Diet, lifestyle impact a woman’s odds of conceiving

Women trying to get pregnant may boost their chances by adopting a “fertility diet” and lifestyle pattern, Boston-based researchers have found. In fact, they believe that the majority of cases of infertility due to ovulation disorders in otherwise healthy women might be prevented through diet and lifestyle modification.

“The take home message ... is that the dietary and lifestyle choices women make as they try to get pregnant can impact profoundly their fertility,” Dr. Jorge E. Chavarro of Harvard School of Public Health, who worked on the study, told Reuters Health.

The fertility diet pattern is characterized by higher consumption of monounsaturated fat rather than trans fats, vegetable protein rather than animal protein, low-glycemic carbohydrates like whole grains, moderate consumption of high-fat dairy, multivitamins, and iron from plants and supplements, Chavarro’s team reports.

Lifestyle factors that promote fertility include moderate levels of coffee and alcohol, increased physically activity, and staying away from cigarettes.

For 8 years, Chavarro and colleagues tracked the diet and lifestyle patterns of 17,544 women as they tried to get pregnant or became pregnant. None of them had a history of infertility.

According to the team, greater adherence to the fertility diet pattern was associated with a lower risk of infertility due to ovulation disturbances and, to a lesser extent, of infertility due to other causes.

Women with the highest fertility diet score, compared with those with the lowest, had a 66-percent lower risk of infertility due to ovulation problems and a 27-percent lower risk of infertility due to other causes, Chavarro and colleagues report in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The combination of five or more low-risk lifestyle factors, including weight control, physical activity and diet, was associated with a 69-percent lower risk of ovulation-related infertility.

The researchers also found, consistent with earlier reports, that increased body weight raises the risk of infertility due to ovulation disorders.

“Women trying to become pregnant,” the researchers conclude, “could consider following these lifestyle practices because they are consistent with an overall healthy lifestyle and may also help them become pregnant.”

SOURCE: Obstetrics and Gynecology, November 2007.

Provided by ArmMed Media