that we were that unhealthy to begin with; things like Oreos and potato chips rarely made their way into our home. But there was the coffee all day long… and the home made chocolate chip cookies… and the total lack of fresh fruits and veggies in our diet… and all the pastas and breads we ate… so I figured there were some changes we could make that might help us.
These are the things I came across in my personal study. Now mind you, I’m not a medical professional and most of my work was done via Google, so read this article with a grain of salt. I do have to say, however, that as we incorporated these things into our diets we began to feel better over all, and six months after our diagnosis, we conceived our baby without medications or the IUI we were supposed to have.
The first thing on my list that I needed to cut out was caffeine. I was drinking five to six cups of it a day, sometimes more. The research I found was inconclusive; some articles stated that caffeine does indeed hamper a woman’s fertility, other articles said that nothing had been proven.
Two things clinched it for me however. Although research couldn’t agree, there seemed to be more pointing towards the fact that caffeine consumption affected fertility treatment in a negative way in studies of women undergoing IVF. In addition, there were links to caffeine intake and risk of miscarriage. It made sense that once I began IUI’s and became pregnant, I would cut back on my coffee anyway, so I might as well start pre-pregnancy.
I replaced my coffee with green tea. Old habits die hard. Somehow, my day just couldn’t get off to a good start unless I had some sort of hot beverage. I had heard here and there about the benefits of green tea and did some more reading on it.
Nothing I read told me that green tea was the secret for our infertility. However, as I approached our infertility with a whole body mindset, not just a reproductive organ problem, it really clicked with me that green tea was a great thing to incorporate into my diet, just because of the health benefits overall.
It’s kind of confusing as to why it’s so beneficial for our bodies, but in short, it contains a powerful antioxidant called Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Much of what I read told me that it was more powerful than Vitamin C and had up to 25 times more benefits for my body than Vitamin E (two supplements we will look at in a minute). Every time I turned around I was hearing about the need for antioxidants, so I thought, “Well, why not? I have nothing to lose by drinking it.” So it became a part of my morning routine.
In my search for health, I thought soy was the way to go — until my fertility specialist went through the roof to find I was drinking soy milk. I can’t remember all she told me, nor the specific name she had for the substance in soy that she pinpointed as the problem, but she stated that studies have shown that soy affects women’s hormones in a negative way.
To be objective, many other articles state that soy does not affect women’s hormone levels at all, though studies are inconclusive about affects on pregnancy and unborn babies. Because I trusted my fertility specialist and because there was doubt, I decided to cut out soy.
Next on the list were my beloved carbs. I needed to take a second look at my breads and pastas. Like the green tea, there wasn’t a specific link between processed foods and refined sugars and our inability to get pregnant. Instead, it was a whole body approach. The articles on this particular topic are absolutely fascinating (well, I find them to be anyway) but sometimes confusing. The gist of what I read was, the more foods are processed, the less nutrients they have in them.
I read that getting back to basic foods (that is, foods that didn’t need a lot of man’s involvement in order to be made edible) were better for me. That included whole grains, beans, and legumes; nuts; fresh fruits and vegetables; and natural sweeteners like honey. Although I didn’t fully understand how it worked, we found that when we got away from processed foods and switched to more “earthy” foods, we felt more energy throughout our day.
Lastly, I researched supplements that were good to take for those experiencing infertility. I think this was the most fascinating information yet in my whole research process.
My diagnosis was almost non-existent progesterone, which meant no ovulation, but should it occur, inability to keep a pregnancy. Although I am in recovery from anorexia and have maintained a healthy weight, there was still not a lot of “healthy fat” on my body either, which is what helps hormone levels. So, with my fertility specialist’s knowledge, I began to incorporate the following supplements into my diet:
Essential fatty acids. These came in the form of flaxseed oil or cod liver oil and seeds and nuts. I did see a weight gain of 5 lbs, and it was difficult for me, but worth it in the end when we got pregnant.
Zinc and magnesium seemed to be linked to egg reproduction and healthy hormone levels, so I started taking those. I was careful with the zinc, though, because too much zinc can be dangerous for your health.
Vitamin E was largely touted as necessary for a women’s reproductive health because of it’s antioxidant affects. It also neutralizes free radicals in the body that contribute to tissue damage, and promotes a healthy circulation system.
For my husband, whose diagnosis was low count and motility, I was shocked to learn that doses of Vitamin C, B-12, and Zinc could raise his numbers. Vitamin C was also a good source of antioxidants for him. He also took Vitamin E for this, as well as for the overall benefits that come from taking it. We never re-tested his numbers after we gave him these supplements, but obviously something helped!
Like I stated at the beginning, none of these suggestions are concrete fact. They are suggestions only, based on personal research and experience. If you want to pursue this further I would encourage you to do two things:
One, do your own research on all these things, either by way of the Internet or by reading books such as The Diet Cure. (Note: The Diet Cure does not address infertility, but it does address the role foods and supplements play into our bodies as a whole).
Two, speak with your doctor about what you read and come up with and get sound medical feedback. It is always wise to take supplements with your doctor’s knowledge and counsel, especially when going through fertility treatments!
In the end, some diet changes may not directly affect fertility, but they will affect your overall health. When you look at it that way, there’s really not much to lose when you decide to incorporate healthy eating into your diet. Instead, you’ll gain more energy, more alertness, and a sense of well-being that comes from taking care of yourself. Hopefully, you’ll also gain a baby!