One simple lifestyle intervention you may want to consider while trying to get pregnant is eating Mediterranean diet.
Although the ultimate mechanism behind why Mediterranean diet works needs yet to be determined (please see the original studies below), preliminary data clearly show that couples eating diets high in whole grains, fish fruits and vegetables had far less trouble getting pregnant.
Mediterranean diet to increase fertility
I already wrote about benefits of the Mediterranean diet for conception.
Just this morning I went through new research papers published on Mediterranean diet and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of positive evidence accumulated on this topic!
Here are the highlights:
1. This observational study with data from 10 Mediterranean countries aimed to explore a relationship between the incidence of gestational diabetes and the Mediterranean pattern of eating.
Authors found out that adherence to a mediterranean kitchen was associated not only with lower incidence of gestational diabetes, but also with a better degree of glucose tolerance, even in women without gestational diabetes. They concluded that using this eating style may be used for the prevention of gestational diabetes and recommend further testing with intervention studies.
2. Another recent study conducted in Granada, Spain set on to anayse the factors associated with the level of adherence to a Mediterranean dietary pattern in 1175 healthy Spanish women. In other words, authors set out to find which women were more likely to follow the recommendations.
They found that higher age ment better adherence with diet recommendations. Younger women invited to adhere to the Mediterranean diet between 20th-22nd gestational week were clearly less compliant. In summary: higher age, educational level, and social standing of the women were associated with a higher level of adherence to the Mediterranean diet, whereas younger age, lower social standing, basic educational level, especially in combination with smoking and lack of exercise were associated with low adherence to the Mediterranean diet.
3. I can’t resist mentioning this research paper which is slightly older (2012), but comes from my favorite research group which i cite a lot throughout the blog and in my book, because they made many important findings.
This team of researchers based in Netherlands investigated how early nutritional exposures affect future health (in other words, how stuff which mothers eat affect various characteristics of their babies).
This particular paper shows associations of dietary habits in first half of pregnancy with fetal size, placental and birth weight, in a prospective observational study of 3207 pregnant women. Mediterranean eating style was characterised by higher intakes of fruit, vegetables, vegetable oil, fish, pasta and rice, and lower intakes of meat, potatoes and fatty sauces.
So, all three studies positively evaluated eating Mediterranean diet with increased fertility in women and/or improved chances of having healthy pregnancies and babies. But that’s not all.
A few more nutritional tricks to get pregnant faster
Diet and nutrition quite logically seem to play a role in increasing fertility and improving pregnancy chances.
There is a growing body of evidence that previously might have been dismissed as an “old wives tales” class of superstitions. This is specifically with regard to how various foods can affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant.
For example, research data suggest that vegetable-sourced protein in place of animal sourced protein can reduce the incidence of ovulatory infertility.
In addition, high-fat dairy products help to have a good and regular ovulation, while low-fat dairy actually exacerbates ovulatory issues. Translated into every-day English, this mean: drink whole milk, rather than skim; and if you’re still drinking coffee, use full cream rather than milk; if you want a treat, have some real ice cream. By the way, alcohol may not be as harmful as most women believe.
Other factors noted to reduce ovulatory infertility include taking vitamin supplements with a particular emphasis on those that contain folic acid. Folic acid, taken weeks before conception, helps to protect the fetus from neurological problems with brain and spinal cord.
Eating whole grains to add essential B vitamins, vitamin E, and fiber is strongly advised; increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, not only for the vitamins, but for the antioxidants; and increasing your intake if Omega-3 fatty acids, with flax seed, walnuts, salmon, or canned tuna.
Choline potentially reduces harmful gene anomalies that could result in birth defects, as well as being vital for brain function.
Most women do not get enough choline and many prenatal vitamins do not even contain it. It can be found in egg yolks, cauliflower, and the best source, beef liver.
Choline is used by the body to make an essential element called acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in our brains and nervous system. It is essential for attention and arousal in the central nervous system. In the peripheral nervous system it activates our muscles for us.
One last thing:
Drink plenty of fluids as it prevents thickening of the cervical fluid. And also make sure your partner is optimizing his diet during this time, too. Check to see that he’s getting enough vitamin C & D, zinc and folic acid (read here my post on why husbands hate sperm tests).
Once you get pregnant
Remember that omega-3s aid in the development of a baby’s brain and nervous system.
There also seems to be a correlation between increased omega-3 intake and a reduced danger of premature birth.
And please do not stop taking folic acid after you become pregnant. Eight hundred micrograms of folic acid such as this one daily decreases the risk of brain and spinal cord defects in the first trimester.
Folic acid (and a few good books about Mediterranean kitchen):
- Karamanos B, Thanopoulou A, Anastasiou E, Assaad-Khalil S, Albache N, Bachaoui M, Slama CB, El Ghomari H, Jotic A, Lalic N, Lapolla A, Saab C, Marre M, Vassallo J, Savona-Ventura C; MGSD-GDM Study Group. Relation of the Mediterranean diet with the incidence of gestational diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jan;68(1):8-13. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.177. Epub 2013 Oct 2.
- Olmedo-Requena R, Fernández JG, Prieto CA, Moreno JM, Bueno-Cavanillas 1, Jiménez-Moleón JJ. Factors associated with a low adherence to a Mediterranean diet pattern in healthy Spanish women before pregnancy. Public Health Nutr. 2014 Mar;17(3):648-56. doi: 10.1017/S1368980013000657. Epub 2013 Mar 18.
- Timmermans S, Steegers-Theunissen RP, Vujkovic M, den Breeijen H, Russcher H, Lindemans J, Mackenbach J, Hofman A, Lesaffre EE, Jaddoe VV, Steegers EA. The Mediterranean diet and fetal size parameters: the Generation R Study. Br J Nutr. 2012 Oct 28;108(8):1399-409. doi: 10.1017/S000711451100691X. Epub 2012 Feb 21.
- Gaskins AJ, Rovner AJ, Mumford SL, Yeung E, Browne RW, Trevisan M, Perkins NJ, Wactawski-Wende J, Schisterman EF; BioCycle Study Group. Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and plasma concentrations of lipid peroxidation in premenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Dec;92(6):1461-7. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.000026. Epub 2010 Oct 13.