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Preconception Care and Nutrition for Fertility: Where to Start

By August 26, 2021No Comments

Preconception Care and Nutrition for Fertility: where to start

By Sarah Trimble Nutrition

Dietary and lifestyle changes are key in helping to prepare your body for conception. When we are trying to conceive we are essentially trying to improve the health of our bodies right down to a cellular level, aiming to produce healthy cells and healthy eggs. It can be difficult to know how best to achieve this and understand which changes should be prioritised, so I’ve put together an evidence-based guide on where to begin.


Eat a Mediterranean diet

Instead of focusing on specific foods that promote reproductive health it is important to begin by addressing your dietary pattern, the balance of foods that you consume. Time and again the research tells us that following the Mediterranean dietary pattern is the most beneficial way to eat to improve our reproductive health. Men eating a Mediterranean diet have better sperm quality, while women who followed a Mediterranean style diet were found to have much greater chances of success in assisted conception.

Even if you don’t live in a Mediterranean climate you can achieve a Mediterranean dietary pattern by following a few key principles.

Be Plant-based

The term plant-based diet is now commonly used to refer to a vegan diet. However, this phrase was initially used to refer to a Mediterranean dietary approach that is based around an abundance of vegetables and fruit. Mediterranean meals are based around a variety of fresh and seasonal vegetables, so focus on filling up half your plate with vegetables at each main meal. Fresh fruit should replace sugary snacks and is often served as dessert at the end of a meal. Ideally if you are following a Mediterranean dietary approach you should be consuming 5 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruit every day.

Eat the Rainbow

Fruit and vegetables are our main dietary source of antioxidants, the nutrients that protect our reproductive cells from damage and promote egg and sperm quality. These antioxidants are often the compounds that give fruit and vegetables their bright colours, for example, beta carotene in carrots – so by eating a variety of colours of fruit and vegetables daily we can ensure we are consuming a greater variety of these all important antioxidants.

Meat in moderation

The Mediterranean diet is plant based, but it does not exclude meat, fish or shellfish completely. Instead the focus is on eating high quality animal products in moderation. This is a key benefit of the Mediterranean diet for reproductive health because red meat is the best dietary source of the mineral zinc, which is absolutely essential for male fertility. In fact high quality grass-fed red meat can also be a source of the GOOD omega-3 fats which we normally associate with fish consumption. Have good quality red meat 1-2 times a week to ensure you are getting enough of these essential nutrients.

Love your legumes

Beans and lentils are a central ingredient in a Mediterranean diet, usually consumed on a daily basis. Beans and lentils are a nutritional package that combines slow release carbohydrates with protein and soluble fibre, so not only do they fill us up for longer, they have a very positive impact on blood sugar levels. Incorporating beans and lentils into a meal reduces the blood sugar response to that meal, helping to prevent blood sugar levels getting too high. This is a key goal for a fertility promoting diet as we know that high blood sugar levels can negatively impact male and female fertility. Aim to have one serving of beans or lentils daily by adding beans to a soup or salad at lunch time or try hummus as a snack with raw vegetables.

Olive oil all over

Olive oil is probably the most important ingredient in the Mediterranean diet and for a very good reason. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that helps control and reduce levels of inflammation. Olive oil is packed full of dietary antioxidants, and on top of that dressing salads and vegetables with olive oil will actually increase the absorption of antioxidants present in those vegetables. Choose extra virgin olive oil as it is highest in antioxidants and aim to consume around 2 tbsp daily in salad dressings or drizzled over cooked vegetables.

Drink responsibly

Alcohol is not forbidden in the Mediterranean diet, however, the alcohol choices and the way it is consumed differ from a Northern European approach. A Mediterranean dietary approach focuses on consuming small servings of alcohol across a week and this alcohol is usually in the form of wine, especially antioxidant-rich red wine. Whereas, in Northern Europe, it is more common to consume most of our alcoholic drinks at the weekend, consuming 4 or more drinks in one day is considered binge drinking. Binge drinking has a rapid negative impact on our reproductive health as it leads to elevations of an inflammatory toxin (called LPS) in our bloodstreams. Higher levels of LPS have been shown to have a negative impact on reproductive health. So avoid binge drinking sessions at the weekend and limit intake to 2 alcoholic drinks in one day.

Address your stress

Managing and avoiding stress could be the most important lifestyle change you make in promoting and protecting your reproductive health. All the health benefits of eating a healthy diet can be easily negated if we are experiencing high levels of stress. Stress is the ultimate hormone disruptor for both men and women and has the potential to reduce chances of conception. When women are stressed and producing higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, they can experience a reduction in progesterone levels, which are essential in promoting conception. For men, higher levels of cortisol may contribute to lower sperm number and motility. It is not always possible to avoid stress and often trying to conceive is a stressful time, so try to focus on activities that we know help to reduce cortisol levels such as gentle exercise, sleep, yoga, meditation, massage, reflexology or just spending time with friends.

Get more sleep

There is a direct relationship between the amount of sleep we get and our fertility. Research has found that women getting less than seven hours of sleep are 15% less likely to get pregnant than women who got seven to eight hours. Men who got more sleep were also found to have better quality sperm. Not only does sleep reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, but men produce testosterone when they sleep. On top of that the sleep hormone melatonin has been shown to improve egg and sperm quality. So try getting a bit more sleep, it’s an effective (and free) way to support your reproductive health.

