Infertility, the inability to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term, can be devastating for women. They may be filled with anger, grief and out-of-control feelings as they search for answers.

For some women, nutrition might be the key to finding those answers. Research shows that body weight extremes can decrease fertility. Excess weight can lead to insulin resistance, which leads to elevated testosterone production, which in turn can prevent normal ovulation. On the other hand, a lack of adequate fat in underweight women can result in hormonal imbalance, which also prevents normal ovulation.

The "Fertility Diet"

Published by a team of Harvard researchers in 2007, the "Fertility Diet" study — with a book released in 2009 of the same name — found women with ovulatory infertility who followed this eating plan had a 66 percent lower risk of ovulatory infertility and a 27 percent reduced risk of infertility from other causes than women who didn't follow the diet closely.

Main principles of this diet include:

  • Consume less trans fat and more monounsaturated fat (from foods such as avocados, canola and olive oil)
  • Eat less animal protein and more vegetable protein
  • Include more high-fiber, low-glycemic carbohydrate-rich foods (including whole grains)
  • Incorporate more vegetarian sources of iron and fewer red meat sources
  • Add a multivitamin with minerals
  • Include one or two servings of high-fat instead of low-fat dairy

Eating more vegetables, healthy monounsaturated fats instead of saturated and trans fats, making at least half your grains whole and getting enough calcium-rich foods, including dairy, will help you meet nutrient needs and promote a healthy weight.

While you cannot control all of the causes of infertility, you can control your eating habits. Nutrition and a healthy body weight can have a significant impact on the ability to conceive.  Steer clear of fad diets, which can deplete your body of nutrients it needs for pregnancy, and find a healthy eating plan that works for you by talking to a registered dietitian nutritionist.

Sadhana Bienzen is a registered dietitian nutritionist who lives in Franklin.

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