When you make the decision to have IVF or egg donation treatment, you need to accept that there are many things that will be out of your control. However, of all the different factors that can contribute to a successful outcome, lifestyle and diet are two that you can take control of. And although they will not guarantee success, experts generally agree that they can help to improve your chances of conceiving. That’s why it’s important to make sure you eat a nutritious diet and incorporate healthy lifestyle habits to boost your fertility and reproductive health.
Being overweight or underweight can not only cause general health problems, it can be a major factor in infertility, both for women and men. For women, obesity can reduce pregnancy rates through assisted reproduction treatment by up to 50%, and increase the risk of miscarriage. For men, being overweight can cause erectile dysfunction and reduce sexual activity, as well as create issues in sperm production. Therefore, maintaining a healthy weight is a key factor in successful pregnancy.
FERTILITY NUTRITIONISTS RECOMMEND THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET
In certain cases, such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), or amenorrhoea due to low body weight, diet plays a major role in addressing infertility. Women with PCOS often experience insulin resistance, which can be reduced through healthy eating.
In addition, a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables can also help decrease oxidative stress, free radicals and DNA damage, which are all factors in male infertility. While discussions about beneficial foods are often focused on women’s fertility, there’s a growing awareness that diet can have an impact on male fertility.
It’s important to note that the term ‘diet’ should not be associated only with shedding excess weight, but rather with nourishing your body with the right proportions of essential minerals, macronutrients and vitamins.
Many fertility nutritionists recommend The Mediterranean diet because it’s simple yet varied, and includes so many of the foods known to boost fertility:
- Olive oil: a higher intake of olive oil is shown to increase sperm quality.
- Fish: the omega 3 fatty acids in fish have been shown to have a positive effect on ovulation and the healthy production of progesterone.
- Tomatoes: cooked tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that can improve the morphology of sperm cells.
- Oysters: rich in fertility-boosting nutrients and often hailed as the best fertility food there is.
- Walnuts: a good source of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which support fertility.
- Sunflower seeds: high in vitamin E, shown to increase sperm count and motility, and omega-6.
You should supplement these foods with seafood, white meat, legumes, eggs, cheese and yoghurt a couple of times a week. Foods to avoid during IVF treatment are processed foods, fizzy drinks, ice cream and refined sugars. Furthermore, you should try to limit eating red meat to once a week at most.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EXERCISE AND REST DURING YOUR EGG DONATION PROCESS
In addition to diet, lifestyle habits such as exercise, stress management, and adequate sleep can also help to boost reproductive health. Regular exercise improves your physical fitness, helps with weight loss, and reduces stress levels. Chronic stress results in an increase in cortisol levels, which inhibits ovulation. It’s also worth noting that exercise stimulates mitochondrial production, which increases sperm motility.
Try to do some form of “aerobic exercise” three times a week. This can be any activity that increases your heart rate and breathing, such as jogging, swimming, or going for a brisk walk. Taking the stairs instead of using lifts and walking to the shops can make a difference and will improve your fitness. Stress management techniques such as yoga, mindfulness meditation, and deep breathing can also help to keep stress levels low.
Finally, getting adequate and quality sleep can also help to support reproductive health, as the body needs rest in order to function properly. The production and activation of melatonin, commonly known as the ‘sleep hormone’, is stimulated by proper rest and avoiding stimulants such as fizzy or caffeinated drinks.
When it comes to boosting fertility, there is no magic solution or diet that will guarantee success. However, eating a balanced, nutritious diet, being active, and getting quality sleep are all key steps toward a successful fertility journey.