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A fertility-friendly diet

Bryn Mawr Hospital June 14, 2016 Wellness Articles

The benefits of a healthy diet are far-reaching, and can affect both your mental and physical health. But did you realize that what you eat could also being affecting your fertility?

Although there are many factors that play into a woman’s fertility, one that can be managed—and addressed prior to conception—is good nutrition.

“It’s good to get into the routine of eating a healthy diet before you are pregnant,” says Catherine Bernardini, DO, Chief, Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Bryn Mawr Hospital. “You want to provide your child with the healthiest possible environment to grow and develop during your pregnancy, starting from conception.”

But the benefits don’t stop at baby—keeping a healthy plate and maintaining a healthy weight can be good for mom, too. Good nutrition can ward off pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and high blood pressure.

So, what should you have in your cabinets if you’re trying to conceive? Dr. Bernardini offers her suggestions below.

Folic acid

A pregnancy staple, folic acid is especially important in the weeks following conception. The nutrient helps prevent neural tube defects, which affect the brain and spine. You can get folic acid from dark, leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard, or romaine lettuce, or from folic acid supplements recommended by your OB/GYN.

Iron-rich foods

One of the leading causes of infertility is anovulation, a disorder in which women may or may not menstruate. Women who do menstruate may not release eggs for ovulation. Although treatment of anovulation can vary, one of the ways to stimulate ovulation is a diet that incorporates iron-rich foods. Look for beans, eggs, whole grains, and cereals fortified in iron. If necessary, your Ob/Gyn can recommend an iron supplement.

Trade out trans fats

Research has found that anovulation is also common among women who have a diet rich in trans fats, the type of fat you find in fried and packaged foods like doughnuts, French fries, and other vending machine goodies. Of course, cutting out all fat won’t do your diet any good, either. Instead, turn to monounsaturated fats, or “healthy” fats, like avocado, nuts, and oils to keep your diet healthy.

Full-fat dairy

If you’re used to skipping full-fat options of your favorite dairy products in favor of low-calorie ones, now’s the time to halt that habit. Opting for whole milk, yogurt, and even ice cream that are rich in calcium can assist in iron absorption, as well as help your growing baby develop strong bones and teeth.

Don’t get too comfortable with full-fat, though. Aim for 8-12 ounces of full-fat dairy per day to maintain your health without gaining excess weight.

Choose complex carbohydrates

Good news: You don’t have to completely cut carbohydrates from your diet when you’re trying to conceive. Instead, switch out refined carbs for complex ones. That means less white bread, white rice, and sugary snacks and more whole grains, fruits, vegetable, and brown rice. Unlike refined carbs, which can cause a spike in insulin levels, complex carbs keep insulin levels stable and take longer to digest, which can help you feel fuller longer.

Before you begin any diet, talk to your OB/GYN about what your specific nutritional needs may be.

Main Line Health’s team of obstetricians offer complete, family-centered care for women with normal and high-risk pregnancies, which includes monitoring and testing during pregnancy. Learn more about our Ob/Gyn services and find a physician in your area to help you navigate your pregnancy and diabetes safely.