Trying for a baby can be a long process for many parents. And not to forget there are many stressors, which are working to wreck your dream. Therefore, it has become very important to introduce some health moves which will not only increase your fertility but will also contribute to your health in general.
The first and foremost step should be to get fertility tests and blood tests done for nutritional deficiencies. While fertility issues such as sperm count or motility + PCOS etc. is responsible for infertility in about 20-30% of men and women, the latter actually affects around 60-70% of couples who are trying to get pregnant. This is the reason why eating a healthy diet and meeting all your nutritional requirements has become more crucial than ever.
Main causes of infertility in men include low sperm count, less sperm motility or abnormal sperm shape. While in women various factors can lead up to infertility like hormone imbalance, ovarian cysts, thyroid problems, endometriosis, less menstrual bleeding etc.
Did you know?
Semen is only one percent sperm; the rest is composed of over 200 separate proteins, as well as vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, calcium, chlorine, citric acid, fructose, lactic acid, magnesium, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, vitamin B12, and zinc.
How to increase fertility:
Working towards managing your nutritional deficiencies:
The first and foremost step you need to take is to take care of any of your deficiencies. Sometimes infertility arises solely because of them. Example:
- A 2009 research published on National Academy of Science website suggested that Zinc deficiency increases oxidative damage in the body and risks low sperm quality.
- A 2015 research suggested that hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS can happen just because of Vitamin D deficiency. Yes, PCOS can be cured completely by just filling in on Vitamin D. (only if your symptoms of PCOS are due to Vitamin D and not due to thyroid dysfunctions or androgen disbalance)
- Similarly, Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked with low sperm motility. In a study by Sandler and Faragher, 27% of men showed a significant increase in sperm count after taking 1000 mcg of Vitamin daily for just a month.
- And another study proves that Calcium helps in maintaining an alkaline environment in the female reproductive tract and gives sperm a safe space to fertilize.
Eat your way to fertility:
Vitamins Important for both Sexes:
L-Arginine not only helps in improving sperm count but also supports sperm motility. In one study, after taking 8g of L-Arginine daily for 1-2 months, sperm concentration increased considerably.
L-Arginine in women helps to thicken the lining of the uterus, which is important for implantation and growth of the fetus. Healthy and thick uterine lining also help in women suffering from repeated miscarriage.
L-Arginine is the only precursor of NO(Nitric Oxide) levels. NO is responsible for promoting a healthy blood flow and also transfer nutrients around the body. It promotes healthy inflammation levels in both men and women.
In women, NO helps to contract ovarian cysts and helps with endometriosis and PCOS. Increased blood flow also helps with the production of ovaries and aid in the production of cervical mucous. Abnormal mucus production is responsible for infertility in around 5% of women.
Similarly, blood flow helps in increased libido and also helps with erectile dysfunction. It helps in more sustained and frequent erections. Thus, promoting high sexual arousal and orgasm.
Foods high in L-Arginine includes peanuts, chicken breast, turkey, pork, lentils, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds etc.
Men lose Selenium in semen and its deficiency can cause low sperm production, low sperm motility and abnormal shape (affecting the latter two more). Basically, all the main problems of infertility in men can be linked to Selenium.
Selenium basically has anti-oxidant nature. Since sperms are made up of essential fatty acids, they can easily oxidize and become rancid. This can happen due to increased temperature of balls caused due to tight clothing or biking. Selenium can help reverse these effects.
Selenium’s antioxidant capacity is also linked with the ovary’s last stage of follicular development to develop mature egg. A healthy egg also helps in preventing any chromosomal damage, which is linked to miscarriage and birth defects. One study has also shown that women with PCOS have lower Selenium levels.
Foods high in Selenium include Brazil nuts (just 6-8 nuts provide 100%DV), eggs, spinach, halibut, sardines etc.
It is also known as food for mitochondria and aids in the nutrient conversion of energy.
This energy is required massively for implantation and healthy growth in embryo cells. Female egg cells have more mitochondria due to the function mentioned above.Therefore, Coenzyme Q10 can support egg health and also prevent infertility and miscarriages.
Coenzyme Q10 is present in the center of the sperm and is responsible for its energy production, which means their morphology and motility. It also has antioxidant properties which reduce the effect of oxidative stress on sperm.
