Often couples hoping get pregnant want to prepare beforehand, but are not sure what to do. Eating wholesome and nourishing foods is good for you, your fertility, your baby, and beyond. Here are basic recommendations I make for couples who are are planning start trying to conceive in the future as well as those currently trying or struggling to get pregnant. For straight couples where both partners will contribute DNA, both mom and dad-to-be should take on these changes. I discuss the topic in somewhat more detail in this podcast interview.
Remember, everyone is different. You are the best expert on your body. Read through this page with that in mind, and only take what resonates with you. And on that note, try not to be overwhelmed if your diet doesn’t look a whit like what I am recommending here. You don’t have to do it all to make a difference. Even small changes will improve your health. That said, if you are having trouble conceiving, you may want to be more aggressive. These recommendations are general. If you are looking for preconception care tailored to your needs, please contact me.
Healthy people tend to be fertile. Start by addressing the basic determinants of your health. Here is how:
- Sleep enough. Most adults need 8-9 hours per night.
- As Michael Pollan says, eat food. Clean, whole food, not processed foodstuff. Drink enough pure water to urinate every 2 hours or so. Using a water filter will minimize your exposure to chemicals and hormones that may be present in your water supply.
- Make sure you have at least 1 bowel movement per day. If you don’t, it may be time to consult a nauropathic doctor in your area.
- Get some sort of physical movement in: go for a run, go to the gym, take a walk with a friend, but move your body every day. Even housework is better than sitting.
- If you are overwhelmed by stress in your life, address it. Try a few minutes of meditation or breath-work. Sometimes you need to make space in your life before baby arrives, rather than waiting until after.
- What brings you joy? Engage with it, as often as possible.
To be ready to sustain a new life, your body needs to be nourished. Nourishing foods enhance fertility.
- Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, high quality protein (ideally organic, grass-fed and grass-finished), a handful or more of nuts and seeds per day, and healthy fats like avocado, pastured butter, extra virgin olive oil and extra virgin coconut oil.
- You can learn more about the powerhouse foods for fertility, pregnancy, and lactation from the Weston A. Price Foundation or by reading Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions.
- I also recommend eating something fermented everyday. If you buy yogurt, sauerkraut or other fermented products at the store, just make sure they say “live active cultures.” You can also ferment just about anything at home. Sandor Katz‘s book Wild Fermentation is a great resource.
Organic Foods: Are They Worth It?
Eating organic foods will decrease your exposure to pesticides. (Here is an article I’ve written on the topic.) Not all pesticides work by killing bugs or weeds. Many just stop them from reproducing, and also can have harmful effects on human fertility. If you are having trouble getting pregnant, its likely worthwhile to spring for the organics. This is especially true of animal products, as many toxins accumulate in fat.
In terms of produce, not all conventionally-grown foods are created equal. The Environmental Working Group puts out it annual Shoppers Guide to Pesticides to help you make budget-friendly and baby-friendly grocery decisions.
Chemical and Hormone Exposures
Decreasing toxic exposures in general is a good idea: I share resources for doing that here. I also periodically teach a practical approach to minimizing toxic exposures. Contact us if you are interested in this one hour class. Some of the most relevant for fertility are those behaviors that decrease exogenous (external) hormonal exposures, including:
- Avoid Bisphenol A (BPA). Canned food is one of the top sources, so choose fresh or frozen instead. BPA also loosely coats thermally printed receipts like a talcum powder. Wash your hands after handling them if you must take your receipt.
- To avoid endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals, store food in glass as much as possible, especially if it is hot, fatty, or acidic. If you must use plastic, wash it by hand (not in the dishwasher) with cool or lukewarm water. This decreases the likelihood that estrogenic phthalates will leach into your food. Also, don’t put plastic in the microwave or oven, even if the instructions say it is OK.
- Use the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to choose clean body care. For one, although all the research is not in, I’d suggest not using antibacterial soap with as triclosan, a common ingredient, is another artificial estrogen.
A few more recommendations, not specific for hormones, but still a good idea:
- Choose lower mercury fish like salmon and limit intake to 6 oz per week. Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackeral, tilefish, large tuna. (This is a recommendation largely for pregnancy rather than fertility.)
- Use non-toxic cleaners in your home.
Foresight: a charity that takes a natural health approach to fertility, and gets results.
Resolve: for couples facing a diagnosis of infertilty.
If you’d like to learn more about how your body works, here is a video illustrating ovulation.
Toni Weschler’s book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, is a classic. Her website is here.