Trying to conceive often starts out as a fun and exciting time.
Little is more exciting than the idea of getting ready to grow your family.
But what happens when trying to conceive (TTC) isn’t as simple as have sex and get a positive test in the first few cycles?
When trying to conceive takes longer than expected, it can easily become all-consuming and lead to trying almost anything.
Low Carb Increases Your Chance Of Pregnancy
From over-the-counter devices and supplements, to fertility charting and medical treatments, many couples who are TTC will try almost anything to get that positive pregnancy test.
Many of these home or natural remedies or medical fertility treatments can be quite pricey.
What if there was a less invasive and easily affordable option to boost your chance of conceiving?
Or, what if you could increase the likelihood of success during expensive fertility treatments?
One fertility expert, Dr Gillian Lockwood, from the IVI Midland fertility clinic, found dietary changes increased her patients’ likelihood of conception by a fifth.
Reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing protein intake has been found to increase the likelihood of successfully conceiving.
What Dietary Changes Are Needed To Increase Fertility?
While we’re not always certain exactly how these things impact fertility, researchers have found ways to help increase fertility in those suffering from these conditions.
While medical treatments are available, researchers have found that for some women, simple dietary changes can improve their fertility and help the conceive naturally.
For others, it can improve their fertility to increase the likelihood of successful conception with medical interventions.
Lockwood has found counselling her patients to eat fewer carbohydrates increases their chances of conceiving. Her recommendations include:
- Eliminating white breads, pastas and processed breakfast cereals from your diet
- Limiting all other carbs to just one portion per day
- One portion per day may look like whole grain toast for breakfast or a baked potato for lunch
- Increasing protein intake.
Do Dietary Changes Really Help Increase Fertility?
In Lockwood’s experience, dietary changes can increase the likelihood of a successful pregnancy for her patients.
“The results are compelling. We can genuinely say to patients that if they change their diet they are more likely to achieve what they want and that is a pregnancy and a healthy baby,” said Lockwood.
Even in patients utilising IVF or other medical interventions, dietary changes are important for egg quality and overall health to sustain a pregnancy.
“The eggs you collect for IVF will have started growing about three months before, so it’s important people adjust their diet as soon as possible. They should be eating plenty of fresh vegetables and protein and limiting their carbohydrate intake to just one group and portion a day,” according to Lockwood.
Other research supports Lockwood’s.
A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009 concluded, “The amount and quality of carbohydrate in diet may be important determinants of ovulation and fertility in healthy women.”
That study found women who eat more carbs are at 78% greater risk of failing to ovulate, which makes them infertile.
Women who eat more protein are 415% more likely to have a baby.
At the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, it was announced that British IVF clinics are beginning to enroll patients in nutrition and cooking classes.
It seems multiple sources and studies have found dietary changes can positively impact fertility, making it clear that nutrition is important when it comes to conception.
How Does Nutrition Impact Fertility?
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ― Hippocrates
The idea that nutrition is important for our health isn’t a new one.
However, the level of importance it’s given tends to ebb and flow as our culture and dietary norms change.
In an age where research and evidenced based information is taken seriously, we’re now confirming what many already believed. Food matters and it has a great impact on our overall health.
In some cases, fertility can be a gauge of our overall health. Certainly, there are people who have extremely healthy lifestyles and still suffer from infertility (and vice versa, those with unhealthy lifestyles and no fertility trouble).
These studies in no way suggest that diet is the sole cause or cure for fertility issues.
What they do show is that diet can impact how our body functions, our hormones and egg quality.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a leading cause of infertility, affecting between 8% and 20% of American women.
The majority (if not all, according to some sources) of women suffering from PCOS are insulin resistant which can lead to hyperinsulinemia (elevated blood sugar).
Elevated blood sugar can impact our body’s hormone levels, which then impacts ovulation.
By adopting a low carb diet, blood sugar levels can be better maintained and increase the likelihood of ovulating in those with PCOS and insulin resistance.
For those suffering from other fertility issues, diet can still impact their overall health and therefore egg quality, hormones, etc.
Are Our Modern Diets To Blame For Increased Fertility Problems?
Chances are you or someone you know has experienced fertility trouble. Sometimes it seems as if many more women are suffering from infertility today than in past generations.
There are many theories surrounding an increase in infertility, including that it’s simply more recognised now than in the past.
Other theories include environmental issues (such as increased hormones in our water supply), more couples delaying starting a family, sexually transmitted infections, and our modern lifestyles.
More than likely, if there is a notable increase in infertility, it’s due to several factors.
However, based on the research and experience mentioned above, it seems our diets can have a big impact on our fertility.
Many of us grew up in an era when convenience foods steadily became more commonplace.
Fast food, packaged snacks and boxed dinners were once treats but gradually became the daily norm. It’s likely many of us currently in our childbearing years were consuming high amounts of carbohydrates as soon as we began solids.
In fact, some are now calling rice cereal the first “junk food” for babies as it contains little natural nutrition. It was very likely our first food.
We then graduated to sugary breakfast cereals, fluffy white bread sandwiches for lunch, and pizza for dinner with packaged baked goods given between meals as a snack.
We grew up on loads of carbs with little understanding of how it could impact our body. Certainly, carbohydrates have a place in our diet, but the quality and quantity matter.
Certainly, carbohydrates have a place in our diet, but the quality and quantity matter.
Based on Dr. Lockwood’s patients’ results, it does seem that our modern diets could be impacting fertility.
How Do I Make Drastic Dietary Changes?
For some, the idea that dietary changes can increase their TTC success is enough to quickly and easily make changes.
For many, even though the potential results are encouraging, our relationship with food, our busy lifestyles, and lack of nutrition education can make dietary changes challenging.
It can seem intimidating to make big changes. However, the positive effects are worth it for many people. You might find it helpful to:
- Meet with a dietitian to help you figure out your nutritional needs while limiting your carbohydrates.
- Follow a program which is low carb friendly such as a Whole 30 or Paleo inspired diet.
- Join an in-person or online nutrition support group.
- Start with baby steps such as making the switch to whole grains from white and processed grains before cutting overall carb intake.
- Plan meals and snacks ahead of time to reduce reliance on convenience food.
- Become familiar with the menu and options available at your favourite restaurants and convenience stores. Many places have low carb options and knowing ahead of time can help you make healthy choices even when you’re relying on convenience foods.
- Eat regular meals and snacks to prevent finding yourself hungry and craving high carb foods.
For an idea of where to start, read Healthy Breakfast Ideas – 13 Delicious Options.
Big dietary changes can be a challenge. However, the potential results are quite exciting! While TTC can sometimes get stressful, and combining a new diet at the same time can be hard, you can use the time to work together with your partner.
While TTC can sometimes get stressful, and combining a new diet at the same time can be hard, you can use the time to work together with your partner.
Dr. Lockwood reminds her patients it isn’t just a lifestyle change for the woman, saying, “The women’s partners also need to do their part and scrap their stuffed-crust pizza and enjoy a chicken salad too.”