24-30 September 2018

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Weight and Nutrition

Weight and Nutrition

 

Weight and Nutrition: a snapshot

  • A healthy weight and good nutrition can improve your chances of conception
  • Men and women who are trying-to-conceive should follow a healthy, balanced diet – a Mediterranean-style diet has been shown to be ideal for fertility
  • Weight and nutrition should ideally be optimised three months prior to conception, which is how long it takes for eggs and sperm to develop
  • Women should supplement with folic acid and iodine - most women need a folic acid supplement to achieve the levels known to reduce the chance of gross abnormalities such as spina bifida
  • Women with a BMI of more than 32 must lose weight in order to become eligible for publically funded fertility treatment
  • Ideal BMI for fertility is between 20 and 25
  • Obesity in men is associated with infertility by causing impaired semen quality, decreased libido and erectile dysfunction
  • In women obesity decreases fertility and may be associated with conditions such as PCOS, and can also impact pregnancy health
  • Low body weight can prevent normal ovulation and may also reflect a poor nutritional status which can ultimately affect the health of the pregnancy and baby
 

When to seek help

Learn when - and where - you should seek help with your fertility

Nutrition

Eating a healthy diet in the three months preceding conception attempts can help protect sperm DNA, promote egg sperm health and encourage and support a healthy libido in men and ovulation in women.  

Read our practical guide on Nutrition for Fertility...

 

Weight

There is evidence that both female and male fertility are decreased by being either significantly overweight (obese) or underweight. It is recommended that people aiming to conceive naturally or with ART maintain a healthy body weight (BMI between 20 and 25).

Obesity in men is associated with infertility by causing impaired semen quality, decreased libido and erectile dysfunction. 

In women obesity decreases fertility and may be associated with conditions such as PCOS, and can also impact pregnancy health. During pregnancy, being overweight or obese are associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, premature births, stillbirths and perinatal mortality. The babies of overweight mothers are more likely to be obese and suffer cardiovascular disease and diabetes as adults. Thus, women with a BMI of more than 32 must lose weight in order to become eligible for publicly funded fertility treatment in New Zealand.

 A 6-month group programme for overweight infertile women, which provided dietary and exercise advice alongside support to make healthy changes, was shown to be effective (1). The women had an average weight loss of 5kg and most of the women who did not ovulate resumed spontaneous ovulation.

Low body weight can prevent normal ovulation and may also reflect a poor nutritional status which can ultimately affect the health of the pregnancy and baby: Low maternal weight before pregnancy and poor weight gain during pregnancy are known to result in an increased chance of pre-term delivery and low birth weight infants.

(1) Kidd, S.A., Eskenazi, B., and Wyrobek, A.J.”, Effects of male age on semen quality and fertility: a review of the literature.” Fert. Steril. (2001) 75 (2): 237–48

 

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Lifestyle

Good preconception health can improve chances of conception, a healthy pregnancy and healthy child 

Maturation of the sperm and egg takes 3–4 months, therefore preconception health should be in place for this long

Recent studies report a world-wide decline in sperm number and quality over the past 50 years, although this seems to have leveled off in NZ over the past 15-20 years

Men and women should follow a healthy, balanced diet – a Mediterranean-style diet has been shown to be ideal for fertility

Avoid (or reduce) alcohol and caffeine consumption

Women should supplement with folic acid and iodine - most women need a folic acid supplement to achieve the levels known to reduce the chance of gross abnormalities such as spina bifida

Avoid recreational drugs and nicotine

Exercise extreme caution when self-prescribing any medication or fertility device

Maintain a healthy weight

These factors are equally important for women and men

Moderate exercise – too much or too little can be detrimental to your fertility

Men should avoid increased testicular heat

Avoid environmental toxicity as far as possible – in your home and work

Proactively manage stress and prioritise self-care

These lifestyle factors can also impact success of IVF

Learn more about Lifestyle factors influencing fertility...