Optimizing Reproductive Health for Conception

Most people are aware of the impact of maternal lifestyle on a developing embryo and fetus during pregnancy. Gradually, more are becoming aware of the importance of lifestyle issues for both men and women when conception is a goal. This is often referred to as pre-conception planning. What follows is an overview of what to avoid, what to do differently, and what to know before trying to conceive, in an effort to provide as clear a path as possible toward conception.

Practice Healthful Nutrition and Maintain Optimum Weight

"Eating for two" begins well before conception for women and men. While there is no scientific evidence that eating any certain foods will enhance your fertility, it is important to maintain a good balance of nutrients in order to keep your organs and hormonal system healthy and ready to conceive.

Vitamin supplementation should include the oversight of a qualified professional, as overkill of even the most "natural" and seemingly innocuous foods can counteract your fertile intentions. For example, scientists at Norwich Laboratory and at the University of Birmingham (in the UK) discovered that fertile males have significantly more selenium (which has also been shown to be a prostate cancer preventative) in their sperm than infertile men. However, selenium (a trace mineral found in seafoods, meats, grains, and Brazil nuts) can also be harmful in large doses.

Some things for males to do: increase your intake of vitamins C & D, zinc, and calcium; lighten up on physical exercise; ask your practitioner about special nutritional supplements.

Some things for females to avoid: excessive caffeine intake, anemia, B vitamin deficiencies, and extremely low body fat levels.

A female's body fat percentage can greatly impact her hormone levels, and thus her reproductive capacity. Too little body fat, such as that of athletes, can severely disrupt the menstrual cycle. Too high a percentage of body fat may be linked to polycystic ovarian syndrome, an insidious cause of infertility and related to other health problems. If you're not sure what the optimal weight for your body is, talk to your practitioner.