Nutrients for Female fertility Pregnancy, Breast feeding and beyond
This nutrient is important for the correct formation of foetal blood, brain, eyes, bones and an overall healthy growth rate. It is also vital for a healthy immune system, mucous membranes, for general health and fertility. However many women do not realise how important iron is very important in fertility health. Women with low iron stores could suffer anovulation (no ovulation). In a Harvard University study of 18,500 women, women supplementing iron were 40% less likely to suffer from fertility problems.
During pregnancy there is an increased need for iron due to greater red blood cell mass and plasma volume. Iron should be increased in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters as the foetus will draw on the mother’s iron stores to prepare itself for the 4-6 months after birth (because breast milk is low in iron). Deficiency increases the risk of anaemia, pre-term delivery and low birth weight
Women with low iron are suggested to supplement 10-20mcg daily, however if you are prone to constipation a liquid supplement is more gentle on the stomach; we suggest capsules by bio-ceuticals or liquid spatone.
Also note iron will not be absorbed with calcium, so if taking a supplement make sure to separate these. Inorganic iron supplements can bind up in the gut and cause constipation; they also destroy Vitamin E and compete for absorption with zinc; therefore, use of organic iron supplements and chelates are preferable. Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron.
Natural sources include green leafy vegetables, dried beans, black strap molasses, lean meat (organic/chemical free), dried apricots, almonds, egg yolk, seaweed, wheat germ, parsley, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds.
Folic acid (B9) and B vitamins
Essential for RNA & DNA formation, it is the most important pre-conception nutrient. Supplementation at least three months prior to conception is suggested, and the need doubles in the first trimester. This is especially so for women who have been on the Pill, as it depletes Vitamin B9 in the body. Prior to conception, make sure your Vitamin B9 intake is around 10mgs per day. During early pregnancy, 25-50mgs of B9 taken 3 times per day can reduce the risk of morning sickness.
Deficiency can lead to infertility and spina bifida. When increasing B9 please note the vitamin is water soluble means that the body only has a limited capacity to store B vitamins (except B12 and folic acid). A person with a poor diet can end up with a deficiency of B vitamins. Delicate means that cooking and processing can reduce amounts in foods; highly processed foods like white flour, have far less than wholegrain counterparts.
Natural sources include dark green leafy vegetables, i.e., uncooked spinach, kale, beet greens; asparagus, broccoli, corn, lima beans, parsnip, mung beans, soy beans; wheat germ; oranges, pineapple, banana. Most of these foods need to be eaten fresh and raw if possible, as B9 is destroyed by heat.
Vitamin D – The sunshine vitamin
I recently saw a new client who works in child care; I asked her if she had any known deficiencies of vitamins. She was not sure so I suggested a blood test with her GP testing all major vitamins including vitamin D, she assured me that her vitamin D would be fine since she spent part of her day outside with the children. Unfortunately she was low in Vitamin D.
Vitamin D has now been strongly linked with temporary infertility. Most of us work and play indoors especially during the colder months. We always advise clients to test their vitamin D levels since 23-49% of Australian’s have a deficiency, and obesity can increase the risk. 10 minutes a day in morning and afternoon sunlight can help correct a slight deficiency however supplements are advised for levels under 50. Supplement 100mcg or 4000iu daily.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega 3 is needed for the correct hormone balance; including prostaglandins, increases cervical mucus, helps to promote ovulation and increase the blood flow to the reproductive organs. In pregnancy it aids in the development of the foetal brain and nervous systems. Omega 3 fatty acids contain 2 acids that are essential to health; EPA and DHA. Low levels of DHA, has been linked to depression and other mental health issues.
One study where couples where given 1000mg of omega 3 had a 76.5% verses without omega 50.4% fertilisation rate. Considering that only half of all follicles collected commonly fertilise this could greatly improve the number of viable embryos for transfer.
During pregnancy, a lack of DHA may be associated with premature birth, low birth weight, chromosomal defects, spontaneous abortion, hyperactivity and asthma in children. A recommended daily dose of 500-1000mg daily should be supplemented.
Natural Sources include deep sea ocean/cold water fish (ie. salmon, cod, herring, trout), mono-unsaturated cold-pressed oils (flaxseed especially, walnuts, hemp and chia seeds.
Assists with conception, a healthy pregnancy and regulates oestrogen levels, improves circulation and protects against varicose veins and haemorrhoids. Vitamin E also helps in the absorption of essential fatty acids and has antioxidant actions as well. Deficiency can lead to spontaneous abortion or cystic fibrosis (with selenium). In later pregnancy Vitamin E will help facilitate an easy delivery.
Sources include sunflower seeds, almonds, organic cold-pressed wheat germ oil, cold-pressed vegetable, seed and nut oils. Best not heated or cooked, i.e., use in salad dressing.
Vital for the number and quality of the ovum (eggs) produced the fertilisation process, and the early development of the embryo.
Natural sources include deep sea fish, tofu, legumes ie. lentils, soy beans, kidney beans, eggs (free range), lean organic chemical-free meat and poultry, nuts and seeds, sprouted grains.
Essential for the development of the baby’s bones, formulation of nerve tissue and muscles; necessary for controlling blood clotting; makes your fertility mucus ‘stretchy’ and therefore aids ability of sperm to swim through it; aids uterine muscle tone. The foetus requires roughly 30g of elemental calcium to be deposited in the skeleton by the time of delivery (200mg during the 3rd trimester).
