Optimal pre-pregnancy nutrition is important to support successful conception – in both women and men.
Improvements in nutrition by both partners help to decrease ovulatory disorders and improve fertility. Men and women need to be aware of what they’re eating, or what they may not be getting enough of, to increase their chances of conceiving.
Pre-conception nutrition for women
FOLIC ACID – Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects and serious birth defects of the spinal cord and brain. Women who could become pregnant, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding need additional folate and should take a supplement providing at least 400 mcg (0.4 mg) of folic acid every day (we recommend 1000mcg).
IRON – The link between iron levels and ovulation are not yet well established; however, it’s easier and more effective to build up iron stores before pregnancy rather than during pregnancy. Iron rich foods include: lean meats, oysters, sardines, beans/lentils, instant oatmeal, and cream of wheat. If pregnant, ensure your fish and shellfish are thoroughly cooked.
FISH – There is potential for high levels of mercury exposure if you consume large amounts of canned albacore tuna (white tuna). Canned light tuna contains other species of tuna such as skipjack, yellowfin, and tongol, which are relatively low in mercury, making it a safer choice.
CAFFEINE – The relationship between caffeine and infertility is often debated. Some studies associate caffeine with increased rates of miscarriage or adverse pregnancy outcomes, so it’s best to consume in moderation. Drink a maximum of two 6-8 oz cups of coffee per day (>300mg of caffeine).
HYDRATE – Drink fluids such as water, low-fat dairy and soy/almond beverages.
Pre-conception nutrition for men
ZINC – This mineral plays an important role in the reduction of oxidative stress, in sperm maturation and in testosterone synthesis. Foods high in zinc include: beef (choose lean varieties), wild meat (bison), chicken, baked beans, pumpkin seeds and oysters.
FOLATE – Yes, men need this too! Folate status may affect male fertility. Good sources of folate include dark green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, and legumes such as chickpeas, beans and lentils.
CALCIUM – This mineral is important for spermatogenesis and sperm motility. Men can meet their calcium needs by having 2-3 high calcium foods per day (such as a cup of milk, ¾ cup of yogurt, or 1.5 oz of cheese).
HEALTHY BMI – In men an elevated Body Mass Index (BMI) is associated with lower testosterone levels.
Both men and women should avoid alcohol at conception because the relationship between alcohol intake and fertility still requires additional study.
Other tips to keep in mind for optimal conception are: adequate vitamin D intake, consuming a diet rich in antioxidants (found in blueberries, raspberries, oranges, spinach, beets, broccoli, walnuts, pistachios, and barley), and having a healthy body weight.
During your pre-conception check up, be sure to let your doctor or dietitian know if you’re taking any over-the-counter dietary or herbal supplements.