Can some foods make me more likely to become pregnant?

Although I’d love to give you a long list of foods which miraculously improve fertility, sadly, it’s not that simple. As with the vast majority of nutritional science, there is never a simple answer or one superhero food which is going to solve all problems.

Online it is easy to find articles which suggest ‘detox’ diets, eating only organic produce and even juicing to improve fertility. There is little evidence behind these recommendations and so it is important to seek advice from a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

One factor related to diet which canaffect fertility is body weight and composition. Being both under and overweight can disrupt the female reproductive cycle and therefore negatively impact fertility. 

NICE guidance suggests that women with a BMI greater than 30 are likely to take longer to conceive a baby. Being overweight or obese can even lead to ovulation stopping all together, which obviously will prevent conception. Women are therefore advised that weight loss will lead to an improvement in fertility. The same goes for men in this case, those with a BMI > 30 are also more likely to experience trouble with their fertility. 

Low body weight can also lead to problems with fertility. Being underweight can lead to amenorrhea in women, which is the absence of menstruation. Those with amenorrhea or even irregular menstrual cycles are advised to increase their body weight to get their cycle back on track and therefore improve their chances of conception. 

Alcohol intake is another aspect to consider when trying to improve fertility. Evidence shows that for men, consuming alcohol within the recommended guidelines of 3-4 units per day is unlikely to affect the quality of their semen. However, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to lower quality semen and therefore reduce chances of conception.

Women who are trying to get pregnant are advised to completely avoid alcohol, as it can pass through to the baby’s blood and be detrimental to their health and development. Drinking alcohol while pregnant also increases the risk of miscarriage and premature birth. Smoking is also known to negatively impact fertility in both males and females, so couples trying to conceive are advised to stop smoking and are often referred to a smoking cessation programme.

review of all studies looking into the link between fertility and diet was recently carried out by Harvard university. From this review it was concluded that dairy produce, antioxidants, vitamin D, caffeine and soy had very little or no effect on fertility, while diets rich in red and processed meat, trans fats, sweets and sweetened beverages were found to have negative effects on fertility. A number of nutrients were also found to have positive effects on fertility in women, these included folic acid, vitamin b12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 can be found in oily fish, nuts and seeds, while vitamin b12 is found in animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy. Women are already advised to supplement folic acid when trying for a baby, and although extra omega-3 and b12 may be beneficial, healthy diets which include these nutrients are already recommended to everyone in the UK. The amount of omega-3 and b12 to exert a positive effect on fertility is also unknown. 

To conclude, the best dietary advice to follow if you are trying to get pregnant is just the standard healthy eating advice, a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and one which includes the recommended one portion of oily fish per week. Additionally, having a healthy BMI is very likely to improve fertility, therefore putting on or losing weight in a healthy, sustainable manner may be beneficial to some. 

Hannah is a Final Year Nutrition student at the University of Nottingham, who aspires to go on a study a Masters in Dietetics. Her interests include nutrition education and maternal and child health. Follow her on Twitter at @hlj_jones