If you are planning a baby, you must relook at your diet and lifestyle. Fertility in women is affected by a number of factors such as ovulatory disorder, hormonal imbalance, inadequate hormone production, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and many others. Research suggests that often poor diet, weight issues and unhealthy lifestyle have a significant role in causing these imbalances.
So, here are a few recommendations for you:
I. Nourish your body: Vital nutrients like protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals build a healthy foundation for conceiving and sustaining a healthy pregnancy. A balanced, whole food diet that is naturally low in glycemic index (GI), nourishes your endocrine system and helps in balancing your hormones.
1. Get enough protein to improve fertility especially from plant-based sources such as peas, beans, soy and nuts. Include fermented foods and sprouts to enhance the nutritional quality of your diet.
2. Healthy fats help in proper production of hormones, so include more coconut, coconut oil, olives, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds in your diet.
3. Complex carbohydrates from whole plant based foods such as whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits digest slowly, which helps in regulating insulin levels and stimulates production of other hormones to improve fertility.
4. Eat vitamin and mineral-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables (lettuce, spinach, cabbage) and bright coloured fruits and vegetables (tomatoes, pumpkin, beats); these are rich in flavonoids, which help in balancing hormones. Vitamin C-rich foods such as lemon, oranges, guava, amla (gooseberry) are especially good for overall health and fertility. Beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds are also rich in vital nutrients (Vitamin B, zinc and selenium) necessary to boost your fertility.
5. Drink plenty of water and limit your consumption of dehydrating tea and coffee.
i. Vitamin D- Vitamin D deficiency can cause infertility and even miscarriage. So, get your vitamin D levels checked and supplement accordingly. As vitamin D is 'sunshine vitamin', a 20-30 minutes' walk, exposing your bare skin (arms, legs, abdomen and back) to the sun helps in maintaining healthy vitamin D levels.
ii. Folic Acid– Folic acid helps in cell division and ovulation, so it is recommended to take this vitamin supplement to improve your chances of conception. Try to include foods rich in folate such as dark green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, nuts, brown rice in your daily diet.
II. Avoid refined processed packaged foods: These foods are often loaded with sugar, harmful trans and saturated fats and salt; the main culprits behind insulin resistance in your body. Make cakes, pastries, fizzy drinks, fried foods, takeaways and fast foods an occasional treat, as these can increase your risk of infertility.
III. Maintain healthy weight: Both, overweight and underweight women face higher risk of infertility, as they may ovulate less often. So, aim for having a normal body mass index of 19 to 24 by following a healthy diet and daily exercise routine. Also, don't go for extreme weight loss measures like crash-dieting and intense exercises, as they may go against you. A moderate physical activity of your choice (like brisk walking, running, swimming) daily and add few weight training sessions per week could help.
IV. Lead a healthy lifestyle: Avoid smoking, alcohol, drug use and exposure to toxins. Use natural household and personal care products and avoid plastic food containers to minimize your exposure to chemicals. Some medicines such as steroids, antidepressants and other hormones containing or affecting medicines can also impair your fertility.
V. Manage your stress levels: Stress can play havoc with your hormones, so it is important that you take measures to manage your daily stress. Practising relaxation techniques (yoga, meditation, deep breathing) during the day and ensuring adequate sleep at night help in proper production and regulation of hormones inside your body.
Some medical conditions (diabetes, thyroid disorders, high blood pressure, anaemia and STDs) can affect your chances of getting pregnant too, so go for a complete preventive check-up to rule out these conditions. Last but not the least, to maximize your chances of conception, use an ovulation calendar based on your monthly cycle and time your intercourse for conception.
Also read more about: How To Prepare Your Body Before You Conceive?