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Pre-Pregnancy | Fertility

Eating your way to a successful IVF

The things we crave the most are usually the things we can’t have, and this couldn’t be more  true than when you are struggling to have a baby. Failing to fall pregnant may be attributed to a vitamin and mineral deficiency.

If it is true that we are what we eat, then is it possible to improve your chances of conceiving by regulating what you put in your body?

“Absolutely,’ says Elienne Horwitz, a consulting dietician for FertilityCareSA.”Fertility and the chance of conceiving are significantly improved by achieving a healthy body weight and maintaining physical fitness.”

To begin with, being too thin or too fat may have a negative impact on your fertility. Fat is an essential component of body composition and helps promote ovulation. Fertility experts advise that one should eat healthy, exercise regularly, keep a health BMI.

So if it is all about nutrition, what should we be eating – and as important – what should we avoid?

1) Wholegrain, low GI, high fibre carbohydrates

Horwitz indicates there is enough research to show that the quantity and quality of dietary carbohydrates are important determinants of ovulation and fertility in healthy women. Choose wholegrain breads, crackers and cereals, brown rice, potatoes, wholewheat pasta, popcorn, fresh fruit, vegetables, and legumes (split peas, dried beans, lentils, chickpeas). These foods also keep you feeling full for a longer period of time, and therefore may help with weight loss. Remember, obesity affects fertility. Wholegrains have less of an effect on insulin production and therefore are important when it comes to managing insulin resistance and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which also affect fertility.

2) Lean protein

Remove visible fat from meat and the skin of chicken, and limit eggs to no more than four per week. Decrease your intake of saturated fat by replacing a serving of meat each day with beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans or tofu.

3) Dairy

Dairy is important for calcium and vitamin D3. There is not enough published research to conclude that full cream dairy products are better than low fat dairy when it comes to fertility. But there is an abundance of research showing that obesity is linked to infertility. So, choose low fat dairy products (e.g. cottage cheese) when possible, and avoid old/matured cheese or mould if also trying to manage weight.

4) Mono- and poly-unsaturated fats (watching portion sizes)

Examples are vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish (salmon, sardines, herring, trout, snoek, butterfish, mackerel, anchovies, and pilchards). According to the FDA, two servings of fish per week is recommended (1 serving = 150g). Certain fish are high in mercury and should be avoided: Shark, Swordfish, Marlin, King Mackerel, and Tilefish.

5) Supplement with folic acid and omega 3

If you are hoping to conceive, include an omega 3 fish oil (600-800mg per day) supplement in your diet, it is important for the development of the central nervous system (CNS) and a folic acid supplement is important to prevent neurotubular defects of the baby. Folic acid supplement of 400 µg per day is recommended, the requirement  increases to 600µg per day once you fall pregnant.

As always, there is bad news. Some foods to be wary of include:

1) Alcohol

Avoid alcohol to prevent foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) should you fall pregnant unexpectedly. Alcohol can also affect your hormone balance, decreasing your chances of conceiving.

2) Caffeine

Limit caffeine-containing drinks to 2 cups per day (this includes coffee, tea, diet coke). Caffeine has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage.

3) Restrict simple sugars

Examples are products made with white flour, sweets and beverages with sugar, like regular cold drinks, flavoured water, cordials, and iced tea as these can have an effect on insulin resistance and weight.

4) Artificial Sweeteners

There is no published research that sweeteners are dangerous. However, it is advised to use them in moderation – 4 pills per day or 2 cans of diet cold drink per day. People with phenylkentonuria should avoid sweetener completely.

We all know smoking is dangerous, but it also causes high levels of cadmium, a toxic metal, in the blood, which depletes the body of zinc, an essential mineral needing when planning a baby. Ensure you get adequate sleep – seven to nine hours daily. Try to manage excess stress in your life – don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ once in a while. It is believed that the highly stressful lives we may contribute to infertility.

In essence, take care of your body, so that your body can take care of you and your baby.

For more information about IVF, egg donation and surrogacy please visit

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