Food and fertility
What should you eat and what not? This question is important not just during pregnancy, but beforehand too, because some foods and vitamins have a positive effect on fertility, some prepare the body for pregnancy, while others promise a lot but do little. An overview using the traffic light system.
Vitamins and minerals
Iron, calcium, vitamin D, folic acid
Vitamins and minerals are essential for your unborn child. To build up a good supply right from the start, you can start taking vitamins three months before pregnancy. Seek advice from your doctor to make sure you take the right amount.
- Vitamin D is essential for strong bones and a healthy immune system. A vitamin D deficiency can lead to infection or even miscarriage.
- Calcium supports the mother’s circulation and her nervous and muscular system. It also strengthens the bones and teeth. Too little calcium during pregnancy can lead to osteoporosis in the child later on.
- Iron is responsible for the production of haemoglobin, which transports oxygen to the organs and muscles. Iron deficiency can lead to serious complications such as premature birth or anaemia in the child. Research also shows that women with sufficient iron reserves have a higher fertility rate.
- Folic acid reduces the risk of serious birth defects, so you must make sure to get enough of it.
Water and unsweetened herbal tea
Make sure you drink enough water or unsweetened herbal tea. Liquids are good for the cervical mucus, the vaginal discharge that plays an important role during fertilisation.
Yoghurt, milk, cream cheese and other dairy products are recommended because of their calcium content (see above). Research also shows that women who eat one serving of whole milk products a day are less likely to experience irregular ovulation. Your daily protein intake should comprise one-third animal-based proteins such as meat, eggs and milk products, and two-thirds plant-based proteins such as pulses.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds supply high-quality omega-3 fatty acids which support the regulation of hormones.
Fatty fish such as salmon is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and therefore highly recommended. You can also eat it raw as long as you’re not pregnant. You should avoid fish with a high mercury content before falling pregnant (see below).
Berries not only taste good, they’re also rich in antioxidants, which protect egg cells from damage. This is particularly interesting for women from their mid-30s, as the number of eggs falls with age and fertility decreases.
Amber: yes, but in moderation
Meat and food containing iron
It’s important to get enough iron if you want to fall pregnant (see above). It’s therefore advisable to eat iron-rich food such as meat or shellfish (muscles, shrimps, etc.) twice a week. However, you shouldn’t eat any more than this, because too much animal-based protein is unhealthy and can have a negative impact on fertility.
Coffee and black tea
Caffeine is harmless when consumed in moderation, but you shouldn’t have more than 200 mg per day, which is equivalent to one cup of coffee. Higher doses of caffeine impairs fertility.
Wine lovers don’t need to worry, because the occasional glass won’t do any harm. However, excessive alcohol can cause irregularities in the lining of the uterus. It can also disrupt ovulation and the menstrual cycle. It also affects the levels of oestrogen and progesterone. Alcohol can also have a negative impact on male fertility.
Simple carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, etc.)
Opt for wholegrain instead of white flour products. Simple carbohydrates raise insulin and blood sugar levels. A permanently high insulin level can disrupt your cycle.
Red: best avoided
It may be hard, but if you’re pregnant you and your partner should really stop smoking. Nicotine decreases the motility of sperm.
Fish with high mercury content
Tuna (in cans) and swordfish have a very high mercury content. As this heavy metal is stored in the body and is harmful for your unborn child, it's best to avoid these foodstuffs.
Beer, sweetened drinks, chips, pizza, cakes and pastries, etc. are laden with empty calories, but deliver few nutrients. These foods should be limited to small amounts and only eaten occasionally.
*A free brochure on nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding can be downloaded from the website of the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) (available in German, French and Italian).