National Infertility Awareness Week is next week, April 22 to 28, and so I wanted to kick off the week early with my live KVOA segment “Fertility Foods”. I talked a bit about foods that promote fertility in both men and women. Infertility is the inability to conceive after one year of trying to conceive. Infertility affects 1 in 8 couples. Interestingly, 1 in 5 couples spontaneously become pregnant without treatment after being diagnosed with infertility, which is, in part, due to the stress associated with trying to conceive. If you have been trying to conceive for more than 12 months, I recommend that you see a fertility specialist. If you are concerned about your age, have irregular periods, or have other health conditions complicating your ability to conceive, contact a specialist after 6 months of trying to conceive.
The goal of National Infertility Awareness Week is “to help women and men find answers and get the support they need to make important medical decisions and address the medical, emotional, social and economic challenges infertility can present.”
As a dietitian, I feel that it is my duty to increase awareness of diet-related conditions that increase the risk for infertility. When working with couples I first ensure that polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and celiac disease have been identified or ruled out. When PCOS and celiac disease are not treated appropriately with dietary changes, the risk for infertility and miscarriage is increased. The fortunate outcome of being diagnosed with either of these conditions is that you have the ability to change your lifestyle and increase the odds of conception. PCOS occurs in women, not men; it is a condition that results in ovulatory dysfunction due to inflammation and insulin resistance. Celiac will negatively impact fertility in both men and women until a gluten-free diet is in place.
No matter the diagnosis or reason for delayed time to conception, attention to a high quality, unprocessed plant-based diet is the key to fertility. Specific food choices may be tailored to your needs, but all couples trying to conceive want to make the very best food choices that they can to improve their odds of conception. Diet and exercise play critical roles in your ability to conceive. Aspects of nutrition and physical activity influence both male and female fertility, so work together as you consider lifestyle changes to promote fertility.
While diet and lifestyle do play strong roles, they are not magic bullets. Some couples do everything “right” yet still do not conceive. Infertility has a significant emotional impact on you and your partner. Depression, anxiety and relationship problems may occur. Through it all, the power of positive nutrition will help mitigate the emotional toll that infertility takes on your body.
I’ll be posting more information about nutrition-related factors that affect fertility and more specifics on fertility foods next week.
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