What type of diet helps fertility?

Diet and lifestyle important
for conceiving. What diet
and lifestyle is best?
A Loyola University expert has some tips on how women can boost their chances of getting pregnant by eating the right diet. It's also important to manage your weight, says Brooke Schantz, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN.

Mediterranean diet best for fertility

According to Schantz, women who eat a Mediterranean diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, vegetable oils and beans have a higher chance of conceiving. 

Eating the right foods can enhance a woman's fertility, so Schantz has the following nutrition tips:
  • Consume healthy fats like avocados and olive oil that are monounsaturated fats
  • Avoid trans-fats and saturated fats
  • Focus on vegetable protein and reduce your intake of animal protein
  • Make sure you get plenty of fiber from whole grains, fruits and vegetables
  • Eat foods with plenty of iron that can be found in legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds and whole grains
  • Take a women's multivitamin
  • Consume high-fat dairy instead of low-fat
Weight management important if you want to start a family
It's also important to watch your weight. Schantz points out many women who are trying to get pregnant are either overweight or underweight that accounts for 30 percent of infertility problems according to the National Infertility Association.

Losing just 5 percent of body weight can boosts a woman's chances of getting pregnant. Being underweight or overweight affects hormones that interfere with ovulation.

What about men?
Schantz also reminds us that men can also be infertile from low sperm count and poor quality sperm.
 “Men who are looking to have a baby also have a responsibility to maintain a healthy body weight and consume a balanced diet, because male obesity may affect fertility by altering testosterone and other hormone levels,” Schantz said in a press release.
According to the Mayo Clinic, 10 to 15 percent of couples have trouble getting pregnant after a year of trying, and 90 percent of couples will become pregnant with or without any treatment.

When to see a doctor
If you and your partner have been trying to get pregnant for at least a year without success it may be time to talk to your doctor.

However, if you are a woman age 35 to 40 and have been trying to conceive for six-months or more, see a doctor sooner. 

Women should also see their doctor for irregular or no menstruation that could signal hormonal imbalance or other reproductive health issues. 

What causes infertility?
In many cases the reason for infertility is never discovered. In one-third of cases there is a problem with just the male and in one-third of cases it's the female who is infertile. 

Men can having low sperm count or poor quality sperm from:
  • Being overweight
  • Undescended testicles
  • Genes
  • Diabetes
  • Sterility from having had mumps
  • Diabetes
Pesticides from the environment, physical defects such as retrograde ejaculation that causes sperm to enter the bladder and premature ejaculation can also make it difficult to conceive. 

Any injury or infection can also interfere with getting pregnant.

Causes of female infertility include:
  • Abnormalities of the cervix or uterus
  • Ovulation problems such a polycystic ovarian syndrome (POS), eating disorders and excessive exercise
  • History of pelvic infection from sexually transmitted disease can lead to scarring of the Fallopian tubes that inhibits the release of eggs during ovulation
  • Endometriosis that interferes with how the ovaries and Fallopian tubes function
  • Early menopause before age 40 that can happen from unknown causes
  • Scars in the pelvis from previous surgery such as appendectomy
  • Some medications
  • Thyroid dysfunction
Other reasons couples may have trouble getting pregnant include alcohol and tobacco use. 

Choosing a Mediterranean diet, regular exercise for weight management, maintaining normal weight - for both partners or underweight for women - are all ways to boost your chances of getting pregnant. The Mediterranean diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and healthy fats and fiber is recommended for women trying to get pregnant.

Mayo Clinic