If you’re hoping to fall pregnant, you probably know that having sex around the time of ovulation is super important.
But did you also know that what you eat can influence your chances of having a baby?
‘The Fertility Diet’ – outlined in this book by Dr Jorge Chavarro and Dr Walter Willett – is based on analysing data from the Nurses’ Health Study, one of the largest and longest-running studies of women’s health in America.
That study, which looked at over 18,000 women who were trying to get pregnant and didn’t have a history of infertility, found that the quality of a woman’s diet, along with whether she smokes and how active she is, could affect her chances of conceiving.
What is ‘The Fertility Diet’ exactly?
The diet recommends 10 research-based strategies that can help boost your fertility, including avoiding trans fats (from fast food) and using more unsaturated vegetable oils instead; and eating more vegetable protein (like nuts and beans), while cutting back on animal protein.
It also advises choosing wholegrains, drinking whole milk or full-fat dairy options, getting plenty of iron from fruits, veggies and beans (rather than red meat), and steering clear of sugary soft drinks.
Lastly, it recommends taking a multivitamin that contains folic acid and other B vitamins, staying physically active and sticking to a healthy weight.
Oh, the diet also advises women should stop smoking (but you knew that was bad for you).
Does it actually work?
Okay, now for the part you’re all here for: does this diet actually work? According to obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Joseph Sgroi, all the advice recommended by the fertility diet makes “perfect and utter sense”.
In fact, he says if a woman has a balanced diet, then the chances of her needing to see a doctor regarding her fertility reduces by around 44%. Almost half!
The reason a well-balanced diet can help improve your odds of conceiving is because it can reduce the chances of ovulatory dysfunction, he explains.
Dr Sgroi also agrees with the idea of taking folic acid when trying to fall pregnant, which is recommended to women to reduce the chances of their baby having a neural tube defect (such as spina bifida).
However, he adds that taking it can also increase your chances of falling pregnant, citing a study that found women who took three months of folic acid tablets had a 26% chance of pregnancy. On the flipside, those who didn’t had a 10% chance of conceiving.
As for the recommendations on avoiding too much red meat, Dr Sgroi agrees this too makes sense, adding that a correlation has been made between a high intake of red meat and reduced chances of pregnancy.
Being physically active is also beneficial. Dr Sgroi says it’s not only good for your body; it can also reduce your stress levels, which can then improve your chances of getting pregnant.
What about coffee and alcohol?
According to The Fertility Diet, coffee, tea and alcohol are okay in moderation. Dr Sgroi says the data on caffeine and alcohol intake before pregnancy are “pretty much inconclusive”.
However, he says it’s probably worth limiting your caffeine intake to around 200mg a day (around two cups of tea or one cup of coffee) and sticking to one or less standard drink a day.
What if I’ve been eating well and exercising and still can’t fall pregnant?
The Fertility Diet may help improve fertility for some women, but if you’re having trouble conceiving and you’ve been trying for over a year (or six months and you’re over 35), see your doctor.
Naturally, you should also feel free to see your doctor earlier than that if you want further advice.
Do you have to stick to the diet completely to increase your chances of falling pregnant?
If the idea of sticking to all of the recommendations in The Fertility Diet seem overwhelming, don’t stress. Dr Sgroi reassures it’s about sticking to the “general gist” of the diet, rather than having to follow it word for word.
Doing so, he says, can have a “wonderful impact” on your chances of having a baby.
So if you’re ready to be a mama, it might be time to give ‘The Fertility Diet’ a chance. After all, it may take you one step closer to welcoming a bundle of joy…