A mother is born once and so is the child. The human body has beautiful, efficient mechanisms in place to nurture life and offer growth at optimal levels. The amazing food for thought is, how nutrition becomes a lifesaver as well as a life-changing aspect. A woman when healthy during conception is more likely to have a healthier child. Let us see how food and life are connected.
The preconception period is about embryonic development or the baby in the making process. A tiny single reproductive cell now grows faster, placenta feeds the fetus, till nine months. The single reproductive tissue is transformed into a full-term baby, who is ready to face the world and see the parents with open naked eyes. Balanced nutrition before conception is vital to improve maternal and child health and reduce the growing burden of non-communicable diseases. Alongside creating awareness about smoking, alcohol and obesity to build preconception health.
The preconception period is 3-12 months prior to falling pregnant. This is the right and crucial time to start considering food as a nutrient. The nutrients in the diet affect the developing egg and sperm cells, which take around 90 days to mature. Studies show that inadequate nutrition in the preconception period can prolong the time to conception. It also impacts the pregnancy outcome.
For example, the rapid development of the placenta, the blood supply to the baby, the spinal cord and brain development demands excellent nutrition. The growth of the baby is impacted by what both partners eat in the months running up to conception. Nutrition is important when it comes to fertility, however, there are many myths so let’s take a closer look at these.
Myth No.1: To improve fertility just rely completely on good fertility multivitamin
The number one question we get is what supplements should I take to improve fertility?
There is no magic pill and there are 2 sources of nutrition, one is through diet and another is through supplements. Nutrition from an overall diet is much more important than any pill. The synchrony of different foods is seen through colours, tastes and forms. There is so much more to daily food nutrition than supplements.
Readily bioavailable nutrition from a regular daily diet is important. Every food offers fat, protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals. There are plants which contain beneficial polyphenols and fiber, which support a healthy gut microbiome. Many plants contain excellent hormones and anti-inflammatory substances. Every colour of plants and fruits attracts. Individual nutrients taken in pill form can’t replicate what is found in nature.
2. The Real concern is to take or not to take supplements.
Micronutrients are present in the food we eat, but can also be taken as supplements in tablet form. There are national recommended daily intake (RDI) guidelines for micronutrients and for most people who eat a variety of healthy unprocessed food, there is no need to take supplements. But, if you are planning to conceive, there is supplementing your diet with certain micronutrients is a must to reduce birth defects and complications. Some micronutrients may also help improve fertility.
3. Women during pregnancy need more energy for their babies.
During pregnancy, there is a development of Placental growth. Energy is needed for the development of a baby and its structure. There is a steady rise in basal metabolism or growth • Fetus growth is rapid during pregnancy and requires energy during this process.
4. What research says about nutrients which affect fertility?
Many women need during pregnancy nutrients like folic acid, calcium, iodine, iron, selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin B-12. Most bioavailable forms of calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, iodine, and selenium are useful in boosting fertility.
5. Should men go for prenatal vitamins?
50%of the biological materials come from the father, so it is advisable to have prenatal vitamins for men too. Male pre-natal are required to support male fertility and healthy sperm production, sexual function, and a healthy hormone profile and not to support a growing fetus. The male partner should take nutritional supplements before conception. The sperm production process happens around 74 days, so it could be wise to take supplements 2–3 months before conception.
6. Why do we talk so much about diet and fertility?
We know, by now, there are various factors responsible for infertility. And that too from the male and female sides. There are structural, genetic factors and functional factors which harm fertility. Obesity and lifestyle factors are linked to infertility. The least, we can do, is to adopt a healthy lifestyle which reduces the burden of infertility in the couple. Every effort should be made to reduce the burden of infertility. A healthy diet can definitely build fertility.
Do you know, eating disorders like bulimia nervosa and anorexia, affect 5% of childbearing-aged women,? These conditions are linked to amenorrhea, infertility and miscarriages too.
More portion of food does not always mean better nutrition. The excess and the lack of nutrients will make it difficult to get pregnant.
The best advice derived from research to date about fertility food is:
- Choose whole grain high fiber foods (i.e brown bread, brown rice and pasta) instead of white processed foods
- Include colourful fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Avoid saturated ‘bad’ fats, which are present in fried foods, pastries, and biscuits.
- Eat avocados, nuts, and seeds for unsaturated ‘good’ fats
- Avoid sugary food and drink, such as sweets, and fizzy drinks.
- Reach the ideal BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 and stay active
- Have milk or yoghurt every day
Men, nutrition and fertility
Men can also improve the chances of pregnancy. Sperm quality is affected by diet.
- Avoid diets high in processed meat
- Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are linked to better sperm quality.
- Eating a portion of walnuts a day helps sperm motility.
Your diet and lifestyle choices before pregnancy will affect your baby’s development in the womb and their health in the future. Making changes now can also prevent pregnancy problems. These factors go a long way in building the beautiful bond of pregnancy with motherhood.