10 food tips for fertility

Everyday life can eat away at fertility.

Think about it this way: in the natural world, animals will not carry young unless conditions support the survival of the young. So if there have been poor rains, and food is scarce, there's a dip in the number of young who will be borne. As time passes, and the female ages, her fertility declines because natural law dictates she may be less equipped to carry the young to term, or to feed it, or to protect it. If the panda is unhappy in the zoo, she won't mate.

Why should humans be any different?
Malnourishment isn't just for poor people, in poor countries. Middle-class malnourishment is widespread. Many working women - and men - live on a diet of cappuccino-at-the-desk for breakfast, a toasted sandwich at 3pm, a chocolate bar later, and after-work drinks with supper eaten late and hastily, standing by the fridge.

We leave it later - until we're 30 or older, even approaching 40 - before we're ready to have children.

And if the panda is too stressed in the zoo to breed, you can bet most of us are too stressed by traffic and work, money and other stuff to be that up for immediate impregnation ourselves.

Here’s what to do to at least get the malnutrition thing sorted out:

  • Eat greens and yellows. Stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, especially dark green and yellow that will boost your beta-carotene or vitamin A, and vitamin C intake. Eat the following foods: cabbage, sweet green peppers, broccoli, pumpkin, paw-paw and oranges.
  • Something fishy. Your body needs omega-3 fatty acids, and fish is the best source.
  • Pump iron. Fill your body’s iron reserves, because when you’re expecting, your body has difficulty maintaining its iron stores as your baby taps your mineral resources. Iron deficiency also causes 27% of mothers-to-be to suffer from postpartum anaemia. This causes your red blood cells to fall below normal levels and drains your energy.
  • Exercise. This will not only keep you fit for the actual task of making a baby, but will strengthen your cardiovascular system, as pregnancy puts a huge strain on the heart. Regular exercise will also make it easier for you to get through labour, and will prepare you for the strains of pregnancy.
  • Fill the nutritional gaps with vitamins. Getting all the nutrients you need for boosting your fertility from food alone is difficult, so increase your chances by taking a prenatal vitamin or regular multivitamin. Ask your pharmacist for the best option available to you.

Avoid doing these:

  • Smoking. A study found that women who smoke, take longer to conceive, and also found that their chances to conceive are reduced by up to 40%.
  • Drinking alcohol. Danish researchers looked at 430 couples trying to have their first child and they found that a woman’s ability to get pregnant decreased as more alcohol was consumed.
  • Drinking coffee. Caffeine (found in coffee, Ceylon tea and cola drinks) constricts blood vessels, slowing blood flow to the uterus and potentially making it harder for an egg to grab hold, says Mark Leondires, a fertility specialist and medical director of Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut.
  • Consume too many refined carbohydrates. These include white bread, pasta and white rice. The refining process strips key nutrients from grains and a woman trying to conceive should pack her diet with as many nutrient-rich foods as possible.
  • Fad diets to try and keep your figure. Avoid any diet that excludes an entire food group or puts too much emphasis on one type of food, said Melinda Johnson, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

(Carine van Rooyen, Health24, updated April 2010)

Read more:
Be more fertile
Making babies

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