Did you know one of the most commonly discussed symptoms of PCOS is infertility? You may feel lost with your diagnosis of PCOS. You may have been led to believe that pregnancy may not happen with PCOS. That’s not the case! Some changes to your diet and lifestyle could greatly improve your chances of becoming pregnant! Let’s talk food for fertility!
The Relationship Between PCOS and Fertility
Irregular periods can make conceiving more difficult. Not knowing when or if you ovulate can make pregnancy seem like a moving target. Balancing your hormones can help. Check out our balancing hormones series: part 1 and part 2. One of the factors for improving hormones is to balance out blood sugars. Eat consistent meals and snacks throughout the day, and try to balance carbohydrates with protein and fat.
Taking the Steps Toward a Healthy Pregnancy
Besides taking a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin, abstaining from unsafe substances, and watching caffeine intake, what are some other PCOS-specific steps that improve fertility and encourage a healthy pregnancy?
1. Know your Numbers
If you have diabetes, you want your blood glucose levels to be as close to normal as possible to reduce the risk of your baby developing any birth defects in the first trimester
2. Move it!
Exercise naturally helps improve the body’s insulin sensitivity. During exercise, your body burns glycogen, a form of glucose stored in muscles. After exercise, the muscles restore their glycogen stores with glucose from the bloodstream. The more glycogen that is burned during exercise, the longer the body’s insulin sensitivity is improved
3. Become Familiar with Pregnancy Weight Gain
Depending on your pre-pregnancy weight, you may be recommended to gain a different amount of weight for healthy fetal development. The weight that is gained comes from both the actual fetus, but also from increased blood volume, amniotic fluid, and the placenta, to just name the main sources. Remember, the amount of weight gain needed during pregnancy is a guideline, not something that you need to stress over. Each woman’s body will respond differently during pregnancy.
This study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School in 2018 looked at food for fertility. They found that foods containing certain vitamins and minerals have beneficial effects on a woman’s ability to conceive. Some key dietary components include folic acid, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and overall healthy habits.
Folate (vitamin B9) improves both fertility and health outcomes. Adequate intake of folate prevents neural tube defects in the first few weeks of pregnancy, while also lowering the risk of pregnancy loss and improving success with infertility treatment. Vitamin B12 works with folate to make new proteins, produce red and white blood cells, repair tissues and cells, and synthesize DNA.
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve fertility, although certain fish that are high in omega-3s might also have high levels of contaminants, perhaps making it important to know the source of those fish.
Below are some of our favorite Fertility Boosting Foods, each containing at least one of the components above. Keep in mind that overconsuming any of these foods in an attempt to boost fertility likely won’t provide all of the components of a varied, balanced diet.
Fertility Boosting Foods
1. Citrus Fruits
In addition to folate, oranges and grapefruits are filled with vitamin C, potassium, and calcium. Vitamin C may increase progesterone levels and help with ovulation. If you are looking to increase fertility, a good place to start in terms of citrus fruits is to have one serving each day. We have a recipe for Asian Sesame Salad, which uses mandarin oranges.
Dark green veggies like spinach and kale also contain folate, in addition to calcium and iron. There has been a lot of debate over whether higher iron intake improves fertility. However, iron deficiency is related to infertility, so it is important to ensure that you are consuming an adequate amount.
Blueberries and raspberries contain a relatively high level of natural antioxidants and phytonutrients which help boost female and male fertility. Berries are also a good source of fiber. A good goal is to consume one cup of berries per day, trying to get a variety of types of berries.
Avocados are a good source of vitamin K, which helps your body effectively absorb nutrients while maintaining hormonal balance. They also contain potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure. Check out these recipes that use avocado!
This whole grain is a great source of protein, folate and zinc. It is also high in fiber and helps stabilize your blood sugar. It can typically be used instead of other grains, such as rice, barley, or sometimes even pasta.
6. Greek Yogurt
It is filled with probiotics and contains more calcium than milk. It is a good source of vitamin D which helps follicles in your ovaries mature. Greek yogurt specifically has a higher protein content than other yogurts. A good rule of thumb is to look for a brand or flavor with less sugar, as fruit can be added for some sweetness. A good goal for dairy is to have one, full-fat serving each day.
Another study found that couples eating seafood were able to get pregnant sooner than couples who rarely consume seafood. Wild salmon is low in mercury and is one of the best sources of omega-3 and DHA, which is important for fetal brain and eye development. A great goal for fish is to consume about 12 ounces per week.
Eggs contain many different vitamins and minerals, as well as amino acids like choline, which improves follicle quality. Both the whites and the yolks should be eaten to get all of the great benefits of eggs!
Walnuts are not only filled with fiber and omega-3, but they also contain magnesium, which helps produce progesterone and increase blood supply to the uterus. An intake goal for walnuts is to have up to 2 tablespoons per day.
10. Lentils and Beans
These are plant-based protein sources that are high in fiber and vitamin B, and also good sources of folate and iron. If using the canned-variety, ensure it is free of BPA. We suggest having at least 2 meals per week that use this protein source. Check out this delicious PCOS friendly lentil vegetable soup!
Check out this video on how to incorporate more fertility-friendly foods!
An award winning recipe developer, Dietitian Kaitlin’s mission is to empower others to reach their health goals by encouraging them to get back into the kitchen. Co-author of Nourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating and Cooking with Diabetes.