1. Improve your food intake: If you are TTC and have not yet taken a closer look at what you eat on a daily basis now is the time. Eating an overall healthier diet won’t guarantee that you will become pregnant however research is discovering promising evidence that good nutrition can have a very positive impact on increasing fertility and that goes for both women and men! The sooner you begin improving your food intake the better and starting before you even begin your TTC journey can put you well ahead of the game.
Improving your diet does not need to be a difficult task. Lucky for us, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) provides us with everything we need through MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. MyPlate is an online concept that offers dietary recommendations, nutrition education, up-to-date information, personalized eating plans and interactive tools to help you plan and asses your food choices based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. I’ll bet you didn’t even realize you had all of this right at your fingertips!
You don’t need many “special” guidelines to follow while trying to conceive you just need to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all of the food groups and cuts out the majority of the unhealthy foods.
· Eat a good daily balance of fats, carbs and protein and shoot for the recommended goals for each.
- Go for the healthier fats such as monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega-3 fats.
- Choose more complex carbohydrates and whole grains instead of refined grains and sugary foods.
- Eat lots and lots of fruits and vegetables with an array of varieties and colors.
- Get brave and try adding more plant proteins to your diet. Be sure that the animal proteins you choose are leaner versions.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- The key is to make changes to your diet slowly and remember that you are human and don’t have to be perfect all the time. Eating healthy most of the time will help get you the results you are looking for.
2. Avoid certain foods: Though there are not too many specific guidelines to follow when you are trying to conceive besides eating a healthy and well-balanced diet there are some foods that are sometimes best to stir clear of. This is because many women don’t know they are pregnant right away so if you are actively trying it is best to avoid some of the same foods and/or beverages that you need to avoid once you become pregnant such as alcohol, sushi, raw eggs, soft cheeses and to limit others such as caffeine and fish high in mercury.
3. Get the nutrients important during pregnancy: To get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy it is vital that your body receives the proper nutrition it needs. Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet will help ensure you get all of the nutrients that are important to getting pregnant and being pregnant. However, just to be sure many doctors recommend a prenatal vitamin/mineral supplement to account for days you don’t eat right and for the extra amount of some vitamins and minerals you need during this time.
One important nutrient that is extra important during TTC and pregnancy is folic acid. Getting the recommended amount of folic acid daily can help to reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects such as spina bifida as well as other types of birth defects. You need plenty of folic acid stored up for when you do become pregnant so starting well before hand is imperative. Another key nutrient is calcium. Babies start to form bones and teeth early on so the more you have stored up and ready the better.
There is a good reason we need iron in our diets. When you get that friendly visitor every month, a good majority of your iron stores are depleted in the blood you lose. If your menstrual flows are heavy, you will lose even more iron. Ensuring you have adequate iron stores before conceiving will give your body a chance to replenish those stores before they are needed during pregnancy. While pregnant your need for iron increases quite a bit to match your increase in blood volume. Always check with your doctor before taking any supplement, as some can be toxic if taken in excess amounts, especially if you become pregnant.
4. Stay hydrated: Staying well hydrated is a good tip before, during and after pregnancy. Drinking enough fluids, especially water, has loads of health benefits but can also carry a few fertility benefits as well. Drinking enough water while you are trying to conceive can help to increase the quality and amount of fertile cervical fluid that is essential for successful conception. It is this fluid that carries the sperm to meet the egg so needless to say; the more you have of it the better your chances of becoming pregnant. In addition, since most of us don’t know we are pregnant right away, drinking lots of water during the TTC phase is a good idea. Keep in mind that when you increase fluids you need to choose the right type of fluids. Water is your best choice! Stay away from beverages high in sugar and/or caffeine as well as alcohol.
5. Reach and maintain a healthy body weight: Being at a healthy body weight doesn’t only benefit your health but it can benefit your fertility. It may not be a “nutrition tip” per se but it is what we do or don’t put in our mouth that most of the time has a big impact on our body weight. In fact excess body fat or not enough body fat can both make it more difficult to conceive, not impossible, but more difficult. The key for both problems is taking the necessary steps to reach and maintain a healthy weight the smart way.
If you are overweight a crash diet is the last thing you want to do. This can rob your body of the essential nutrients you need to get pregnant and maintain a healthy pregnancy. If you are underweight eating the wrong foods to gain weight will also tend to rob your body of essential nutrients. Your best bet is a healthy diet and good old exercise, which works for both cases. If you are having problems getting to a healthy body weight your best bet is to see a registered dietitian, who is the expert in this area!
If you want to learn more about how your nutritional intake can impact your chances of trying to conceive check out, Tell Me What to Eat If I Am Trying To Conceive. You will find information on the process of conception, how to reach a healthy weight for TTC, the best diet rules to follow, the answers to your most burning questions on TTC and diet as well as information on unproven remedies for conception and alternative therapies to try. Last but not least you will find some great recipes and meal plans to help you get started on your journey!
Kimberly A. Tessmer, RD, LD, is an author and consulting dietitian in Brunswick, Ohio. Her books include the upcoming July release Tell Me What to Eat If I am Trying to Conceive, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Mediterranean Diet, and The Everything Nutrition Book. Kim currently owns and operates Nutrition Focus , a consulting company specializing in weight management, menu development, and other nutritional services. In addition, Kim acts as the RD on the board of directors for Lifestyles Technologies, Inc., a company that provides nutrition software solutions that develop a wide array of nutritionally sound menu templates.