How to boost your fertility

Planning a family? Here's what you need to know before you start...

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If you’re trying to conceive, there are simple ways you can both boost your fertility to better your chance of having a baby.

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Here, Practical Parenting’s nutritionist, Victoria Greaves, looks at:

*What to do six months, four months and two months before you try to conceive;
*Vitamin and mineral supplement programmes for both of you;
*Fertility boosting diet;
*Nutrients to boost your fertility, and how to get them.

SIX MONTHS BEFORE TRYING TO CONCEIVECome off the Pill
It destabilises your body’s balance of essential nutrients. Use a barrier contraceptive.

Take supplements
Supplements will ensure you get what even a healthy diet may not provide.
Bio-Care, Nutri, Solgar or Lamberts all have therapeutic levels of nutrients.

Supplement programme

For you
Daily antenatal multi-vitamin and -mineral (with at least 400mcg of folic acid).
Essential fatty acid formula: 400mg EPA, 200mg DHA and 20mg of GLA. No cod liver oil.

For him
Daily multi-vitamin and -mineral formula with 30mg of zinc.
Essential fatty acid formula with 400mg EPA, 200mg DHA and 20mg of GLA. No cod liver oil.

For both
Vitamin C 1000g

AT LEAST FOUR MONTHS BEFORE TRYING TO CONCEIVEBoth have a routine genito-urinary check-up
Sexually transmitted diseases can affect fertility and many have no symptoms.

Check your weight
– Being underweight can decrease your fertility.
– Being overweight can prevent ovulation.
Aim for a body mass index (BMI) of 20-25. Calculate it at www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk.

Both eat healthily
Diet is vital to a healthy conception and pregnancy.
Check out the fertility diet below.

Reduce toxins
Avoid synthetic hormones such as xenoestrogens, found in
– pesticides
– plastic-wrapped foods
– plastic bottled water.

For Both
– cut down on alcohol
– quit smoking

AT LEAST TWO MONTHS BEFORE TRYING TO CONCEIVETake steps to reduce stress hormones and boost mood-enhancing hormones.

Get moving
Aim for three times a week, as exercise helps to:
– raise endorphins to boost your mood
– reduce excess weight and cholesterol
– improve heart function

Choose moderate exercise such as:
– walking
– jogging
– swimming
– cycling
– sex

Practise relaxation exercises such as:
– yoga
– meditation
– reflexology, massage, acupressure or other alternative therapies provided by a practitioner

YOUR FERTILITY DIETClear out the toxins by:
Eating organically to lower your toxin intake and increase your nutrient intake. Aim to eat
– eight portions of organic fruit and vegetables a day
– meats and diary only from animals that haven’t had growth hormones or antibiotics
Eating whole foods not refined foods
– The fibre in them helps remove toxins and unwanted hormones.
– Unrefined flour contains 80% more zinc, which is needed to produce sperm.
Drinking eight glasses of filtered water or herbal/fruit teas
– Helps to flush out excess toxins from your body.
Cutting out caffeine
– It’s in coffee, strong tea and chocolate and has been linked to low fertility and reduced sperm count.
Eating little and often
– Keeps your blood sugar levels up. Big drops in blood sugar release adrenalin, which can block progesterone, the hormone that maintains a pregnancy.
Eating the good fats
– Healthy ‘essential fats’ are in oily fish (mackerel, sardines, pilchards and salmon) and sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
– Limit saturated fats from animal produce
– Avoid hydrogenated fats from manufactured biscuits and cakes

FERTILITY-BOOSTING NUTRIENTSB6
Helps balance hormones.
Good sources sunflower seeds, tinned salmon, bananas, walnuts and lentils
Daily requirement each for you and him 50mg
Meal idea Tuna salad with watercress, avocado, peppers and kidney beans followed by a banana and handful of mixed nuts

B12
Needed for cellular reproduction and for manufacturing sperm.
Good sources clams, sardines, anchovies, lamb, egg yolk and cheddar cheese.
Daily requirement each for you and him 50mcg.
Meal idea Wholemeal linguine with clams in garlic, white wine, onion, tomato and parsley sauce

Zinc
Ensures the production of good-quality sperm
Can reduce the chance of miscarriage
Helps the body attract and retain oestrogen and progesterone.
Best sources oysters, beef, pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts and crabmeat.
Daily requirement each for you and him 30mg
Meal idea Grilled oysters with chilli, spring onion and soy sauce or spaghetti bolognese

Selenium
Improves male fertility and prevents chromosome breakage, which often causes miscarriage.
Best sources Brazil nuts, lobster, tinned tuna, squid, sunflower seeds and shrimp.
Daily requirement each for you and him 100mcg
Snack idea a handful of Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and raisins

Vitamin E
Improves sperm condition and age-related ovulation decline.
Best sources Sunflower oil, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, almonds and avocados
Daily requirement each for you and him 270mg – you’ll probably need a supplement to get it all
Snack idea almond or peanut butter on wholemeal toast

Essential Fatty Acids
Crucial for hormone function and semen production, quality and mobility. In women, it can reduce endometriosis and fibroids, which can affect fertility.
Best sources Sardines, pilchards, mackerel, flaxseed oil, anchovies, nuts and seeds
Daily requirement each for you and him Oily fish three times a week, and nuts and seeds daily.
Meal idea Grilled sardines with a large, colourful salad

Vitamin C
Improves sperm quality, count and mobility.
Best sources Strawberries, kiwi fruit, raspberries, oranges and tomatoes.
Daily requirement each for you and him 1000mg (equivalent to 20 oranges).
Meal idea Large salad with peppers, cherry tomatoes, watercress, avocado and grated carrot. Fresh juice made with 2 oranges, 3 carrots, 1 lemon and some ginger. Berries and kiwi fruit for snacks.

Check with your GP about the changes you’re making.

THEN AFTER SIX MONTHS on the plan, stop using contraception and go for it!

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For more on fertility, conception and pregnancy, check out Practical Parenting magazine each month.

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