Pregnancy is a wonderful time in a woman’s life. Having a baby growing inside you is truly a magical experience. But for those who are trying to conceive, or those who are just thinking about it, there are some very important things that they should be doing for themselves, and their babies, before they ever feel that first flutter of a kick. Here you will learn all the information you need to create a pre-pregnancy diet plan that will help you conceive a healthy baby.
The Food-Fertility Connection
According to a pair of studies presented at the 67th Annual Meeting of The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), better nutrition does make a difference when it comes to conceiving. In a joint study by the Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Rochester and The University of Murcia in Spain, researchers showed that a diet that was rich in lean proteins such as fish, whole grains and vegetables produced sperm with better motility. This means that the sperm of men with a healthy diet could more easily swim toward the egg in the woman’s fallopian tube and fertilize it.
The second study, done at the Fertility Center of Massachusetts General Hospital found that men with a diet high in trans fat had a lower concentration of sperm than men with healthy diets. This means those with healthier diets could more easily conceive children because higher sperm concentrations mean the chances were better that sperm would reach the egg and fertilization would occur.
(To learn what foods to avoid, read 10 Surprising Foods With Trans Fats.)
What To Include
There are certain things that a woman should definitely include in her pre-pregnancy diet. Many of these elements should be continued throughout the pregnancy as well, because they help the baby develop properly.
- A rainbow of vegetables. Vegetables in every color of the rainbow are essential to a pre-pregnancy diet. Vegetables are rich in a number of different vitamins and nutrients, including folic acid which is essential to the development of baby’s brain and central nervous system. Other great vegetables include wild yams, which has been sown to increase fertility, and even produce multiple babies and berries of every variety. They are rich in antioxidants, which prevent cell aging, especially in eggs.
- Consume dairy products. Dairy products aren’t just good for Mom’s teeth and bones, but essential for the development of the baby’s as well. Dairy products are rich in calcium, but they aren’t the only ones. If a woman doesn’t like milk, she can get her calcium from fortified juice or even leafy green vegetables. Almonds and tofu have calcium as well. While trying to conceive, Mom-to-be should indulge in one service of full fat dairy per day. Some research suggests that the fat decreases the risk of ovulatory infertility. However, too much fat will just pack on pounds and interfere with fertility, so just one serving of full-fat dairy is the limit.
- Eat lean protein. Lean forms of protein such as chicken, turkey, and fish are essential for baby’s development. In addition, lean forms of animal based protein are rich in iron and research shows that women who are deficient in iron also have fertility problems. Women should limit animal protein to 3 servings per day, as research also shows that those who eat too much protein have lower rates of fertility. If a woman wants to eat more protein, or she is a vegetarian, she can consume plant based protein such as beans or quinoa, but she should make sure that her vitamin supplement contains iron.
- A good prenatal vitamin is essential, even when trying to get pregnant. Because a woman won’t know in advance when she’ll get pregnant, taking the supplement before pregnancy is essential. These supplements fill in the holes in a woman’s diet so that she can be sure her baby gets all the nutrition it needs right from the start.
What To Avoid
The foods to avoid when trying to conceive are the same ones that most people should avoid anyway because they are full of empty calories and other substances that present little if any value to mom and baby.
- Caffeine. Women should cut back on the caffeine while trying to conceive and throughout their pregnancy and after birth if they are breast feeding. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant and while a cup of coffee is fine in the morning, drinking pots of the stuff throughout the day is not a good idea for anyone. Too much caffeine can lead to dehydration and interfere with the absorption of vital nutrients that a baby will need in the earliest stages of life.
- Certain types of fish. Big ocean-dwelling fish that eat smaller fish such as shark, mackerel, swordfish and others should be avoided during pregnancy because they can contain elevated levels of mercury, which interfere with fertility and pose serious health problems to a growing baby.
- Alcohol. It is common knowledge that drinking and pregnancy don’t mix. Some doctors say that a drink or two every now and then won’t hurt an unborn baby, but the problem is that no one knows how much is too much, or when the damage to the baby occurs. So when trying to get pregnant women should just swear off alcohol altogether just to be safe.
- Junk food. Junk food, such as the kind found at convenience stores and in vending machines, should be avoided when trying to conceive. These things are loaded with refined sugars and starches as well as chemical preservatives that aren’t good for mom or baby.
(For information on foods to avoid while expecting, read What Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy.)
Maintaining A Healthy Weight
When a woman is trying to get pregnant she needs to maintain a healthy weight for a few reasons. First, if she is underweight she could have problems carrying a baby to full term and may experience problems during the pregnancy. If a woman is overweight, she could experience difficulties in getting pregnant as a result of polycystic ovary syndrome, which is common in overweight women, as well as experience problems with diabetes. If a woman is under or overweight, she should speak with her doctor or a registered dietician to stabilize her weight so she can have the healthiest pregnancy possible, both for her and her baby.