Many people commonly plan meals around a specific diet to look and feel better. Dieting is a great way to be conscious about what goes into our bodies and how we should fuel them. However, what if someone is dieting to increase their chances of getting pregnant? Can diet impact fertility?
Many studies support the claim that a healthy, balanced diet in conjunction with IVF can increase pregnancy rates.
Furthermore, if someone is currently struggling with infertility and considering using donor eggs, altering their diet appropriately can help increase their chances of a healthy and successful blastocyst transfer.
Why a healthy, balanced diet works best
The human body has many connected systems; one such connection is between the food we eat and our hormone levels. For someone to conceive, a person’s hormones must be at a healthy level. Experts suggest that too much refined sugar can affect metabolic functions. Additionally, a diet heavy in processed foods can cause poor quality eggs and semen, which in turn could become a fertility issue.
A healthy, balanced diet allows the body to do what it was meant to do – regulate hormones to prepare for a healthy pregnancy. But what does a healthy diet look like? One chief element is limiting carbohydrate macronutrients consumed to less than 40% a day. This means limiting intake of sugary foods, pastas, breads, and some fruits to only one serving per day.
The Ketogenic Diet and pregnancy don’t mix
One popular diet is the Ketogenic Diet, or keto for short. Originally, keto was a medically prescribed diet practiced for years with seizure patients to help reduce the frequency of seizures. While keto is low carb and high in protein like Atkins, the difference between the two diets is a little controversial. Keto restricts some of the most nutrient-rich foods available like fruits, starchy vegetables, and legumes. While this diet will quickly lower insulin levels, it isn’t a healthy option through the duration of a pregnancy.
People practicing a keto diet lack the number one source of energy our bodies need – glucose. When glucose depletes, the body is forced to get energy from stored fat. The fat is first turned into fatty acids, and then into compounds called ketones. These ketones will fuel our cells. The entire process is known as ketosis. Once the body is in ketosis, ketones leave the body through urine and exhaling, which can cause bad breath or body odor in some people.
Why is the Keto Diet unhealthy?
While the keto diet seems like ‘a diet to end all diets,’ it harmfully limits the nutrients you consume. The diet consists of meats, poultry, fatty fish (such as salmon), and full-fat dairy products. Although insulin and HDLs (cholesterol) are lowered when practicing the diet, LDLs (bad cholesterol) will increase due to the high fat content of the diet.
Initially, weight loss may happen rapidly. Muscle mass tends to drop, which lowers the metabolic rate. This makes it difficult to keep the weight off if one were to stop this diet.
Finding a healthy balance throughout IVF
Staying healthy is imperative when undergoing infertility treatments like IVF or IVF with donor eggs. Unfortunately, the facts don’t lie: being in a constant state of ketosis isn’t healthy, especially when pregnant or trying to become pregnant.
Our bodies need energy, and because we get that energy from glucose, eating foods (in moderation) with naturally occurring sugars is important. Furthermore, nutrient-rich foods are necessary for an embryo to grow and thrive. After a mother undergoes IVF, she’ll need to continue eating foods which are high in vitamin B (such as legumes), and a variety of fruits (which are packed full of vitamins, antioxidants, and folate needed for fetal development).
Keeping your body healthy will go a long way in keeping your mental health in check, as well. It is important to be aware of what you fuel your body with and, ultimately, how you fuel your growing baby.