A healthy diet for Future Parents

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Anna - Thu, 02/02/2012 - 01:19

Dietary recommendations for pregnancy planning

If you have just taken a decision to start efforts to conceive a baby, or that idea only ripens in your minds, you must read how to prepare for this special task.

Appropriate preparation of both future parents will ensure optimal conditions for the maintenance of pregnancy and the proper growth of your baby in the womb. It should go hand in hand with the change in your lifestyle (greater amount of sleep, elimination of contact with toxins, change of adverse working conditions, developing healthy hygiene habits and the abandonment of stimulants) and a proper nutrition. For the sake of the best quality of your reproductive cells, in the period of 3 months preceding pregnancy, you should take care of a healthy diet for both - future Mom and Dad.

A healthy diet of the future Parents should be based on the traditional food pyramid:

  • Vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish and poultry should prevail.
  • One of more important features of proper fertility - oriented nutrition model is the consumption of healthy fats, especially of plant origin such as: olive oil, sunflower oil, rapeseed and linseed.
  • Another item is the large proportion of vegetable protein in relation of the total amount of protein. Even the replacement of 5% consumed energy in the form of animal protein to vegetable protein is associated with a 50% lower risk of infertility due to ovulation disorders[1],[2].
  • Reduce the consumption of red meat and dairy products.
  • Avoid products containing large amounts of salt, refined sugar or trans fats (fast foods, chips, French fries, ready-made soups).

What affects on your fertility?

Very strong influence on weakness of your fertility may have smoking cigarettes (up to 60%), it also weakens the capacity of corpus luteum, that is responsible for proper nourishment of the fetus in first 16 weeks of pregnancy, and also increases the risk of miscarriage and accelerates menopause.

Among men smoking cigarettes, the quality of sperm is reduced, sperm count is lowered and the motility of the sperms is weakened.  

Even higher risk of infertility (70% increase) is when you use the so-called soft drugs. What is more important, their devastating impact on fetal development is well documented.

All medical studies confirm the need to eliminate the alcohol use during the period of attempting to conceive a child and also throughout pregnancy and lactation.

Moreover, drinking excessive amounts of coffee (more than 5 cups, or about 500 mg of caffeine per day) is associated with elevated by 50% risk of infertility and miscarriage.

Term efforts to conceive a baby for women with obesity BMI>35 may extended twice, while with BMI<19 the expectation for pregnancy may take even four times longer (study of Hassan and Killick, 2004).

A Diet for women planning a pregnancy should provide the following components:

  • Folic acid – in order to prevent neural tube defects (anencephaly, which is a lethal defect, not allowing the child to survive outside the mother’s organism, and the hernia of the brain and spinal brain, which must be operated, but frequently occurring complication is paralysis and deformity of limbs of a child or mental retardation). Folic acid  also increases the number of maturing ova and is essential for the fertilization process. All women planning a pregnancy should take folic acid for at least 3 months before conceiving a child at a dose of 400 micrograms, 400 micrograms-1 mg during pregnancy, and in case of women who had a child with neutral tube defect (and also of women with diabetes and epilepsy) folic acid at a dose of 4 mg. Methodology of taking and the dosage should be discussed with your doctor. Folic acid can also be found in the following products: brewer’s yeast, oranges and bananas, beans, lentils and soybeans, green leafy vegetables, asparagus, brussels sprouts, broccoli and peas, carrot and beets, rice, barley and wheat, egg yolks, liver, peanuts, cheese. Folic acid contained in these products is not fully absorbed by the organism, is easy to lose during the thermal process, or even under the influence of a sunlight.
  • Iron – iron intake from supplements and vegetable sources decrease the risk of infertility. It has been hypothesized that too low oxygen levels in ovarian follicles can cause incorrect division of genetic material and incorrect segregation of oocytes[3].
  • L-arginine – medical studies shows that L-arginine supplementation causes more numerous ova increase in a group of women with low levels of gonadotropins. It also improves the FSH hormone treatment of the ovarian and uterus and the speed of achieving pregnancy in women, who poorly respond to standard therapy with gonadotropins[4]. It has a positive impact on the quantity and quality of cervical mucus, adequate blood supply to the reproductive organs and maturation process of the ovum.
  • Magnesium – is essential for proper cell division and DNA replication. Deficiencies of magnesium, copper and zinc before pregnancy can lead to infertility and miscarriages[5]. Magnesium is also a factor which relieves the symptoms of stress (please remember that psychological factors is very important in the treatment of fertility).
  • Antioxidants – there is a hypothesis that oxidative stress (an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals emerging in cells) affects the fertility through lipids and DNA damage, inhibition of protein synthesis and insufficient secretion of progesterone. Normalization of free radical production is so essential for the production of ova and sperm with optimal quality of genetic material. Important antioxidants are vitamin C (750 mg daily) and E, and also selenium and zinc[6].
  • Vitamin B6 (200-600 mg per day) – it lowers too high level of prolactin, disturbing the process of follicular maturation and inhibiting ovulation, and also helps to regulate cycles by improving progesterone function (corpus luteum).

