Food, fertility and you

Adopting a healthier lifestyle is a positive change you can make when undergoing fertility treatment.

What eating pattern should I follow in preparation for pregnancy?

Food, fertility and you: Adopting a healthier lifestyle is a positive change you can make when undergoing fertility treatment

To ensure you get all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals you need to help prepare your body for pregnancy, you should include foods from all food groups in your daily diet. Seeing an Accredited Practising Dietitian can help you compare your own dietary patterns with your nutritional needs, taking into account any other medical or nutritional requirements you have (e.g. polycystic ovary syndrome, coeliac disease, vegetarian or vegan diets, diabetes). Being more active and cutting back on alcohol and caffeinated beverages are all helpful changes to make.

Are there any supplements I need to take?

  • Folate is needed for healthy growth and development and reduces the chance of neural tube defects (e.g. spina bifida) in a baby. Women trying to conceive should take an extra 400 micrograms (µg) of folic acid per day. The best way to get this is from a supplement. It is important to take this at least one month before and three months after you become pregnant. You still need to eat foods that contain folate; rich dietary folate sources include green, leafy vegetables, fruit, and breads/cereals fortified with folate. 
  • Iodine is a nutrient we need in very small amounts - it is part of thyroxine, a hormone of metabolism, growth, and development (especially of a baby’s brain). We need more iodine when pregnant and breastfeeding. Studies show the Australian population is mildly iodine deficient, so guidelines advise all pregnant women take a daily supplement that contains 150 µg of iodine. You will get more from your diet; breads/cereals, fruit, vegetables, and fish are good sources. Although iodised salt, as the name suggests, contains iodine, for overall health we don’t recommend adding salt to your diet.

Aiming for your most comfortable or healthy weight

Losing weight, if you are above the healthy weight range, is recommended for good health now (and increasing your chances of falling pregnant), as well as for a healthier pregnancy. Research (and experience) tells us there are many effective ways of losing weight, but not all of these methods help us to keep the weight off in the long run or maintain our nutritional stores. Ideally, when losing weight to improve fertility and health, you follow a nutritious, balanced meal plan to ensure your nutrient stores are optimised. Being outside the healthy weight range when you fall pregnant increases your chance of a preterm birth (if underweight) or longer hospital stays, caesarean sections, high blood pressure, and diabetes (if you are above the healthy weight range).

What are the benefits of being active?

Regular moderate-intensity exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight, and has many additional health benefits, including lower stress levels, more energy and better sleep, better bowel habits, better mood, less anxiety, and a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease. To get the most health benefits, a good goal is at least half an hour of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably, all days. You do not have to do it all at once. Your exercise can be spread over the day, in ten minute blocks. Try three ten minute walks, or two fifteen minute periods of activity. Moderate intensity means you are exercising at a comfortable pace. A good guideline is the 'talk test' - you should be able to maintain a conversation easily without being short of breath.

How can I set my life up for exercise?

If you haven’t exercised for a long time, if you are very busy, or you find the idea of starting an exercise program daunting, then a great place to start is by increasing your incidental exercise. Incidental exercise means looking for opportunities to move your body during the day when you might otherwise take an easier way out. Wearing a pedometer and recording the number of steps at the end of the day is a great way to challenge yourself to move more. Breaking up your sitting time is also important – don't sit for longer than 20 to 30 minutes at a time.

What’s next?

We have outlined some general healthy lifestyle information above. You might also choose to review your nutritional needs or get some advice about tailoring information to your lifestyle and preferences during an appointment with a specialist women’s health dietitian at Mater Health and Wellness. Topics we can discuss with you include:

  • Back to basics – Reviewing food groups, nutrients, and nourishment.  Scheduling time for me - Balancing nutrition needs with a busy lifestyle. 
  • Mastering mindful eating - Learn to turn off the autopilot and how to taste and enjoy food with all your senses. Start to become in control of foods that would normally control you.
  • Realising weight loss is within reach – Understanding and achieving the very clear benefits that result from an achievable weight loss (if required). The good news from research is that a loss of just five to ten percent of your body weight (if above a healthy weight), whatever weight you are now, has significant effects on fertility.

To make an appointment with a Mater Health and Wellness dietitian please phone 07 3163 6000

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