Each week, on average I would see at least two women at my private clinic who have been referred by a leading endocrinologist for help with their diet while they try and maximize their chances of getting pregnant. Some of these women are overweight or obese; others have PCOS or insulin resistance and a high proportion of them of spending significant amounts of money on various fertility treatments to improve their chances of getting pregnant. One of the things I tell these women very early on in our interaction is that in my experience, weight loss, even a relatively small loss, seems to increase fertility significantly. Now admittedly, this is based on my clinical experience only, but over the past 12 years I could tell you of numerous women who have lost a few kg using a classic reduced carbohydrate dietary regime, who then find themselves pregnant within a few months.
And now, we have some research available that supports this observation. Research released just this week at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Annual Clinical Meeting reported that patients undergoing IVF treatments who consumed a moderate carbohydrate, increased protein meal plan had higher pregnancy rates than those with a lower protein intake.
There are numerous explanations for this observation – a higher protein diet is likely to support egg quality, while a reduced carbohydrate intake may help to reduce levels of the growth hormone insulin, high levels of which can promote inflammation the body. A higher protein diet or any diet that is being carefully controlled with a focus on fresh foods is also likely to boost total nutrient intake and in turn improve health and fertility in general.
Now while these results are preliminary in nature and more in depth studies do need to be completed to support this dietary approach universally, for me it makes sense that much more attention should be paid to pre, post and total pregnancy nutrition in general. We know that mothers who do not gain excessive amounts of weight are much more likely to have an easier birth, find it much easier to return to their pre pregnancy weight and also have a healthier baby. For this reason, it makes sense that good nutrition and weight control be the focus right from the beginning, to not only enhance our chances of getting pregnant but for doing it in the most health way possible.
So if you, or someone close to you is going through the intense process of IVF, let them know that their diet may be one important variable also worth considering. Indeed, for a number of issues relating to infertility, changing your diet is certainly a much cheaper option.