One of the most difficult situations in a marriage is when a couple tries unsuccessfully for years to have children. However people often ask when is the right time to seek professional help? Medical advice states that a young couple who have been trying to conceive for over a year with no success should make an appointment with an infertility specialist. If you are over 40, then make an appointment after six months of trying. Infertility specialists will use a series of tests to determine just what the problem is. The tests will involve examining the woman’s fallopian tubes, uterus and studying the quality of your eggs. They will also investigate the quality and quantity of the man’s sperm. It is important that the man is also be investigated because on average 40% of the time the fault, if any, lies with the man.
Childless couples often go to extremes trying various remedies to be able to conceive. Sometimes they are no easy fixes but it is easy to adopt a healthy eating regime to increase your chances of conceiving by avoiding certain foods and consuming a select few.
Kick-start your fertility by working towards a healthy weight for your height. Being highly overweight or underweight as a woman disrupts your monthly flow/cycle. If your are overweight, exercise at least three times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes each time can help you reduce your weigh and improve blood flow thereby encouraging regular ovulation and normal hormone levels. However exercising too much can lead to excess weight loss, which in turn can lead to amenorrhea, or a lack of menstruation. And if you don’t have your regular period, there is little chance that you will get pregnant. Avoid fad diets; fad diets and fertility don’t mix. Avoid any diet that excludes an entire food group or over emphasises on one type of food. Couples should avoid smoking, caffeine, alcohol, fizzy drinks and foods with high trans or saturated fats. Tell your husband to cut out (or back on) alcohol. The occasional drink is generally considered safe, studies show frequent consumption can reduce testosterone levels, sperm counts and raise the number of abnormal sperm he ejaculates.
Below are my top ten healthy diet tips for conception; five for men and five for women
- Bananas are great tasting fruit which I don’t recommend to my weight loss clients because most of its calories comes from sugars but they are very low in saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium. Bananas are also a good source of dietary fibre, vitamin C, potassium and manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin B6. They are especially great for men trying for a baby because this fruit contains an enzyme called bromelain, which has been found to increase male libido and sex drive. Bananas are also an excellent source of vitamin B, which can help increase your stamina in the sack.
- Asparagus are also low in calories, low in sodium and a great source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, dietary fibre, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium etc. Asparagus increases sperm count by decreasing harmful free radicals in your body, which is why many doctors recommend a steady diet of asparagus. Known for its cleansing and healing properties, this miraculous green veggie contains a high concentration of vitamin C that protects sperm from oxidative damage and increases sperm volume and motility.
- Walnuts – I keep singing the praises of walnuts and I say again, you’d be nuts not to consider walnuts. Walnuts contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to increase sperm count and sexual function by improving blood flow to the genitals. So get to your local supermarket and stack up on walnuts making sure to avoid the ‘salted’ options.
- Garlic is highly recommend as health benefiting food for its anti-microbial, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, and immune boosting and cholesterol-lowering properties. We can also advise garlic can also be used to boost sperm count. That’s because its contain high levels of allicin, an organosulfur compound that can create millions of hardy little swimmers by improving blood flow to your sexual organs. However if the husband is eating lots of garlic, it might be off putting for the wife. It’s no good having lots of swimming sperm, if your wife doesn’t want to play. A good idea would be for both partners to eat garlic favoured meals and thereby keep the love alive.
- Supplements – Getting all the nutrients you need for fertility from food alone is tough. I recommend that fathers-to-be take a daily multivitamin that contains zinc (zinc is found in high concentrations in the sperm. Zinc is needed to make the outer layer and tail of the sperm and is, therefore, essential for the health of your partner’s sperm) and selenium (Blood selenium levels have been found to be lower in men with low sperm counts) for at least three months before conception. Why the three-month lag time? It takes that long to develop healthy sperm. Did you know the sperm your partner ejaculates today was actually created 90 days ago?
- Whole Grains – Women should choose their complex carbohydrates wisely and include whole grain breads, brown rice, baked potatoes (with skin) and oatmeal because they are rich in fibre and don’t affect blood sugar and insulin as dramatically when consumed as refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, fried chips/plantain, bleached flour, etc). And anything that’s good for insulin function is good for fertility.
- Plant Protein – Also increasing the proportion of protein from plant sources like beans, peas, soybeans, tofu and nuts has been associated with increased fertility, as opposed to protein from red meat and poultry. Beans are also high in iron, another fertility-helper. I am not saying become a vegetarian or vegan, heaven knows how much I love meat myself but do try to limit meat to occasional small portions.
- Full-Fat Dairy Products – I hope it brings a smile to your face when I say whole milk, full-fat yogurt, and even ice cream are ideal as fertility foods. A study at Harvard university found that women who consume these foods (as opposed to low-fat or no-fat dairy) have fewer problems with ovulation. It doesn’t mean you should drop the magazine and head straight to ice cream factory for a double helping of dulce de leche. Remember it is important to maintain a healthy weight for frequent ovulation, so choose no more than one serving of a small dish of ice cream or full-fat yogurt every day
- Fresh Fruits and Vegetables – They are great for all round general health and no surprise great for fertility. First of all, they are full of antioxidants, which promote general and reproductive health. Plus many fruits and vegetables e.g. oranges and citrus fruits, strawberries, green leafy vegetables are high in folate, an important nutrient to load up on before pregnancy to prevent birth defects. Extra iron from plants, including whole-grain cereals, spinach, beans, pumpkin, tomatoes, and beets, appears to promote fertility.
- Eat The “Right” Fats: Monounsaturated, Polyunsatured, Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Say “no” to trans fats and saturated fats found in cakes, biscuits, candy bars etc and yes to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acids found in avocados, nuts, sesame and pumpkin seeds, sardines, and salmon etc. These fats reduce inflammation and increase insulin sensitivity.
So go out to your local supermarket, stock up on these fertility food items above; The rest is up to you as I’m sure you don’t need my advice on the art of conception.