Here we are, well into the new year where most of us are trying to be good, health wise. Whether you managed to get through a dry January or whether you went for the 'Veganuary' option - the new year is a good time to rethink your diet and lifestyle with new healthy choices.
Food and diet play an important role in the foundations of a healthy pregnancy, and its not just the mum to be who needs to stay healthy, partners alike need to stay in shape for the best chance of a healthy pregnancy and baby.
At Yorkshire Fertility we have a dedicated and specialised dietitian 'Emma Ward-Tilley.' Emma is an expert in the field of nutrition and diet for fertility. If you think you may need a little helping hand in reaching your target weight Emma is available to offer support and guidance during your fertility journey. Please ask a member of staff or give the unit a call to arrange an appointment. She is also available for virtual appointments where there is no need to attend the hospital!
In the meantime we decided to ask Emma a few frequently asked questions around diet and fertility to help you along the way to a very healthy and happy 2018...
If I am a vegetarian will my diet provide me with all the foods required for a healthy pregnancy?
It's important to eat a varied and balanced diet during pregnancy. This will provide enough nutrients for your own health and the development and growth of your baby during pregnancy.
Iron in your diet
Good sources of iron for vegetarians and vegans are:
- dark green vegetables
- wholemeal bread
- eggs (for vegetarians who include them in their diet)
- fortified breakfast cereals (with added iron)
- dried fruit, such as apricots
Vitamin B12 in your diet
Good sources of vitamin B12 for vegetarians are:
- milk and cheese, choosing lower-fat varieties where possible
Good sources for vegetarians and vegans are:
- fortified breakfast cereals, choosing lower-sugar options where possible
- fortified unsweetened soya drinks
- yeast extract, such as Marmite
As sources for vegans are limited, a vitamin B12 supplement may also be needed.
Vitamin D in your diet
Although we get vitamin D from sunlight, in vegetarian food terms, it is found in:
- egg yolk
- foods fortified with vitamin D, including some breakfast cereals and most fat spreads
- dietary supplements
Because vitamin D is found only in a small number of foods, it might be difficult to get enough from foods that naturally contain vitamin D and/or fortified foods alone. So all adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D, particularly during the winter months (October until the end of March).
Vegans will need to read the label to ensure that the vitamin D used in a product is not of animal origin.
From late March/early April until the end of September, most people should be able to get enough vitamin D from sunlight.
Calcium in your diet
If you're a vegan, you also need to make sure you get enough calcium. This is because non-vegans get most of their calcium from dairy foods.
Good sources of calcium for vegans include:
- dark green leafy vegetables
- fortified unsweetened soya, rice and oat drinks
- brown and white bread
- calcium-set tofu
- sesame seeds and tahini
- dried fruit
Is there such thing as ‘fertility boosting' foods for women and men?
There are many talked about fertility boosting foods in the media, they often change and the hype can become confusing. As long as you stick to the healthy balanced diet that we have already discussed including folic acid and vitamin D then there isn't much more you can do to improve your fertility. If you do choose to give super foods a try then they can do no harm.
What is the recommendation for drinking alcohol whilst trying to conceive?
The recommendation is to not drink alcohol if you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Alcohol can be passed to your unborn baby. The Chief Medical Officers recommend that the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all.
Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to your baby, and the more you drink the greater the risk.
Whilst having fertility treatment it's always best to give yourself the best possible chance of a pregnancy by sticking by these guidelines as much as you can.
Is it just as important for the male partner to reduce alcohol as well?
Yes of course. Not only should you cut down or stop to support your partner but drinking alcohol excessively can affect the quality of sperm. The UK Chief Medical Officers' recommendation is to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, which should be spread evenly over three days or more.
One unit of alcohol is the equivalent of half a pint of beer or lager, or a single pub measure (25ml) of spirits. A small glass of wine (125ml) contains 1.5 units of alcohol.
If you could give one piece of advice to women on their fertility journey what would this be?
This would be, to keep a healthy weight.
If you're overweight, you may have problems getting pregnant, and fertility treatment is less likely to work.
When you are seen in clinic your BMI will be calculated by one of the nurse specialists and you will then be advised on whether you need to gain or lose weight to achieve a healthy BMI for pregnancy. This will be monitored by the team and treatment can only be commenced once your BMI is within the healthy range for pregnancy.
Having a healthy diet and getting moderate exercise are advised whilst having fertility treatment, and it's important not to gain too much weight. You can keep to a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and getting exercise.
If you would like to ask any more questions or would like to have an appointment with our dietitian then please telephone the unit on 01422 224478 and this can be arranged for you.
For further reading we recommend visiting https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/home