Boost your fertility by taking care of your health
Fertility is the biological ability to conceive. When the desire to have a child is felt, very legitimate questions emerge, in particular on the personal aptitude to procreate . Many factors affect a person's fertility. If some parameters are not controllable, others can influence it. Indeed, more and more scientific studies make it possible to better understand certain mechanisms and their association with better chances of conception. While the prevalence of infertility is increasing, optimizing certain dietary habits and modifying lifestyle measures could increase the chances of starting a pregnancy . It should be noted that these good practices can have an impact on the fertility of both women and men. Before making the decision to stop contraception, it is advisable to consult your doctor who will be able to advise you, answer your questions and check certain elements of your health before pregnancy . Let's see how it is possible to boost fertility by taking care of your health.
Why and how to ensure a healthy and balanced diet in the preconception period?
Studies on the relationship between diet and human fertility have multiplied in recent decades. The results of this research have made it possible to clearly identify that a balanced and healthy diet during the preconception period improves fertility in both women and men (1) . Based on these results, some key points of the contents of a fertility-friendly plate can be described.
Focus on good fats
The body needs all the macronutrients in adequate proportion: carbohydrates, proteins, lipids. These are represented by different categories called fatty acids, the distribution of which must respect a balance necessary for the proper functioning of your body. Our current diet generally contains too many saturated fatty acids and not enough monounsaturated and especially polyunsaturated fatty acids (the famous omega 3 and omega 6). The latter are particularly essential for the reproductive system and enter into the composition of sperm (2) .
With this in mind, it is for example important to consume vegetable oils rich in unsaturated fats such as olives, rapeseed and to eat oilseeds such as almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, etc.
Ensure stable blood sugar levels.
Other studies show a link between too high glycemic loads and ovulation disorders. In other words, spikes in blood sugar lead to excessive insulin production, which negatively influences the stages of the ovulatory cycle. Conversely, it would seem that a reduced secretion of insulin by the body induces better prevention of infertility.
In practice, in order to avoid these peaks, you can opt for foods rich in fiber as well as foods with a low glycemic index : pulses, cereals and wholemeal flours, as well as raw or cooked vegetables. In addition, it is necessary to limit as much as possible sweets and everything related to refined white sugar which, on the contrary, cause high glycemic loads. It is better to favor coconut blossom sugar or agave syrup which will have less impact on your blood sugar.
Stock up on vitamins and trace elements
Fruits and vegetables contain significant amounts of vitamins and trace elements. Most of these micronutrients have a proven role in fertility, particularly through their antioxidant action . They must therefore take a central place in your daily diet. To ensure this, your plate should contain different colors, the best way to ensure that it brings a wide variety of vitamins.
Zinc, very important for fertility, is found in good quantities in chickpeas, lentils, wholemeal bread, lean cocoa or oysters. Selenium, meanwhile, is more present in red meat, Brazil nuts, or seafood.
What role do micronutrient supplements play in boosting fertility?
Taking certain micronutrients as a supplement has proven its effectiveness in many cases. But the needs are not always the same for women and for men.
Folic acidIt is the best known of the supplements recommended for women during the preconception period. Folic acid (or B9) is one of the essential B vitamins for the proper growth of the unborn baby. Many studies have shown that folic acid helps reduce the risk of neural tube defects in pregnancy, among other things. Similarly, taking folic acid is associated with a lower frequency of infertility (3) .
Dietary sources are not sufficient to provide the folate intake required to protect against neural tube defects. In case of desire of pregnancy, it is therefore preferable to take the supplement at least three months before becoming pregnant.
Myo-inositol plays a probably essential role in reproductive physiology and has beneficial effects on oocyte development . Moreover, treatment with myo-inositol is now known to improve ovarian stimulation protocols and pregnancy outcomes in infertile women with poor oocyte quality (4) .
Zinc and selenium: 2 essential trace elements for fertility
Support for our immune defences, selenium participates in the development of ovarian follicles producing oocytes. Present in good concentrations in the ovaries, it contributes to the development of a healthy environment for the egg. Selenium would also increase sperm motility (5) . No wonder, therefore, that it is also found in high concentrations in the testicles.
Regarding zinc , relatively recent studies support the hypothesis of a role in reproductive health . Zinc is known in particular to promote the migration of the ovum in women and to participate in the quality of spermatozoa in men.
