Pre-Pregnancy Diet

Eating for fertility

Want to make a baby? Then it's time to look at your diet

If you're hoping to conceive in the near future it's time to start eating well. Why? Because it turns out your diet can directly affect your fertility levels. That's right - every little morsel that passes your lips either impairs or improves your body's baby-making ability.

But before you start to strip your cupboards bare, take heart: there's no need to panic, and the last thing we want you to do is start an overly strict diet. We're simply talking a few dietary adjustments here and there.

It's pretty much common knowledge that you need to eat healthily once you fall pregnant. But the truth is that if you want to optimise your fertility levels and your chances of producing a healthy baby your eating plan should begin a few months before you conceive.

"A woman's diet is of enormous importance during, but also before pregnancy," says dietitian and Mother & Baby magazine expert Kate Di Prima. "In fact, the nutritional status of the mother at the point of conception can have a profound influence on the health of the baby during the fetal stage, and far beyond."

For starters, you need to tuck into three well-rounded meals a day. Those three meals should include five servings of vegetables and two of fruit, preferably organically grown and free of pesticides.

It might seem obvious but one of those meals should be eaten at breakfast time. If you've never been a breakfast-eater, now is the time to change your ways. Eating first thing in the morning will help stabilise your blood sugar throughout the day and also help keep your appetite under control, says Dr Christiane Northrup, author of Mother-Daughter Wisdom (Piatkus, $45). That's important, as being significantly overweight or obese can have an impact upon fertility.

Nutritionists also recommend mums-to-be include a source of protein with each meal. Great sources of protein are meat or fish, eggs, hard cheese, all legumes, skim milk or tofu. It's best to choose wholegrain foods where possible, instead of the more refined ones such as white bread and any other foods prepared with refined flour and/or sugar. And - surprise, surprise! - when it comes to the dessert trolley, it's best to take it easy. The same goes for alcohol and coffee; even small amounts of alcohol can interfere with fertility, Kate Di Prima says, adding that too much caffeine can have a negative impact on conception time.

If you want to raise your baby-making chances, take a look at foods that get you in the mood.

One of your best options is the oyster. Sure, they're not for everyone, but if you and your bloke can manage to suck down a couple you'll be glad you did, because oysters are packed with zinc, a mineral required for the production of testosterone. Zinc is also important for maintaining optimum semen volume.

If oysters aren't your (or his) thing, don't worry - fish, lean red meat, brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds are also great sources of zinc, according to Kate Di Prima.

If you've eaten all the zinc you can handle and you're still not feeling super sexy, try working a little ginger into your diet. Studies have shown that it stimulates the circulatory system, increasing blood flow to the genitals. The result? Increased sensitivity levels that make sex more enjoyable, meaning you're more likely to want to have it (and that can't hurt your baby-making quest).

And don't forget to enjoy a square or two of dark chocolate, too: an Italian study has shown that women who eat chocolate on a daily basis claim to have more satisfying sex lives.

Finally, sprinkle a bit of nutmeg onto your next hot milk drink. Scientists have found it increases the sexual activity of rats - and hey, if it works for them¡­

Seven fertility-boosting diet steps to take today

  1. Maintain a healthy weight. Being significantly underweight can affect ovulation in women and sperm production in men - the same goes for being overweight or obese.

  2. Go easy on the champers, as too much alcohol can decrease your ability to conceive.

  3. Cut back on caffeine. Research has shown that drinking more than one strong cup of coffee or a caffeine-rich drink in a day may have a negative effect on fertility in women and men, especially if combined with smoking and alcohol.

  4. Don't go overboard on the soy. It's early days but some studies seem to indicate that consuming large quantities of soy products may lower fertility.

  5. Ditch highly processed, fatty foods in favour of a diet rich in healthy, whole foods such as fruit and vegetables, lean meat, fish and nuts to ensure you get a wide variety of vitamins and nutrients that are essential for staying in top shape.

  6. When it comes to dairy, opt for the low-fat products. "It's important to maintain top calcium levels for your bones and the impending little one," says Kate Di Prima.

  7. Finally, don't restrict yourself too much... making babies is meant to be fun, after all!

Making Babies

Making Babies - Preparing for Pregnancy
Article content written and reproduced from 'Making Babies', published by ACP Magazines, a division of PBL Media Limited