Nutrition for preconception health
29th March 2019
When it comes to fertility, nutrition and BMI are important foundations for preconception health. In this blog we set out the science behind nutrition before conception and what you can do.
Why is preconception nutrition important?
Nutrition and BMI are very important building blocks for fertility and preconception health. You may be surprised to know that maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do to boost your fertility and health, and can improve your chances of conceiving.
We also know that a high BMI is linked to an maintaining a healthy weight Therefore managing your BMI before conception is an important. It’s also not recommended to go on diet while you are pregnant This is why its best to loose weight before conception.
If you have a high BMI, try not to worry too much or be too hard on yourself. It can be difficult to loose weight, and you need to do it with the right support. maintaining a healthy weight can help improve fertility health. If you’re trying to conceive why not look at it as a fresh start? And an opportunity to build in new healthy habits.
Being underweight can also impact fertility. Having a low BMI can cause your periods to become more irregular or stop all together. This impacts ovulation. If you’re underweight putting on weight can help re-start your periods.
How does nutrition affect fertility?
Our approach is based on the diet advocated by the researchers behind the Nurses’ Health Study. This study examined the effects of diet and other lifestyle changes on fertility among 20,000 female nurses, and was a landmark long term study led by professors and clinicians at Harvard Medical school. Women in the study who followed three or four of the recommendations suggested in the Fertility Diet were 66% less likely to have problems conceiving than women who didn’t.
The recommendations don’t require you to completely overhaul your diet to get pregnant. The Adia approach, based on science, doesn’t focus on ‘fertility superfoods’ or banishing any dietary demons. Instead, built from key building blocks, it offers a balance of healthy choices. For example, more fruits and vegetables, good fats, good sources of carbohydrates, healthy protein and smart drink choices.
There are also a number of vitamins and minerals that are crucial for a healthy pregnancy, including Folic Acid and Vitamin D. Folic Acid reduces the risk of the baby developing neural tube defect. Neural tube defects are problems with the brain or spinal cord, including spina bifida. Vitamin D boosts both the mother’s and baby’s bone and muscle health.
What foods should I avoid for fertility?
Trans fat – Trans fat can be found in any product containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. This includes many solid margarines, vegetable shortening, most commercial baked goods, and most fast foods (many products that once contained trans fats are now available in trans-free forms).
Alcohol – There is no known safe level of alcohol in pregnancy. Given you won’t know you are pregnant for a couple of weeks, it’s best to avoid alcohol completely.
Easily digested carbs – White bread, pasta, rice; sugared sodas; cakes, doughnuts and pastries; pizza; potato crisps, corn crisps, chips.
Want to know more? Join Adia to access our fertility nutrition plan.
Pre pregnancy diet and exercise plan
Katie, our nutritionist from King’s College London, has designed our approach to nutrition based on the latest research. Here we set out some of our top tips.
- If your BMI is normal (between 18.5 and 24.9), it’s still really important to maintain a healthy lifestyle – this includes focusing on eating a healthy balanced diet, reducing alcohol intake and exercising regularly to maintain your BMI while you’re trying to conceive.
- If your BMI is high (more than 30), start off by reducing your calorie intake by 500 calories a day. Next, think about how you can make some swaps to include foods good for fertility, for example by replacing saturated fats with healthy (monosaturated fats) with alternative toppings or sides to your meals for a healthy fertility diet plan. It’s also helpful to exercise regularly, around 3 times a week.
- If your BMI is low (below 18.5), try to gain weight gradually by making some healthy food swaps. Try not to focus on increasing your intake of unhealthy foods such as sugar, chocolate and cakes – but plan for your meals to contain some carbohydrates such as wholegrain pasta or rice, potatoes or bread, opting for full-fat versions of dairy or making homemade smoothies. If you’re worried about your weight speak to a GP or a registered dietitian as they’ll be able to provide you with more detailed advice. You can also get support from Adia’s nutritionist.
Regular exercise is also important. Aim for:
- at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week and
- strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles.
Have you tried yoga? Read our blog post on the benefits of yoga for mental health. Remember to do something you enjoy!