CoQ 10 is naturally synthesized in the body and is present in some amounts in foods like broccoli, dark leafy greens, nuts etc. You can definitely take supplements as it doesn’t have any major side effects on the body.
Zinc supplementation (100-150 mg daily) has been shown to increase sperm count, sperm motility, and testosterone levels.One study has shown that men who took 24mg of Zinc every day had a rise in sperm count from 8 million to 20 million per ejaculate in 50 days. In one study, 37 infertile men were given 60mgs of zinc a day for six weeks. 22 of them has more sperm count till the end, and 9 out of the 22 spouses became pregnant during the study.
Zinc is a crucial component of DNA, which can lead to chromosomal damage and an increase in miscarriage and birth defects. Zinc helps in healthy functioning of cells and can also lead to an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. Zinc deficiency is quite common because of overheating and cooking of foods before eating them.
Zinc is abundant in a lot of food and you wouldn’t be deficient in it if you are having a good diet. Foods high in Zinc include flax seeds, spinach, oysters, seafood, beans, and nuts.
The amount of Vitamin C in the plasma of ejaculate fluid is very high. Therefore, a lack of Vitamin C can compromise with the quality of the sperm. A study which included 13 otherwise healthy but infertile men, aged 25 to 35 took 1,000 mg of vitamin C twice per day. After two months, average sperm count had increased 129%, sperm motility increased 93% and sperm morphology rose to 55%
A lack of vitamin C is high in smokers because nicotine uses up vitamin C.In a high-quality1 study using placebos as a control, 75 smokers were given either a placebo, 200mg of vitamin C or 1000mg of vitamin C every day for 60 days. Participants who took 200mg of vitamin C, the number of healthy sperm reached around 112%, and in those who took 1000mg, 140%. Most of them were also able to get their partners pregnant soon.
In women, Vitamin C helps in correcting Luteal Phase and ovulation defects. It increases progesterone and regulates the menstrual cycle. It also increases cellular immunity and thus decreasing the risk of preeclampsia, premature rupture of membrane and birth defects.
Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits and berries and in almost all the fruits. 2-3 serving of fruits daily will meet your daily requirement.
It is proven that the amount of Folic acid in the blood stream is directly related to number and concentration of sperm cells in the ejaculate.
The importance of Folic acid for women who want to get pregnant and women who are pregnant are many. It increases your fertility rates and lowers birth defects and poor growth in the fetus. Both of them can occur within 3-4 weeks of pregnancy when the woman is not even aware of her pregnancy. This is why it’s important to take proper Folic acid supplements and Folic acid rich foods when you are trying.
Vegetarian foods like lentils, beans, green vegetables, citrus fruits are highest sources for Folic acid.
Deficiency of B12 is very common especially for Vegetarians since B12 only come from animal sources, which leaves the only option of having either dairy or eggs.
Vitamin B12 is important for DNA maturation and duplication. Therefore, it helps in increasing the sperm count. B12 also participates in energy metabolism and therefore could also help those men who are infertile but do not have a deficiency of B12. Therefore, Supplement of B12 (1000 mcg daily) is a win-win situation in all the cases.
Lack of Vitamin B12 in women can hamper estrogen levels and thus ovulation. Abnormal ovulation cycle means unhealthy egg and thus increase in infertility. B12 also improves the health of the inner lining of the uterus and thus can support healthy growth of the fetus in initial stages of pregnancy.
Vegetarians should consider a supplement for Vitamin B12. Non-Veg foods high in B12 are sardines, salmon, liver, mackerel etc.
Vitamin D deficiency is huge primarily because of the increased use of sunscreen, which blocks the rays of the sun that help to kickstart production of Vitamin D in your body. You don’t even have to be in the sun without protection for long. Spending around 10-15 minutes with tank top and shorts in the sun can meet your daily requirement of Vitamin D. You can slather on sunscreen after 15 minutes.
In a 2008 infertility study involving 800 women revealed that almost one-third of men who were not able to impregnate women suffered from Vitamin D deficiency. Another study confirmed that Vitamin D ( present in the head, nucleus and mid-pieces of sperm ) also decides sperm’s ability to penetrate the egg. Thus, Vitamin D plays a crucial role in deciding sperm’s survival inside woman’s body.
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in hormonal balance inside a woman’s body and as mentioned above, lack of Vitamin D could be solely responsible for your PCOS. Lack of Vitamin D can also cause growth restriction in the fetus within the first few weeks of pregnancy.
