Lifestyle and dietary recommendations for the infertile female

Women with infertility can have some control of their reproductive function by living a healthy lifestyle. Often some negative habits may contribute to their infertility. Therefore, if they live a healthy lifestyle, it is possible that there will be some improvement in their ability to conceive a child. There is no conclusive evidence for all of these lifestyle recommendations, but there is some evidence and rationale for each one of them, that they may help:

Stress Reduction and Exercise

It is important to try to keep your stress levels as low as possible. We realize that this is a very anxious time for you and that other stresses in your life may also be present, such as work related. However, it could greatly facilitate the process if you take steps to lower your stress level. It has been shown that stress can have negative effects on the female reproductive system.

Here are some suggested methods you could use to reduce stress:

  • Moderate exercise: Going for a walk or exercise class. However, excessive exercise, such as long distance running or very high impact aerobics, could be detrimental to fertility.
  • Yoga (but not hot yoga)
  • Massage Therapy
  • Meditation
  • Relaxation tapes
  • Acupuncture
  • Support from friends, family, clergy or a counsellor

Here at CReATe, we have professional infertility counselors available to help you upon request.

Other Lifestyle Recommendations

  • Avoid excessive heat (heated waterbeds, saunas, whirlpool hot baths, very high impact exercise etc)
  • Limit coffee to 1 or 2 cups per day.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Do not use marijuana, cocaine, or other recreational drugs.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight and underweight could have negative effects on your fertility
  • Limit alcohol intake to a maximum of 1-2 drinks per day and avoid binge drinking
  • Maintain good nutritional habits, especially a diet rich in fresh fruits and leafy vegetables

Key Vitamins and Nutritional Supplements

There is some evidence that taking certain vitamins and minerals may help improve a woman’s fertility. There is no magical pill for fertility but a combination of vitamins and minerals may have an impact on your fertility. Studies have shown that taking multivitamins may improve chances of pregnancy.

Here is a listing of the some vitamins and minerals that may help improve your fertility:

  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D is needed to help the body create sex hormones which in turn affects ovulation and hormonal balance. Eggs, fatty fish, dairy, and cod liver oil are some food sources. You can also get vitamin D from sitting out in the sun for 15 to 20 minutes per day. A supplement of 1000mg is usually adequate.
  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an important antioxidant to help protect egg DNA integrity.
  • Sunflower seeds, almonds, olives, spinach, papaya, dark leafy greens are food sources
  • CoQ10: Necessary for every cell in the body having energy to function, CoQ10 may help the egg cell energy packages called mitochondria. Some studies recommend as high as 600 to 800 mg per day. CoQ10 is found in seafood and organ meats. Amounts in the body decline with age.
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility in women according to a study published in “Fertility and Sterility”. Large amounts of Vitamin C is found in plants and fruits including red peppers, broccoli, cranberries, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, and citrus fruit.
  • Lipoic Acid: Lipoic acid is a very important antioxidant because may help to protect female reproductive organs and helps the body to continually re-use antioxidants. Lipoic acid is found in potatoes, spinach and red meat.
  • B6: Vitamin B6 appears to be a hormone regulator. Vitamin B6 is found in tuna, banana, turkey, liver, salmon, cod, spinach, bell peppers, and turnip greens, collard greens, garlic, cauliflower, mustard greens, celery, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and chard.
  • B12: Vitamin B12 may help the endometrium lining for embryo implantation, decreasing the chances of miscarriage. Some studies have found that a deficiency of B12 may result in irregular ovulation, and in severe cases stop ovulation altogether. Clams, oysters, muscles, liver, caviar (fish eggs), fish, crab, lobster, beef, lamb, cheese, and eggs contain Vitamin B12.
  • Folic Acid: This vitamin helps prevent neural tube defects as well as congenital heart defects, cleft lips, limb defects, and urinary tract anomalies in developing fetuses. Deficiency in folic acid may increase the risk of going into preterm delivery, infant low birth weight and fetal growth retardation. Deficiency may also increase the homocysteine level in the blood, which could lead to miscarriages and other late pregnancy complications. Foods containing a lot of folate include liver, lentils, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, asparagus, spinach, black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, collard greens
  • Iron: Studies have shown that women who are iron deficient may suffer anovulation (lack of ovulation) and possibly poor egg health. Good food sources of Iron include: lentils, spinach, tofu, sesame seeds, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds (raw), venison, garbanzo beans, navy beans, molasses, beef
  • Selenium: An antioxidant that may help protect eggs from free radicals. Free radicals could cause chromosomal damage which is known to cause miscarriages and birth defects.
  • Food containing large amounts of Selenium are: Liver, snapper, cod, halibut, tuna, salmon, sardines, shrimp, crimini mushrooms, turkey
  • Zinc: Low levels of zinc have been linked to miscarriage. Foods containing a lot of zinc include: calf liver, oysters, beef, lamb, venison, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, turkey, green peas, shrimp. Raw foods are higher in zinc than cooked.
  • Essential Fatty Acids: Omega-3 acids may help fertility by helping to regulate hormones in the body, increase cervical mucus, promote ovulation and increase blood flow to the reproductive organs. Omega-3 fats also contain two acids that are crucial to good health: DHA and EPA. These two acids have been shown to help many forms of disease. Low levels of DHA have been linked to depression and other mental health issues. During pregnancy, a lack of DHA may be associated with premature birth, low birth weight and hyperactivity in children.

Herbal supplements

Very few studies have been performed on the various herbal preparations. Some of them can contain hormones that can negatively affect your cycle. It is not possible to know if any particular herbal preparation will help or harm your fertility. Please consult with your physician prior to using any herbal supplements.