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I’m planning on trying to conceive in the next 6 months. What sort of food should I be eating or supplements should I be taking to make sure my body is at its healthiest when I try to get pregnant?

Written by guest expert, Dr. Alana Shaw, naturopathic doctor at Grace Fertility Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia. Learn more about Dr. Shaw here.

Most of us are familiar with the basics don’ts if you are trying to get pregnant – don’t smoke, don’t do drugs and reduce your alcohol intake – but less is commonly known about ways that diet can affect fertility. While there is no specific diet for fertility success, following these basic tips in the 3-6 months before you try to become pregnant may boost your chances for having a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.  Even if you’ve already started trying to conceive, it’s never too late to make some changes to your diet.

Eat plenty of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables daily.

Think of fruits and veggies as Mother Nature’s multi-vitamins.  They are packed with anti-oxidants and other health boosting nutrients that have been linked with fertility.  A good rule of thumb is allocating half your meal plate to a rainbow of brightly coloured foods – dark greens, oranges, reds, and purples.

Choose healthy fats.

Not all fats are created equal.  Research suggests that reducing your intake of animal fats and increasing your intake of plant and fish-based fats can improve your odds of conception.  Choose lean meats when possible and eat plenty of fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocados.  Check out the seafood selector at this link to make healthy fish choices that are high in omega 3 fatty acids and low in toxins.

Avoid processed foods, fried foods, and refined sugars.

Processed and fried foods contain trans-fats (aka hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils). Refined sugar is another product found in many processed and packaged food items such as cookies, crackers, muffins, and fries. Both can contribute to a wide range of health conditions including pregnancy complications, obesity, and infertility, and should be avoided completely or reserved only for special occasions.

Take a good quality prenatal vitamin.

A quality prenatal vitamin acts to optimize your daily nutritional requirement intake.  Consider taking high quality supplements of the following vitamins and minerals:

  • Folic acid:  Choose a product that contains at least 400mcg of folic acid to prevent neural tube defects.  If you are older than 35, overweight or have a family history of neural tube defects you may need a product with additional folic acid (1-5mg) or folic acid in its active form (5-methyltetrahydrofolate).
  • Iron:  Iron is an essential mineral in all stages of life, and supports fetal growth and development in pregnancy.  Healthy women should supplement with 16-20mg of iron per day in addition to eating a well-balanced diet.  Concerned about the constipation that comes along with iron supplementation?  Look for vitamins that contain iron glycinate.  This form is easily absorbed and non-constipating.
  • Vitamin B12:  New research suggests women with low levels of Vitamin B12 just before or after conception are more likely to give birth to children with neural tube defects.  Choose a prenatal vitamin with 1000mcg of B12 if you are a vegetarian, a vegan, or have a restricted diet.
  • Vitamin A: Make sure you do not exceed the recommended daily dose of your vitamins in order to avoid over supplementing with vitamin A.  Intake of 10,000IU or more of vitamin A can cause birth defects.  Look for a product that has less than 3,000IU of vitamin A, or none at all.

Get your partner on board!

Remember that there are 2 parties that have to participate in making a baby. Since sperm is very sensitive to environmental and lifestyle factors, the suggestions listed above are relevant for men as well as women.

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