Fertility & Nutrition Essentials

Some cases of infertility are related to nutritional intake and can be corrected. Being fertile may be a matter achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. Being overweight or obese can result in irregular or infrequent menstrual cycles, increased risk of miscarriage and decreased success with fertility treatments. Being too thin can also lead to problems with ovulation. The ovaries and body fat cells produce estrogen which is needed to regulate ovulation. If you are too thin, your body may not be producing enough estrogen and if you are overweight or obese you may be producing too much estrogen. Therefore, by not maintaining a healthy weight, you are throwing your reproductive cycle out of balance.

One way to assess your body weight is to determine your body mass index. Body mass index (BMI) is calculated by weight (in kilograms) divided by height squared (in meters). A BMI of less than 19 indicates that you are underweight. A BMI of 25-29.9 is considered overweight and obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 and above.

The balance of micronutrients in your diet and your partner's diet can also affect fertility. Deficiencies in vitamin B6 and E can affect fertility by affecting hormonal balances. Vitamin B6 can be found in protein rich foods, such as eggs, beef, and chicken, milk products and dark green vegetables, such as, spinach, broccoli and greens. Vitamin E can be found in nuts, egg yolks and whole grains. Mega doses of vitamin C can reduce fertility. The mineral zinc may help with sperm production and motility. Zinc can be found in oysters, milk, meat and egg yolks.

The main goal is to eat a variety of foods to help achieve a balanced body weight as well as a balanced vitamin and mineral intake. This goal can be met by following the USDA Food Guide Pyramid. This guide is a graphic representation of how we should eat on a daily basis. The Food Guide Pyramid allows all foods including complex carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, eggs, beef, nuts, dairy products, as well as fats, oils and sweets. All foods should be consumed in moderation according to portion sizes. You can find a copy of the pyramid on www.eatright.org.

Maria Biasucci-Vianna, MS is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist. She provides nutritional education to those who attend the Behavioral Management Infertility Program.