If you are trying to conceive or want to improve your chances of conceiving in the future, it’s important to understand that your fertility can be greatly influenced by your health. When your body is dealing with less-than-ideal nutrition, lack of exercise, or high emotional stress levels, it can affect your likelihood of getting pregnant. The reality is that you don’t have control over everything but by focusing on healthy lifestyle choices, you can get started on the best path forward.
1) Focus on a healthy, balanced diet
The first and most important step to taking control of your health is to focus on a healthy, balanced diet. In a wellness focused world, we hear about a lot of diets in the media, and it can be confusing to differentiate fad from science. Many of the popular diets such as keto, low carb, and extreme types of fasting, are not the best approaches for those trying to conceive.
Studies show that the most important foods for optimal fertility include a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The closest to an ideal “fertility diet” is the Mediterranean Diet, which includes plant-based oils like olive and avocado oil, whole grains such as quinoa and farro, and plenty of plant-based proteins. This diet got its name from the residents living along the Mediterranean Coast and, unlike some other diets, is sustainable and balanced. It is also anti-inflammatory, making it an ideal diet for managing weight and blood sugar, which are tied to conditions like PCOS and hypothyroidism that can impact reproductive health.
Research also supports limiting meat and dairy intake, while introducing more protein from low-mercury fish and plant sources can help increase your chances for pregnancy. Additionally, whole foods, plant-based meals, and focusing on organic items can greatly boost your health, and subsequently your fertility. If you can, switching to organic produce will help eliminate consumption of pesticides, which can impact your health. Minimizing alcohol and eliminating processed and fast food is also strongly recommended. While the benefits of healthy nutrition build over time, there is never a time where it is “too late” to impact your overall health.
2) Incorporate exercise into your routine
Another extremely effective way to optimize health and fertility is to incorporate adequate exercise into your life. Everybody is different but it is important to maintain a healthy weight as being underweight or overweight can impact your fertility. Additionally, exercise promotes lymphatic drainage, which reduces inflammation and supports overall fertility health.
Find fun ways to incorporate movement into routine, perhaps through an exercise class, or a walk with a friend. If you are considering or are currently undergoing fertility treatment, there may be times during your treatment cycle that exercise is temporarily limited or even prohibited to minimize your risk of complications, so it’s important to speak to your doctor about exercise during these times.
3) Prioritize Your Mental Health
Finally, we cannot underestimate the importance of emotional wellness. We now know that chronic emotional stress can significantly impact our health and while it isn’t possible to eliminate stress entirely, finding ways to manage stress is essential. It’s especially important to prioritize your mental health and find ways to maintain balance in your life. This will look different for everyone, but some effective and healthy tools for stress management include yoga, acupuncture, meditation, regular exercise, following a healthy diet, and getting adequate sleep. As well as being a great relaxation method, massage also promotes lymphatic drainage and helps prevent inflammation.
You are the master of your own health, and these lifestyle changes can be implemented at any point during your fertility journey to get you started on the path towards pregnancy. At Progyny, we want to ensure you have the support you need to reach your family building goals. Your health is extremely important, but it’s not the only factor related to infertility, so if you’ve focused on improving your lifestyle and nothing has changed, then it may still be necessary at some point to seek medical care from a Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility specialist (REI). If you are a Progyny member, you can always speak to your dedicated Patient Care Advocate or our team of Clinical Educators to learn more.
Reviewed by: Dr. Drew Tortoriello, Sher Fertility Solutions
Drew Tortoriello is a board-certified Reproductive Endocrinologist with decades of clinical and academic experience in the field of infertility. He has made numerous presentations, several of which have won awards, at national and international scientific meetings. He was elected as a prestigious Women’s Health Research Scholar by the National Institutes for Health. He has been in the media as a fertility expert and has published a number of articles in scientific journals and is actively involved in research to further the development of Reproductive Medicine. He is a member of the Society for Gynecologic Investigation, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the Endocrine Society, and the Society for the Study of Reproduction.
Dr. Drew Tortoriello earned his medical degree at the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center, during which time he was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. He went on to complete his residency at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center, after which he underwent his clinical fellowship training in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, followed by a clinical and basic science fellowship in REI at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical Center.