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Fertility Diet & Lifestyle

The Fertility Diet: Healthy Lifestyles to Help Achieve Pregnancy


            When a couple makes the decision to have a child, sometimes things do not “go like clockwork”.  Although some couples may need to seek medical help to conceive a pregnancy, there are some simple changes in both diet and lifestyle that may help.


Diet: Many of these guidelines can be continued as practice for a healthy body.


o       Eat your fruits and vegetables.  These have nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

o       Carbohydrates: Change your carbs to whole grain.  These last long and won’t give you a sugar crash.  Also, curb the amount of sugar in your diet including high fructose corn syrups.

o       Fat: Decrease your transfat intake.  However, high fat dairy products may actually increase a woman’s fertility.

o       Protein: Some studies indicate that women who get there protein from plant versus animal sources have better fertility.

o       Caffeine:  Small amounts may be ok.  However, if you drink or eat a lot of caffeine it can be linked to infertility.  Try to limit it to 1 drink (8oz) per day.


Break the Bad Habit: I’m sure this is common sense.


o       Alcohol: Not a good idea when you are trying to conceive.  In fact, woman who have 7 drinks or more per week have decreased fertility and more chance of miscarriage.  This also applies to men if they drink more than 20 alcoholic drinks per week.  My advice would be to stop completely.

o       Tobacco: Time to quit.  Not only can tobacco decrease your ability to become pregnant it can also have negative effects on the fetus if you do become pregnant.  Babies born to mothers who smoke throughout pregnancy may be born too small since the nicotine can block blood flow to the pregnancy.  It can also lead to even more devastating effects like heart defects and placental abruption.  Men also have negative effects on fertility from tobacco, both smoking or chewing.  Tobacco can decrease the number of sperm, cause sperm to form misshapen or prevent sperm from moving properly.

o       Marijuana and other illicit drugs:  Not only can these have negative effects on pregnancy similar to tobacco, they can also lead to an infant being born addicted to the drug.  Just say “No”!


Lifestyle: Exercise, weight, stress management and activities to avoid.


o       Exercise: Moderate exercise is always the best form.  This can include aerobic and weight training which elevates your heart rate to work in the fat burning zone.   There are many resources for finding out your target heart rate. 



o       Exercise that is excessive can lead to amenorrhea or a lack of periods and ovulation.

o       Sedentary lifestyles can also lead to irregular cycles or prevent ovulation.  For men, inactivity can decrease the number of sperm created.

o       Weight: This goes hand in hand with exercise.  High weight can prevent ovulation for a woman.  Sometimes a weight loss of only 5-10% can help a woman restart a regular menstrual cycle pattern.  For a woman that weights 200lbs, a weight loss of 10 to 20lbs may be sufficient.  However, women who begin a pregnancy at an ideal body weight are able to lose their pregnancy weight easier after delivery.

o       In men, being overweight can decrease sperm count.  Additionally, being overweight can lead to erectile dysfunction (the inability to get or keep an erection) in men.

o       Low weight can cause stop periods in women.

o       The goal should be to have a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 20 to 24.  There are online calculators available to check your BMI.



o       Stress: This can affect the hormones that drive the ovulation cycles of a woman and may lead to irregular periods.  When a couple is struggling to become pregnant, stress levels can become quite high.  The couple should seek out coping strategies to reduce stress which may include: exercise, massage, acupuncture, relaxation, yoga and/or meditation.

o       Other Activities: Men should avoid activities which may cause the temperature of the testicles to be increased.  These include hot tubs or hot baths, saunas or excess bike riding.



Hopefully making some small changes in you and your partner’s lifestyles can help you become pregnant.  However, if you have been trying to become pregnant for 1 year (or 6 months if you are 35 or older), it is time to seek medical assistance.  Talk to your health care provider about evaluating you and your partner’s fertility.


Written by Cyndi Ayoub, WHNP

March 23, 2010