As the new year begins, we thought it prudent to discuss some helpful tips for couples hoping to conceive. Nutrition and wellness involve a shared focus on the foods we put into our bodies, the chemicals we limit or avoid, and the activities that affect our bodies—including sleep, stress and exercise. Making a conscious effort to improve diet and nutrition, exercise regularly, and avoid stress can do wonders if you’re trying to become pregnant.
Eat like you’re pregnant
I often recommend to my patients that the best way to prepare for pregnancy is to behave as though you are already pregnant. This means eating a diet rich in omega fats, limiting or avoiding sugar, abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drug use, and staying active. Studies support the following nutritional advice:
What to eat:
- Healthy omegas to support ovulation and fetal brain development: salmon, nuts, seeds, flax, chia and grass-fed beef
- Folic acid (> 400 mcg daily): plenty of leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, beans and nuts
- Iron (27 mg daily): eggs, poultry, and green vegetables
- Zinc: oysters – not just an aphrodisiac!
What to avoid:
- Caffeine (< 200 mg daily): 1-2 cups of coffee daily at the most
- Tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and other illicit drugs
Condition your body to prepare for pregnancy
Additionally, addressing physical health is important for getting pregnant. Getting into a good exercise routine before you conceive is the best way to condition your body to prepare for pregnancy.
I’m not necessarily saying to start training for a marathon tomorrow, but 3 days of moderate exercise weekly for 30-45 minutes at a time will do wonders for your cardiovascular health (and stress levels). Examples include swimming or brisk walking at a pace where you can talk but not sing.
Minimize stress to improve hormone balance
Finally, stress—whether it is physical or emotional—can wreak havoc on your hormones, mood, and overall fertility for you and your partner. High levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone,” have been linked to low libido, erectile disfunction and suppressed ovulation.
It’s easy to fall into a self-perpetuating cycle of stress, especially when you are having difficulty getting pregnant. For example, staying up late worrying can lead to late-night eating which can result in poor sleep. Not getting enough sleep might lead to caffeine the next day, making it difficult to fall asleep again. The best way to break the stress cycle is to cut off your eating 2 hours before bed, achieve 6-8 hours of restful sleep, and avoid stimulants such as alcohol or caffeine.
Focus on what you can control
In the end, the best way to achieve your goal of becoming pregnant is to support your health with nutrition, exercise and stress management. The key is to not focus on the outcome but to focus on the things you can control (i.e., your daily habits) in order to prepare your body for pregnancy. Hopefully, these tips will get you started on your path to fertility.