The other B vitamins, vitamins C and E
Oxidative stress can impair reproductive functions, particularly in humans. Certain vitamins and minerals are now well known for protecting cells from this oxidative stress, which is harmful to reproductive cells in particular. The objective of specific supplementation in men lies in the potentiation it can have on the quality of semen and spermatozoa, and thus to increase the chances of conception.
What lifestyle habits should be changed to promote fertility?
The decision to conceive a child is a good opportunity to take stock of the couple's lifestyle.
Tobacco use by one partner reduces fertility. Smoking is even considered the number one enemy of fertility . In men, smoking significantly reduces sperm quality (6) . In women, it is linked to a decrease in ovarian reserves, delayed conception and a higher risk of miscarriage (7) . In view of these elements, quitting smoking or, failing that, reducing its consumption becomes essential. In this context, do not hesitate to seek help and support. Note that passive smoking is also harmful.
Overweight and undernutrition
Obesity, like undernutrition, is associated with an increase in ovulation disorders . Obesity carries a risk of anovulation (absence of ovulation), which compromises attempts to conceive. It has been shown that weight loss can allow the normalization of certain factors, the effect of which leads to the restoration of normal oocyte maturation and, in certain cases, the avoidance of recourse to assisted procreation procedures (8) .
In contrast, insufficient food intake or severe dietary restrictions lead to loss of body weight, overall lack of nutrients and increased infertility. It is therefore a question of getting closer to a BMI (Body Mass Index) of between 19.5 and 24.9 .
Other important parameters
The psychological aspect must also be taken into account. Stress , in a broad sense, negatively impacts the body's circuits and leads to less favorable conditions for conception. It is surely very commonplace to remember it, but regular and reasonable physical activity has many virtues, each one more conducive than the other to promote the onset of pregnancy.
This may seem obvious too, but the frequency of sexual intercourse is important. Having regular sexual relations at the right time of the cycle is an essential prerequisite for conceiving, without losing spontaneity! Several methods exist to learn to know the period of ovulation.
How do environmental pollutants influence fertility?
More than topical, pollutants are widely singled out for their negative impact on fertility. They have a harmful role for health and can also act at all stages of procreation.
Among the main pollutants, pesticides (herbicides, fungicides and insecticides) have an important place in agriculture. Others turn out to be more insidious because they sneakily hide in everyday life: these are endocrine disruptors . These substances cause adverse health effects by acting on several levels on the natural hormones of the endocrine system.
Endocrine disruptors began to be incriminated in the 1990s, among other things because of their involvement in reproductive disorders . Several studies have shown that sperm concentration has declined over the past decades and the impact on sperm quality is also proven (9) . A national strategy on endocrine disruptors (SNPE) is in place in France with the aim of reducing the exposure of populations and the environment. Their control in our daily life is not always possible, but it is possible to intervene in such a way as to reduce their contact with your body. For example, the quality of the products must be an objective, favoring if possible organic products and local circuits, peeling all the fruits, looking closely at the labels to identify the composition of the foodstuffs.
What if the pregnancy is slow to set in?
Infertility is defined as the absence of pregnancy after more than 12 months of regular sexual intercourse without contraception (10) . This subject, which concerns many couples, has become a major public health issue. In the event of difficulties in conceiving, recourse to a specialist consultation is necessary to possibly initiate a more complete assessment of each of the partners aimed at seeking a cause. In women, pathologies of the reproductive system (fallopian tubes, uterus, ovaries) or of the endocrine system will be sought. Among the most common causes, polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis can explain infertility (but are often already known before the desire for pregnancy).
Regarding the male reproductive system, the causes can be obstructive or hormonal. Sometimes they come from a defect in sperm production or an anomaly in their function.
Fertility depends on many factors, some of which can be favorably influenced by a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet, for both women and men who want to have a child. The couple is advised to take supplements in order to provide the essential nutrients for the proper functioning of their body and thus increase their chances of procreating.
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3. Wilson RD, Wilson RD, Audibert F, Brock JA, Carroll J, Cartier L, et al. Preconception Folic Acid and Multivitamin Supplementation for the Primary and Secondary Prevention of Neural Tube Defects and Other Folic Acid-Sensitive Congenital Anomalies. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2015 Jun 1;37(6):534‑49.
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10. Infertility available here