Should I change my diet while I am seeking a pregnancy?

One of the first steps to think of when starting to seek a pregnancy is to enrich your diet with nutrients that improve your fertility, reduce your risk of developing preeclampsia and diabetes, and improve the baby’s health in the womb and right from the start.

Starting early while pregnancy-seeking will make it much easier for you to naturally continue eating well once you are pregnant.
Here are the nutrients which are key to our fertility and health, based on the most recent epidemiological studies:

Vitamin D3 regulates certain receptors in the ovaries and endometrial lining (the womb cavity lining). Low levels of vitamin D seems to increase the risk of pregnancy loss. A daily amount of 1000 IU (25micrograms) are needed prior to conceiving and during pregnancy.

Carbohydrates: These are contained in grains (spelt, oats, rye, wheat, rice, buckwheat, etc), bread, pasta and potatoes. Wholegrain carbohydrates have a known antioxidant effect and improve sensitivity to insulin, therefore boosting fertility. Carbohydrates are an important source of energy and folate for your baby’s brain development and health. Scientific studies have shown that following a low-carb diet during pregnancy may increase the chances of having a baby with serious birth defects.

Folic acid: The recommended dose for prevention of fetal anomalies such as spina bifida is 400 micrograms daily to be started three months prior to conceiving. Taking folic acid in multivitamin supplements also seems to reduce the time to conceive.

Inositol: Inositol promotes ovulation and regulates insulin function. You can find good sources of inositol in wholegrain cereals, nuts, citrus, liver and meat.

Calcium and minerals: Calcium is essential in maintaining optimal fertility and for the normal development of the teeth and bones of the baby. 1500mg of daily intake can be found in milk, yoghurt, cheeses such as cheddar and parmesan. You can find calcium in almond milk, broccoli, kale, almonds, raw sesame seeds, white beans and oranges. Magnesium, zinc and selenium help regulate the hormonal balance, egg quality and male fertility.

Protein: While seeking a pregnancy as well as during pregnancy it is important that every day you eat 2-3 portions of protein, one portion of which based on legumes, nuts and vegetables. Protein-rich foods are black beans, chickpeas, lentils, fish, seafood such as crab and prawns, chicken and lean meats.

Nutritional tips while seeking a pregnancy:
Snack bars that contain over 20% of sugars, juices/fruit smoothies and sweets should be avoided, as the high sugar contents can interfere with fertility. Opt for a selection of nuts as a snack, as this will give you an energy boost and excellent nutrients to support your fertility.
Eating more vegetables (2 portions daily) and fruit (3-4 portions daily in between meals) will help you have a good intake of vitamins, minerals, fiber and natural antioxidants.
If you are following a vegan, vegetarian or a restrictive diet, please reassess this with a Registered Nutritionist in order to improve your nutritional intakes with regards to fertility and pregnancy.

Never skip meals while pregnancy-seeking or pregnant: fertility and the hormonal balance need all the nutrients that come in from all three balanced daily meals.

Practice good food hygiene: Food poisoning is especially dangerous when you’re pregnant. Some foodborne illnesses can affect your baby’s health even before you conceive.

Avoid contaminants: For example, methylmercury, a metal found in some seafood including albacore tuna, swordfish, king mackerel and shark, can harm a baby’s developing nervous system even before conception.

Avoid coffee, tea and green tea (matcha): Caffeine contained in coffee and tea seems to increase the chances of pregnancy loss. Drink plenty of water and avoid all alcohol, as it damages the baby’s health.

Avoid all alcoholic drinks: Any amount of alcohol during pregnancy can harm the baby’s brain development. This includes beer, wine and soft alcoholic beverages.

A balanced mediterranean diet, with a high intake of vegetables, fruit, fish and olive oil supports fertility. Supplements that are normally taken before conceiving and during pregnancy are unable to offer all nutritional elements that are found in food, due to the differences in bioavailability and, sometimes, also in the inaccurate label declarations. Micronutrients that are naturally found in foods are more efficiently absorbed.

The amounts of calories in your diet should not cause overweightedness nor obesity, as overweightedness is a known cause of ovulation anomalies and a reduction in fertility outcomes, as well as increased chances of pregnancy complications and fetal anomalies. Aerobic physical activity, for instance 60 minutes daily of brisk walking, is highly recommended also while seeking a pregnancy in order to maintain a healthy weight.

Contact Dr Richard Mackenzie our Metabolism Physiologist to assess your metabolic health and reach a healthy weight prior to seeking a pregnancy.
Contact Dr Giada Frontino, our Consultant Gynaecologist, to book a face-to-face or a virtual consultation.