Research conducted by the National Infertility Association found that 30 percent of women experiencing infertility were at least 20 pounds overweight or 20 pounds underweight. How much fat you carry can interfere with hormone levels, ovulation and your ability to conceive normally. In addition, being overweight increases your risk of developing disorders that can disrupt the production of hormones conducive to conception (polycystic ovarian syndrome, insulin resistance, and diabetes, for example). Even the way you carry excess weight impacts infertility. If you carry most of your weight in your abdomen, buttocks, and hips, you are more likely to experience infertility than women who are peripherally obese.
The role of fat deposits is critical in controlling hormonal balance. Adipose tissue readily stores androgens and other lipid-soluble steroids which naturally increases the level of steroid hormones known to interfere with fertility. In addition, fat metabolizes sex hormones quickly due to producing enzymes such as 3b-dehydrogenase and 17b-hydroxydehydrogenase. Both of these enzymes are also implicated in polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Alternately, being underweight by at least 15 to 20 pounds almost always carries the risk of vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition, and anemia. The presence of just one of these medical conditions can make it difficult to get pregnant and stay pregnant.
5 Fertility Friendly Foods
In addition to maintaining a weight recommended by your physician, eating these foods may help improve your ability to conceive and keep you healthy throughout your pregnancy:
- Iron-Rich Foods
Eggs, spinach, whole grains, beans, and fortified cereals contain iron necessary for reducing the risk of infertility-causing ovulatory problems. Eating vitamin C foods (berries, bell peppers, citrus fruits) with iron-rich foods also supports absorption and utilization of iron.
- Avocados and MUFAs
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) have been associated with promoting regular ovulation and improving fertility. A great source of MUFAs, avocados also contain vitamin A, potassium, folate and other nutrients supporting to reproductive health. In fact, women eating a diet rich in foods providing MUFAs may help increase their odds of a successful in vitro fertilization procedure. Other sources of monounsaturated fatty acids include most nuts, olive oil, and olives.
Studies indicate that replacing animal proteins with plant-based proteins could increase the chance of conception. One study found that replacing just five percent of animal proteins with vegetable proteins reduced the risk of infertility by 50 percent in women diagnosed with an ovulation disorder. One of the best sources of plant-based proteins, folate, and zinc is quinoa, a type of seed and grain that is gluten-free and easy to digest.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential building blocks for production of hormones implicated in fertility, conception and pregnancy. Salmon is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids that also contribute to development of the fetal nervous system. If you don’t like salmon, flax seeds, almonds and walnuts are additional sources of OFAs.
- What NOT to Eat–Foods Containing Trans Fats
Trans fats are artificial fats created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils for the purpose of partially solidifying them. Trans fats not only raise bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) and increase your risk for heart disease but may also cause infertility by promoting development of ovulatory infertility conditions.
Limit consumption of hydrogenated vegetable oils, bakery items, fried foods, and processed meats if you are trying to get pregnant. One study found that women consuming too many trans fatty foods experienced an increased risk (31 percent) of ovulatory infertility compared to a control group of similarly aged women who did not eat trans fatty foods. In addition, the same study discovered choosing trans fat foods over carbohydrates increased the infertility risk by 73 percent.
If you and your partner have been trying to conceive for a year without success, Viera Fertility Center can diagnose the exact cause of infertility and provide a variety of reproductive assistant technologies to help you get pregnant. Call today to learn more about how weight and diet may be contributing to you or your partner’s infertility or schedule a consultation appointment with our fertility doctor.