How to increase fertility

Q: Does what I eat have any effect on my fertility? I am 35 and trying to conceive my first child.

A: We still can’t say for sure, but some research shows that high caffeine intake may be correlated with decreased female fertility. At least one study has shown decreased fertility in women who drank four or more cups of coffee a day, while other studies haven’t found any connection. We do know, however, that high caffeine reduces blood levels of the hormone prolactin, and that low prolactin is clearly associated with infertility.

While low prolactin levels may be a problem for women who want to conceive, excessively high prolactin levels aren’t good either. Excessive alcohol intake has been shown to raise prolactin levels so high that menstrual cycle dysfunction and infertility result.

Another thing aspiring moms should consider in their intake of B vitamins. Deficiencies of folic acid, B6 and B12 all appear to be associated with infertility. Also, women who are anemic sometimes have reduced fertility. In these cases, iron supplementation can usually restore fertility in women who have depleted iron stores. Finally, women who have extremely low levels of body fat (as is the case with many competitive athletes) often have disrupted menstrual cycles and find it difficult or impossible to conceive.

The best diet for a woman who wants to conceive is the same as for anyone who wants to achieve maximum health: low in fat and moderate in protein, with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I’d also advise avoiding alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine, getting regular exercise, avoiding stressors and choosing to be pregnant when it’s right for you.

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