When should you start a fertility diet?

A common question that I am asked as a fertility dietitian and nutritionist, is “when should I start a fertility diet?”

It is never too early to start thinking about your diet with respect to your future fertility!

when-to-start-fertility-diet

After all, you carry your eggs with you from when you were in your mother’s belly, which means what you eat, drink and expose yourself to across your life really does add up when it comes to egg quality.

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THE LIFE OF AN EGG 🍳// Put on your best David Attenborough voice because this is going to be a bit of a biology lesson.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 🥚 A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have, in fact there are millions of eggs by about week 20 of pregnancy, so halfway through your mum's pregnancy was your peak egg count, ladies! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 😮 By the time you were born, this drops to about a million eggs and continues to drop across our lifetime. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ↘️ By the time you reach puberty there are few hundred thousand eggs around and steadily declines throughout your adolescent years and 20s, with a slightly steeper decline in your 30s ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⬇️ Finally in the decade leading up to menopause your egg count will become very low which then begins the menopause.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Now, a few exceptions to this generic egg lifecycle:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 👉Women who receive cancer therapies may have a diminished egg count⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 👉Women with PCOS may have higher egg counts when tested⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 👉Women with primary ovarian insufficiency will likely have lower than expected egg counts for their age ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 🥚Remember, egg count does not equal egg quality, which there is no simple test for, focusing on things you can do to help maintain your egg quality such as abstaining from smoking, getting enough vitamin D and omega-3s, eating well and moving your body for good circulation and minimising alcohol intake are things you CAN do!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 👇Did you learn something new about the life of your eggs?

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It is never too early to start thinking about your fertility diet

But… here is my answer depending on some common issues I see amongst women I work with.

Join my popular 4-week online program, The Waiting Game, walking you through the essentials of fertility nutrition by an expert fertility dietitian & nutritionist, we start June 22nd, and spots are filling up fast!

If you’re healthy with no diagnoses

I would strongly recommend you take 3 months (as a couple, by the way) to focus on your nutrition and lifestyle before starting to conceive.

So, why 3 months?

Well, this is because it takes about 90 days for an egg to mature. So that means the eggs that are starting the process of maturation today, will be released in the process of ovulation in 3 months time.

So, nourishing yourself in the 3 months leading up is key to support optimal egg health and build up critical nutrient stores such as iron, iodine and folate which are needed in early pregnancy in increased amounts.

More about eating for optimal egg health in this blog post.

Going into pregnancy deficient leaves you well and truly behind the eight ball.

This is also the time period you should start a prenatal supplement containing folic acid and iodine. More on this in my blog post on how to choose a prenatal vitamin.

when-to-start-fertility-diet

For those of you with men as your significant other, it takes about 64-72 days for a sperm to fully mature, so what your man is eating in the 3 months leading up to conception can impact sperm quality too.

More on eating for sperm health in in this blost post.

Bottom line is at least 3 months if you are in good health.

If you have a diagnosis affecting fertility

If you have a diagnosis that you are aware of that affects your fertility such as:

I would recommend if you know you have one of these conditions and you want to have a baby one day (but not necessarily sometime soon) start working on your diet and nutrition, as soon as you can!

when-to-start-fertility-diet

Try and get started with a dietitian when ready after a diagnosis to ensure your diet is tailored to your exact needs to promote optimal future fertility

Prevention is better than a cure, wherever possible, so ensuring your diet and lifestyle is supporting your unique medical needs well before trying to conceive is key.

If your body fat is too low or too high

Body fat being too low or too high can cause your body to stop ovulating, which is critical when it comes to trying to conceive.

If you have very low body fat due to an active or past eating disorder, or being a competitive athlete, your body will shut down many reproductive processes and often cease ovulation completely.

Without ovulation, or the monthly release of an egg, conceiving unassisted cannot occur. Replenishing body fat stores by eating well is crucial to help reinstate regular ovulation and a regular period too.

If your body fat levels are above where they usually are, or have increased over your lifetime, then working on this well in advance of conceiving is a good idea.

Carrying extra body fat can be a cause of hormone imbalance, as fat can produce its own estrogen, and can lead to anovulation.

You don’t have to make drastic weight changes, but sustainable and incremental shifts in body fat can help improve the chances of ovulation naturally, and improve the response to some ovulation medications and IVF too.

Allow 6-12 months or more, if you are trying to change your body composition before conceiving to optimise your chances.

In the case of making significant body composition shifts, I recommend allowing 6-12 months, if not more, to ensure healthy sustainable changes occur and you avoid crash dieting or rapid dietary changes which may be harmful to your health, such as intermittent fasting.

Join my popular 4-week online program, The Waiting Game, walking you through the essentials of fertility nutrition by an expert fertility dietitian & nutritionist, we start June 22nd, and spots are filling up fast!

Do you need help with your fertility nutrition and diet? Book now for a FREE 15 minute discovery call online with a fertility dietitian & nutritionist and let’s chat about a plan to help get your body prepared for baby.

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