“Fertility Diet” for men should include:

  • Zinc and folic acid -  they interact in the synthesis of DNA molecules that are rapidly produced by the sperm. Zinc plays an important role in the metabolism of hormones, regulating the production of sperm and sperm viability. Zinc deficiency lowers testosterone levels, reducing the amount of semen, and also causes hypogonadism, impaired potency, reduced sperm viability and infertility[7]. Men exhibiting high sexual activity should take a larger dose of zinc, because each ejaculate contains about 5 mg of zinc. The study confirmed the improvement in semen quality after 6-month zinc therapy[8]. The richest sources of zinc are red meat, fish and poultry, whole grains and pulses (beans, peas, lentils). Beneficial effect on sperm quality has also folic acid, which is present mainly in green leafy vegetables.
  • L-carnitine – has a positive effect on sperm maturation, it increases sperm count and reduces the amount of atypical forms, increases sperm motility, improves sperm morphology, inhibits premature apoptosis[9].
  • Antioxidants - vitamins A, C and E are important antioxidants of sperm and, in conjunction with selenium, protect DNA against damage and have a very positive effect on improving sperm motility. Sperm are exposed to oxidative stress, which causes damage to cell membranes and DNA, and which in turn leads to sperm necrosis, asthenozoospermia and DNA fragmentation. Low intake of antioxidants, especially vitamin C and lycopene, is associated with worse quality of the sperm. Positive impact on improving the quality of semen has also selenium, which can be found in fish and cereal products.


[1] „ Diet and lifestyle In the prevention of ovulatory disorder infertility”, JE.Chavarro, JW.Rich-Edwards, BA.Rosner, Obstetrics and Gynecology 110:1050-8, 2007.

[2] „ Protein intake and ovulatory infertility”, JE.Chavarro, JW.Rich-Edwards, BA.Rosner, Obstetrics and Gynecology 198:210.e1-210.e7, 2008

[3] „The fertility diet”. J.E. Chavarro, W.C. Willet, P.J. Skerrett. McGraw-Hill, 2008.

[4] „Adjuvant L-arginine treatment for in-vitro fertilization in poor responder patients”. C. Battaglia, M. Salvatori, N. Maxia, F. Petraglia, F. Facchinetti, A. Volpe. Human Reproduction, 14 (7), 1690-7, 1999.

[5] „Role of trace elements zinc, cooper and magnesium during pregnancy and its outcome”. P. Pathak, U. Kapil. Indian J pediatry, 71 (11), 1003-5, November 2004.

[6] „Role of oxidative stress In female reproduction”. A. Agarwal, S. Gupta, R.K. Sharma. Reprod Biol Endocrinol, 3:28, 2005.

[7] „Rola cynku w seksualności mężczyzn”, Z.Zdrojewicz, A.Wiśniewska, Advances in Clinical Experimental Medicine 14,6,1295-1300, 2005.

[8] „Cynk w leczeniu wspomagającym niepłodności męskiej”. M. Karasek. Folia Medica Lodziensia, 26, 15-23, 1999.

[9] „Use of carnitine therapy in selected casus of male factor infertility: a double-blind crossover trial”. A. Lenzi, F. Lombardo, P. Sgro, P. Salacone, L. Caponecchia, F. Dondero, L. Gandini. Fertilization Steril. 79 (2), 292-300, February 2003.


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