If inadequate in the mother’s diet, the supply to the foetus will occur at the expense of the maternal skeleton. Therefore, insufficient calcium supplies during pregnancy and lactation may result in maternal bone loss, reduced breast milk calcium secretion, or impaired infant bone development. If the mother’s diet includes a high proportion of processed foods, soft drinks, high red meat intake, sugar, salt, and alcohol; if she smokes, does not exercise, and consumes caffeine and tea, this will reduce the absorption of calcium. Deficiency can lead to nervous tension, fluid retention, and hypertensive disorders and toxaemia in pregnancy.
Sources include broccoli, cauliflower, soy beans, almonds, sesame seeds, tofu, leafy greens, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, unhulled tahini, black strap molasses and kelp (other seaweeds). Dairy foods are another source of calcium; however, since they are not as easily absorbed, it is best to vary your sources of calcium as widely as possible. If you are prone to any sort of mucus congestion such as hayfever, sinus, asthma, recurrent colds/flu or other chest infections, it is best to avoid dairy foods as a source of calcium.
Royal jelly is a natural bee product; it is rich in amino acids, contains high levels of vitamin D and E, calcium and iron. It is a super food for fertility and been used in Chinese culture for many years. Consider this; the queen bee is only feed royal jelly throughout her lifetime which she will need to lay millions of eggs up to 2000 per day.
Royal jelly has been shown to help balance hormones and increase propensity to mimic human oestrogen, which may help those that suffer from low oestrogen levels. Some evidence exists that royal jelly might also;
- Improve egg and sperm health
- Increase libido
- Reduce inflammation
- Support the immune system
- Decrease signs of aging
- Helps women with irregular cycles
PLEASE DO NOT TAKE IF ASTHMATIC OR ALLERGIES TO BEE’S
CoQ10 is a mitochondrial enzyme. It does multiple jobs in our cells; 1) anti-oxidant, 2) energy production and 3) gene regulation. CoQ10 is the most basic energy currency of our body. Our body makes a huge amount of its own CoQ10, but this ability decreases as we age beyond 35 years.
CoQ10 can be absorbed through supplements and evidence is slowly being accumulated that it could possibly boost a women’s egg health and IVF success rates. It is strongly suggested women older than 35 years wishing to conceive either through IVF or naturally supplement 100-200mg daily preferably in a gel capsule.
Clients who have been diagnosed with PCOS can supplement with Chromium and magnesium to help maintain glycaemic control in addition to a low GI diet. Suggested chromium supplementation is between 200-800mcg daily and magnesium between 400-800 mcg daily.
FERTILITY FOODS AND OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION
Consume fresh foods that are in season. It is also important that most of your food is organic. If you find that getting organic food is difficult for you, wash all of your vegetables and fruit with a solution of 1/3 cup vinegar + 3/4 cup of water, to ensure that all pesticides and chemicals used in the soil are washed off. Limit the amount of dairy and wheat in your diet. A great company to get organic or fresh vegetables delivered to home is farmer’s direct; www.aussiefarmers.com.au
Protein – eat 60g (grams) daily equivalent to 2x100g portion of meat per day
Proteins Amount of protein per amount of food
- Egg 6g per egg
- Lean meat, fish, poultry 25-30g per 100g portion
- Milk 8-9g per 250ml
- Yoghurt 8-10g per 250ml
- Cheddar cheese 7g per 25g
- Nuts and seeds 2-3g per Tablespoon
- Most fruits 1g per fruit
- Kidney beans 15g per 200g
- Tofu 10g per 100grams
- Lentils 9g per 120g
- Cooked soy beans 28.62g per cup
- LSA mix, flaxseed oil, tablespoon pumpkin seeds, evening primrose oil, oily fish, salmon, herring, avocado, etc.
- eat 4-5 servings daily
Fats – eat 40g daily
Vegetables and fruit
Reduce dairy intake to 1 serving per day, yogurt is the best source of calcium from cow’s milk. Try coconut yogurt available from health foods stores; great for people sensitive to lactose. Consider using almond milk to replace regular milk. Other calcium sources include broccoli, cauliflower, soy beans, almonds, sesame seeds, tofu, leafy greens, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, unhulled tahini, black strap molasses and kelp (other seaweeds).
Many women ask which herbal tea is ok during conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding. During conception women can use raspberry leaf tea and chaste berry to aid in conception. However during early pregnancy (1st trimester) it is recommended that women pick the following teas; Dandelion, ginger, peppermint, fruit teas (orange or lemon peel), Jasmine, lemon balm, rose hips, citrus, spearmint, or fennel.
During the last trimester after 35 weeks women should start raspberry leaf tea in preparation for labour. Raspberry leaf tea can also be drunk after birth to help restore uterine shape and encourage discharge of clots. Remember we can make you are personalised Chinese tea for helping with increasing breast milk and mastitis. Other options include dandelion tea.
Caffeine and alcohol
It is best to minimise both caffeine and alcohol consumption but not to cut out all together until pregnant. However caffeine has various different sources; black tea and green tea are much healthier sources than coffee. Minimise alcohol intake to 1-2 glasses per week.
8 glasses of filtered water every day
We recommend women achieve 8-9 hours of sleep per night. Ideally between the hours of 10pm and 7am for at least 3-4 days per week. Shift workers need to discuss extra nutritionals such as melatonin that will assist with your acupuncturist.
Suggested supplements for all women;
- Multivitamin; In Natal by Bio Ceuticals
- Fish oils; Ultraclean EPA/DHA by Bio Ceuticals
If deficiencies exist;
- Vitamin D; D3 capsules or D3 forte drops by Bio Ceuticals
- Iron; liquid iron
- CoQ10 100mg by Bio Ceuticals
- Royal jelly 1000mg daily preferably from an Australian source. Fresh royal jelly is available but must be refrigerated.
- Chromium starting at 200mg daily
- Magnesium starting at 400mg daily
For women on IVF or older age group;