Vitamin D rich foods include cheese, milk, beef, fatty fish etc.
It’s said that Vitamin E can improve skin condition because it helps to protect the outer layer of all the cells present in the body including eggs and sperms.
Vitamin E increases sperm motility by protecting and nourishing its outer layer.
Vitamin E in women helps to increase cervical mucus, which creates a safe environment for the sperm to impregnate. It also helps in thickening of the endometrial layer due to the healthy growth of cells. Vitamin E is very vital for those suffering from PCOS or diabetes to have a baby since it balances out insulin in the body.
Vitamin E rich foods are nuts (especially almonds), wheat germ, sweet potato, butternut squash, avocado etc.
Calcium is the one which kickstarts the impregnation of an egg. Intracellular Calcium launches itself as soon as it reaches the egg. Without this kick, pregnancy isn’t possible. So even though, Calcium is not directly involved with increasing any of infertility factor, it does play a very major role in pregnancy.
Calcium in women’s body helps alkalize the body and thus helps to create a safe environment for the sperm to survive. And not to forget, how important it is throughout pregnancy.
Calcium is abundant in dairy products, green leafy vegetables, salmon, almond milk, whey protein, seeds etc.
Vitamins Important for women:
The most important function of Vitamin B6 is in regulating progesterone levels. Progesterone not only helps to maintain a healthy ovulation cycle but also plays a major role thickening of the endometrial layer. This assures that you get pregnant and stay pregnant.
Vitamin B6 rich foods include banana, wheat, salmon, spinach etc.
Almost 30% women suffer from Magnesium deficiency. Low Magnesium can cause spasms in fallopian tubes preventing egg implantation. Magnesium can be found in dark chocolate, banana, whole grains, seeds, nuts, beans etc.
Vitamins Important for Men:
Vitamin A helps in the formation of sperm cells and thus increases sperm count. Foods such as cod, carrots, sweet potato, leafy greens etc are very high in Vitamin A.
Pine Bark Extract:
According to research conducted by Dr.Roseff in 2002, daily doses of 200 mg of Pine Bark Extract daily increased both sperm quality and function of sperm by a mean of 38% and 19% respectively.
Make sure that your BMI is in the normal range. Obese couples take about 50% extra time to get pregnant. And not to forget about the complications that could arise when you are pregnant including increased chances of preeclampsia, assisted delivery, Gestational Diabetes, and C-section. Even an hour of brisk walking counts. Do include regular exercising in your schedule.
Stress can actually affect your ovulation cycle and lead to irregular ovulation and immature production of eggs. Similarly, stress plays a major role in the reduction of sperm count in men. Combat stress by exercising more, listening to music and building long lasting happy relationships.
- Quit Alcohol and Smoking.
- Try herbal supplements like Maca, Alfalfa, Red Raspberry Leaf, Nettle leaf etc for women and Ginseng, Yohimbe bark, nutmeg, palmetto berry etc. for men. These herbal supplements have almost no side effects at all.
- Avoid packaged foods and eat organic foods as much as possible.
- Avoid fatty foods as much as possible like milk and dairy, chicken, beef etc.
- Reduce the amount of caffeine in your diet.
There are many books such as
- Getting Pregnant Naturally – Winifred Conkling: Buy here- 1 (India) / 2 (Abroad)
- Yes, You Can Get Pregnant: Natural Ways to Improve Your Fertility Now and into Your 40s- Aimee Raupp MS LAc: Buy here- 1 (India) / 2 (Abroad)
- Taking Charge of Your Fertility – Toni Weschler: Buy here- 1 (India) / 2 (Abroad)
- The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant – Jean M. Twenge Ph.D.: Buy here- 1 (India) / 2 (Abroad), which emphasizes the importance of diet and teaches us that most of the problem in our body can be cured easily by making some simple and easy changes.
After all, If you won’t take care of your body, your body will NOT take care of you.
It’s important to understand that couples who have had miscarriages and less success in IVF treatments are also termed as infertile. Making simple changes in your health can have a huge effect on your fertility.
Around 1 in 3 couples face problems of infertility (extent might vary). Do you have any tip or have done anything (be it using a certain set of multivitamin or certain positions), which changed your fertility game, Do share it with us and help other couples bring their little bundle of joy into this world.