Preconception Nutrition: What to Eat When You’re Trying to Conceive
If you’re trying to conceive, it’s important that you follow a nutritious diet. Eating healthy can help you maintain a healthy body weight and obtain the nutrients you need to maximize your chances of getting pregnant and giving birth to a healthy baby. Some nutrients are more important than others when you’re trying to conceive. Focus on these to help boost your chances.
Folic acid reduces your risk of having a baby with brain and spinal cord defects, such as spina bifida. Be sure to take a 400 microgram folic acid supplement every day for at least one month before you start trying to conceive, and up to the 12th week of your pregnancy should you become pregnant. If you or your partner are at high risk of conceiving a baby with brain and spinal cord defects, you may be advised to take a higher dose of folic acid. You should also eat plenty of foods containing folate, the natural form of folic acid. Good sources of folate include green leafy vegetables, potatoes and fortified breakfast cereals.
Vitamin D helps to maintain healthy ovaries and regulate sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone. It also plays a role in absorbing and storing minerals, such as calcium, from your diet. Calcium is important as it helps to keep your teeth and bones strong. If you don’t get enough calcium, and you fall pregnant, your unborn baby may draw calcium from your bones, increasing your risk for bone loss. You can boost your vitamin D levels naturally by spending more time in the sun and eating more foods containing vitamin D. Egg yolks, oily fish and fortified products, such as breakfast cereals, fat spreads and milk, are good sources of vitamin D. If you rarely spend time outdoors, or you have a medical condition that prevents you from making and absorbing vitamin D, you may be advised to take vitamin D supplements.
Iron is important for producing red blood cells, which carry oxygen around your body. If you don’t get enough iron, your organs and tissues will receive less oxygen than is normal and you may experience symptoms, such as tiredness and shortness of breath, that can reduce your sexual desire. You can top up your iron levels by eating plenty of iron-rich foods, such as poultry, lean red meat, fish, legumes and green leafy vegetables. Although liver and liver-containing products, such as pâtés, contain iron, you should avoid eating them while you’re trying to conceive. These foods contain vitamin A, which can accumulate in your body and harm an unborn baby. Vitamin C helps you absorb iron from plant-based foods, so be sure to consume foods that are rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, bell peppers and green leafy vegetables, with iron-rich meals.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can improve your reproductive health by helping to regulate your hormones, promote ovulation and increase blood flow to your reproductive organs. Your body can’t make these two nutrients, so you must obtain them through your diet or supplementation. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are found in a variety of foods, including fish, soybean and flax seeds, and in supplements, such as algal oil and fish oil. If you include fish in your diet, be sure to choose low-mercury varieties, such as trout, herring and sardines.
Eating healthy and obtaining the right balance of nutrients is important for conception. By focusing on the nutrients that can improve your reproductive health, and taking fertility medications if required, you can increase your chances of getting pregnant.