The fertility diet

Find out how to get your body ready for a baby.

Food is our body's fuel; what we eat affects how we look, how we feel and how healthy we are. Having a healthy body can go a long way to helping you conceive a healthy pregnancy, so if you're trying for a baby it's a good idea to make sure that your diet is in tip top condition.

What should you eat when you're trying to conceive? -

While there are certain foods that are said to boost your fertility it's more important to eat a varied and balanced diet. Doing this will help you to get all of the nutrients you need to conceive, and then 'grow' a baby.

For a healthy fertility-friendly diet it's a good idea to regularly include the following into your eating routine:
  • Fruit and vegetables -
    It's all too tempting to reach for the same fruit and veg week in, week out (carrots and apples anyone...) but for the healthiest diet it's best to mix things up a little. Eating a varied mix of different coloured fruit and vegetables each week will ensure that you're getting the full range of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants that Mother Nature has to offer.

    Try to include at least five portions a day (aim for a 3:2 vegetable:fruit split) and remember that fresh, frozen, canned, dried and juiced varieties all count!

  • Folic acid -
    Folic acid is a really important B vitamin that can help prevent neural tube defects from developing in early pregnancy. For this reason it's recommended that you supplement your diet with 400micrograms of folic acid a day while you are trying to conceive and up until the 12th week of your pregnancy. While folic acid is present in foods such as leafy greens and lentils it's generally recommended that you take a supplement as it's incredibly difficult to get enough from your diet alone.

    Women whose children, close relatives or partner have a neural tube defect should seek advice from their doctor as it's likely that they'll need to take a higher dose of folic acid while they're trying to conceive as a preventative measure.

  • Protein -
    Lean meat, fish, beans, eggs and lentils are all important sources of protein when you're trying to conceive. However, it's important to remember that while you should try and include 2 portions of oily fish in your diet each week (as they are the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids) you should avoid eating fish with a high level of mercury such as marlin, swordfish and shark and more than 2 fresh tuna steaks each week.

  • Carbohydrates -
    Carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice, bread and pasta are a fantastic source of fertility-friendly nutrients, not to mention 'essential' for giving you plenty of energy for all the 'baby dancing' you'll be doing. However, to get the most from this food group it's much better to go for slow-release carbs rather than their refined counterparts. This means choosing brown, wholemeal varieties over white, choosing oats over processed cereals and keeping the skin on your potatoes.

  • Dairy products -
    Dairy products are a great source of calicum, a vital nutrient when you're trying to conceive and when you're pregnant. Some research has suggested that full fat varieties (eaten in moderation) are better for fertility than low-fat options such as skimmed milk and reduced fat yogurt.
Should you worry about your weight? -

Being very over, or under the recommended weight for your height can hamper your changes of falling pregnant so if you do fall to one extreme or the other it's a good idea to address the issue. It's generally recommended that you get as close to your healthy weight as possible before you fall pregnant. However, any steps you take towards this will help your chances of conceiving and carrying a healthy pregnancy.

If you think that your weight could be an issue for your fertility you should contact your doctor for more advice on how to remedy the issue. Working out your BMI is a good place to start as this will give you some idea of how close you are to your healthy weight.

Should you take a supplement? -

While eating a varied and balanced diet is the best way to get all of the nutrients you need to conceive, taking an anatenatal supplement can be a good idea too although just as a safeguard to make sure you are getting everything you need.

Should you stop drinking? -

While the jury is still out on exactly how big an impact alcohol has on fertility, heavy drinking in the early stages of pregnancy is definitely a 'no no' so it's generally advised to cut down as much as possible while you're trying to conceive. While you don't necessarily need to abstain completely, you should try to limit your intake to just one or two units of alcohol a week.

Should you cut out caffeine? -

Excessive caffeine consumption isn't particularly good for anyone and isn't considered safe during pregnancy so cutting down now is a good idea. The Food Standards Agency recommend that you keep your caffeine intake under 200g a day. This includes food and drink so you should watch your intake of coffee, tea, fizzy drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and hot chocolate as they all contain caffeine.

Should you steer clear of any foods? -

To get your body, and reproductive system, in the best shape possible it's a good idea to try and cut back on processed foods and those that contain high levels of refined sugar and fats. It can also be a good idea to start following the 'safe eating' practices that are important in pregnancy in preparation for when you do conceive.

Have you been trying to eat healthily since you started trying for a baby? Why not share your questions and top tips with other parents-to-be on the AskBaby forums.

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How true it is I do not know, but as part of my work as a therapist, a supplement company I use recommends Fish Oils to aid the reproduction system. Sheila Elmer, Therapist and retired midwife
by helper 14th May 2010, 5:22pm