It’s no secret that nutrition and lifestyle choices can have a big impact on your fertility. At Theralogix, our registered dietitians are asked every day for tips on how to support healthy fertility. So, we decided to go to fertility specialists for their advice.
Our Question for Fertility Specialists
We asked reproductive endocrinologists and other fertility specialists, “What is your most important nutrition or other lifestyle-related advice for patients preparing for fertility treatment?”
Common themes included preparing early, eating a well-balanced diet, achieving a healthy weight, avoiding endocrine disruptors, and taking certain nutritional supplements to support healthy egg and sperm quality.
1. Start preparing for conception early.
‘The sooner the better’ reigns true when developing a healthy lifestyle for optimal fertility. According to Dr. Carmelo S. Sgarlata, Director of Integrative Medicine Services at ORM Fertility, “Optimizing one’s health before attempting pregnancy is a critically important aspect of a successful pregnancy and healthy child. This is true for both women and men. I advise planning for a pregnancy at least three months before attempting.”
Dr. Serena Chen of IRMS at St. Barnabas advises patients: “Get healthy BEFORE you conceive! Female and male preconception health has a significant impact upon egg, sperm and pregnancy health. Start prenatal vitamins, a healthy diet, and an exercise program at least a month or even more prior to trying to conceive. Consider getting a check-up with your primary care doctor and your gynecologist to see if there are any concerns that should be addressed before you get pregnant. The healthier you are, the healthier your pregnancy and your baby will be.”
Reproductive acupuncturist Farrar V. Duro, DOM, FABORM also believes that preparation is key. “We ask our patients and their partners to try to devote 3-6 months to preconception care prior to their fertility treatment by being consistent with an antioxidant-rich diet and supplement regimen, along with improving stress and enhancing blood flow through acupuncture. Not only do our patients feel better prepared before their IVF or IUI cycle, but they often have easier pregnancies due to addressing self-care early on.”
2. Eat a well-balanced diet.
According to Russell Foulk, MD, HCLD, of Utah Fertility Center, “The most important nutritional or lifestyle recommendation is to eat a well-balanced diet and stay fit. Too many sufferers of infertility put their life on hold during treatment cycles, when living a well-balanced and active life is best for their heart and their soul.”
Dr. Sgarlata adds, “The proper diet and lifestyle can have a positive influence on the ability to become pregnant and improve the chances for a successful pregnancy. A Mediterranean-type diet has been shown to help improve egg and sperm quality.”
Dr. Deborah Smith of Rocky Mountain Fertility Center explains, “Your eggs are only as healthy as you are. If you are not healthy, your egg won’t be.” She recommends that patients “eat a well-balanced diet, eat less processed food, get plenty of rest, exercise moderately and stop all those bad habits (fast food, excessive alcohol use, smoking, marijuana).”
Dr. Christopher Huang of Advanced Reproductive Center of Hawaii often says that it is a philosophical question for his patients regarding what they do, especially with smoking, alcohol, and marijuana products. He asks his patients, “Where is your baby coming from? THOSE eggs, THOSE sperm. What would you have liked your parents to do when they were preparing to conceive you?”
His top advice is to “eat healthy, don’t smoke, and take folate.”
Dr. Brad Trivax of Island Fertility emphasizes the importance of a healthy diet. He explains, “If you think you are doing too much of anything, you probably are-everything in moderation. A good prenatal vitamin is the starting point. Try to maintain a healthy weight prior to conception. Avoid excessive vitamins and certain medicines before conception. Too much vitamin A, for example, can be bad for a developing fetus. Consider seeing your doctor for a preconception visit to review what you can do to optimize your chances of a successful pregnancy.”
3. Achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
According to Dr. Randall Dunn of Aspire Houston Fertility Specialists, “Significantly fewer patients who are overweight will be successful with fertility treatment. Many things relate to the issue of weight. It is the easiest to measure and one of the hardest to control.” He adds, “One of the most important lifestyle changes that I recommend to patients on a daily basis is to modify their food choices and portion control.”
“Starting a high-quality prenatal vitamin and trying to reach a healthy body weight are two of the most important things I discuss with all of my new patients,” states Dr. Jessica Scotchie of Tennessee Reproductive Medicine. “Eating a well-balanced diet high in vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats along with daily exercise can both help overall health and well-being as someone is preparing for pregnancy.”
Dr. Bill Meyer of Carolina Conceptions adds, “As many as 15% of women have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and weight loss to ideal body weight cannot be overemphasized. Inositol supplementation is an inexpensive and successful means of assisting weight loss and improving insulin resistance observed in the majority of these women.”
Some fertility specialists recommend a specific diet for weight loss and fertility. Dr. Robert Kiltz of CNY Fertility states, “At CNY Fertility, we’ve incorporated the keto lifestyle. We’ve seen the pounds drop away, and the need for expensive medications often eliminated and most importantly, creating an environment that allows your natural fertility to thrive. Remember this, what you put into your mind and mouth matters most!”
4. Avoid endocrine disruptors.
Dr. Serena Chen advises, “Be aware of exposure to endocrine disruptors. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recently recommended that all pregnant women and women trying to conceive avoid these potentially toxic substances like BPA in plastics, and parabens and phthalates in cosmetics, shampoos, soaps, and lotions. These chemicals can increase the risk of birth defects. Although these substances are regulated in Europe, that is not the case here in the USA, so we must be aware, read labels, and take precautions to decrease exposure. One of the biggest sources of exposure is microwaving food or storing food in plastic rather than glass. Avoiding microwaving and storing food in plastic can dramatically decrease your exposure.”
Dr. Lora Shahine of Pacific NW Fertility provides further advice. “Lifestyle optimization is key for success while trying to conceive. Each patient is unique and should review options with their medical team. We should all make sleep a priority, limit exposures to environmental toxins like BPA and phthalates, and pay attention to the emotional impact of the struggle to complete your family.”
5. Take certain nutritional supplements for egg and sperm quality.
Taking a high-quality prenatal or preconception supplement with folate and other nutrients is one of the most important things you can do to prepare for pregnancy. In addition to taking a prenatal, research indicates that taking certain nutrients may support egg quality for women, and sperm quality for men.
Dr. Lindsay Wells of Audubon Fertility and Reproductive Medicine states, “To boost one’s diet towards egg or sperm health, we recommend select Theralogix supplements on top of the well-balanced diet.”
Dr. Bruce Albrecht of Denver Fertility and Albrecht Women’s Care adds, “I believe that nature has provided us with all of the proper nutritional ingredients needed for a healthy life and maximal reproductive potential. Unfortunately, the modern American diet is far from meeting those requirements. I encourage patients to adopt a more fertility-friendly diet, and I believe that CoQ10, inositol, vitamin D, and omega-3 supplements are very important adjuncts to maximize fertility.”