Your pre-pregnancy plan

Registered nutritional therapist Michaella Mazzoni offers some tips for supporting your fertility the natural way

Planning a pregnancy is a very exciting and beautiful part of your life and there are several things you can include in your diet to help support your body during this time. Also worth noting are things which can hinder your reproductive success.

Nutritional tips

Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation, which can promote fertilisation and implantation. Research also suggests that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help regulate ovulation and improve egg quality. Dietary sources include salmon, sardines, flax seeds, walnuts and chia seeds.

Vitamin C contributes to iron absorption, ovulation and a healthy immune system. Dietary sources include oranges and other citrus fruits, kiwis, red peppers and kale.

Folate is a B vitamin that helps the body to build new cells and prevents birth defects. Most women are encouraged to take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid to ensure that they get the recommended 400 to 800 micrograms daily. Dietary sources include green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans and wheat germ.

Iron is important for everyone but especially so during pregnancy. Where possible, combine iron-rich foods with food sources of vitamin C to support absorption. Dietary sources include spirulina, grass-fed beef, lentils, dark chocolate, spinach (steamed) and black beans.

Indole-3-carbinol helps the liver to metabolise oestrogen. Dietary sources include broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts. Some vegetables such as broccoli contain goitrogens meaning that they can put stress on the thyroid which has a close relationship with the reproductive system. Cooking these vegetables thoroughly is thought to help reduce the levels of goitrogens.

Foods to limit or avoid

If possible, try to limit or avoid the following foods and drinks. Refined sugar reduces immune function and may cause nutrient depletion. Alcohol also reduces immune function and increases inflammation. It is associated with an increased risk of ovulation disorders and endometriosis. Caffeine is associated with hormonal imbalances, dehydration and may lead to mineral deficiencies. High consumption of caffeine has been shown to interfere with fertility, so limit your intake to one cup per day before noon during pre-conception or, if possible, avoid it completely. Drugs should also be avoided as marijuana can negatively affect fertility by making ovulation more difficult each month.

Lifestyle changes

Stress can have a negative impact on hormonal function; just think about a missed or late period you may have had during a particularly stressful time. The same goes with your reproductive health so working on how you manage stress is key. Therapies like acupuncture and reflexology are excellent ways to support your stress response and promote relaxation.

Male health

It is also worth reminding that it takes two! Male/sperm health counts for 50 per cent. It’s an obvious point but it is often forgotten. Men can take steps to support their reproductive health by supplementing with a good quality men’s multivitamin and a balanced zinc supplement as well as eating food in a variety of colours.

Michaella Mazzoni, Registered NT, DipCNM mBANT CNHC reg, offers private nutrition consultations to help support all areas of health. She works at Napier’s/D.Atkinson, Neal’s Yard and Soma and offers video consultations for those unable to travel to her clinic. To book an appointment, email Michaella at info@michaellamazzoninutrition or call 07786 841 333.

Fertility factors

“Statistics have shown that the average age for first-time mothers is now over 30 years old,” says Dr Marilyn Glenville PhD, the leading nutritionist specialising in women’s health and the author of The Natural Health Bible for Women (glenvillenutrition.com). “We know that fertility decreases with age for women but there are many factors that can boost fertility.

“The amount of eggs (ovarian reserve) is set and can’t be altered because the store was established since before you were born. However, you can definitely change the quality of your eggs. Three months is the magic number to change the quality of your eggs, because it takes approximately that long for the follicles on your ovaries to develop before one is mature enough to release an egg at ovulation.

“There is now good research on how co-enzyme Q10 can help women over the age of 35 who are aiming to get pregnant, by improving the quality of their eggs. You may have high FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and research has shown a reduction in FSH from taking omega-3 supplements. The scientists made the comment that ‘omega-3 supplementation merits further investigation in women with decreased fertility and/or diminished ovarian reserve’.

“Research in 2019 not only confirmed how important your diet and specific nutrients are in improving fertility for women, but it also stressed the importance of having the active folate form (methylfolate) in your fertility supplement rather than the folic acid form.”

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