Detox your environment

Many scientists attribute the drop in fertility rates worldwide to the variety of hormone-disrupting chemicals we are all exposed to in our day to day lives. In fact, exposure to chemicals such as pesticides and plastics is probably the main environmental factor contributing to a drop in fertility rates. The plastic BPA is known to directly reduce egg quality and chances of conceiving in women. It is essential to reduce exposure to these chemicals when trying to conceive by removing them from your home environment and diet as much as possible. Start with removing plastic containers and cling film from the kitchen, avoiding water in plastic bottles and buying organic food wherever possible. Be wary of advice promoting fertility detoxes or cleanses as these could negatively impact conception.



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Amy Martin

Marketing Director

Amy is a high achieving individual with a number of marketing awards under her belt, including Young Digital Business Person of the Year 2019. She is a big believer in digital marketing and an expert in executing personalised targeted campaigns. Amy strives to learn from data and campaigns that show return on investment.

Robert Gordon

Managing Director, Gordons Chemists


Robert Gordon, director at Gordons Chemist's. Gordons Chemists is a chain of more than 60 pharmacies, located in NI and Scotland. Gordons Chemists is Northern Ireland's largest independent pharmacy chain.

Dr. Debbie Collins



Dr. Debbie Collins MBBchBAO MRCGP, a practicing GP and partner in Belfast. She has a passion for patient education and advocacy. Her special interests are Women's Health and Fertility

Sarah Trimble

Nutritional Therapist


Sarah Trimble - a nutritional therapist with a passion for good food instead of fad diets. Sarah has a particular Interest in using the power of nutrition to support hormonal imbalances and reproductive health.

Barbara Scott

Director, Seren Natural Fertility
Chair, Association of Reproductive Reflexologists


Barbara Scott is Chair of The Association of Reproductive Reflexologists, founder of Seren Natural Fertility and author of Reflexology for Fertility. In 2017, she was awarded ‘Complementary Therapist of the Year’ by the Federation of Holistic Therapists and has been nominated for several awards within the field of complementary therapy. In 2019 she was awarded the Innovation in Reflexology Award by the Association of Reflexologists.

Barbara speaks and lectures globally on her integrative approach to supporting couples having difficulties conceiving. She has spoken at many of the Fertility Shows and Fertility Fest. Alongside her own busy clinics, she also trains practitioners in providing this integrative, approach to fertility and reproductive healthcare and well-being. The ARR (Association of Reproductive Reflexologists) has trained practitioners globally, from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Europe, and most areas of the UK.

Her expertise and passion is in advocating a patient-centred and integrative approach to supporting both men and women on their journey to parenthood.

Cindy Charles

Fertility coach and Founder of Fertilelife


Cindy Charles- Fertility coach and Founder of Fertilelife. Cindy is a committed advocate of social and personal development. Her own life experiences inspired her fertility support services. Cindy has worked with the Fertility Network UK, and has had the privilege to work as a resident Fertility Coach for the London Women's Clinic on Harley Street. Cindy believes in the importance of nurturing our own fertility.

Dr. Lyuda Shkrobot

MD, MSc Gynecologist, Fertility specialist at unq.life fertility clinic


Dr Lyuda has a special interest in reproductive immunology. Dr Shkrobot assisted in establishing the first European Donor Egg programme at Sims, coordinating and liaising with Intersono Clinic in Ukraine Advisors. She is passionate about patient-centred, results-driven care.

Jill Martin

Business Development Director


Jill Martin is a trained nurse and highly experienced pharmaceutical professional. Most of her business acumen and skills were developed by the world class training she received at Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK). Hard work and focus have resulted in a varied and successful career working in several different disease areas. As part of the Diabetes team at GSK, an opportunity arose to develop and support education programmes that were rolled out to the NHS across the UK, which resulted in improvement of Strategy and Patient Care. Jill feels that education is the key to understanding and has made it a personal goal to self-improve and support learning for others especially within the healthcare arena. The last 10 years have been devoted to trying to impart the importance of Fertility Health early in the life cycle of us all, rather than when infertility issues arise. She is delighted to have joined Nua Fertility on their mission to support people and communities to understand the importance of gut health on our fertility well-being.

Share a little about yourself—the things we wouldn’t learn from simply reading your professional bio.

The most important thing to me in life are family and friends, it breaks my heart when people are broken and I know that I am always trying to find solutions to problems. I love being outside rather than sitting at a desk and would rather lift the phone and have a chat with someone rather than email or message. I find people interesting and will often be that annoying person who starts a conversation on a train or plane.

What was your journey to parenthood like?

I feel very blessed to have had my family naturally, although not without some challenges. Following a miscarriage and thyroid issues conception wasn’t as easy as I would have hoped. My personal experience made me appreciate how important it is to value ways to improve your fertility health. This set me on my own journey to find out more, by surrounding myself with a network of experts in this area who I am continually learning from. When possible I take every opportunity to share best practice or send information to others that I know who are also seeking to understand more.

What is your ideal way to relax and unwind?

Juggling home life and working full time with a lot of travel, for most of my adult life made me find a way to relax that may seem strange. I love getting my trainers on and going for a long walk or run, even in the rain! Sometimes I will listen to a podcast and other times just be mindful of my surroundings. I find this a great way to clear my head, think about priorities and take time out for myself.

If there was just one thing you could impart on women on their journey to parenthood, what would it be.

From an early age I loved to make jigsaws, little did I know that this skill would help me later in life to understand the complexity of fertility and the miracle of life. Everyone is unique, every situation is different, like a jigsaw there are lots of pieces that need to be put together to become complete. Explore all options, chat to experts don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Aoibheann Murphy

Chief Financial Officer


Having trained with PWC, Aoibheann qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1997. She subsequently spent eight years working in industry, gaining invaluable experience in many areas In 2005 Aoibheann became MD of Pangur Consulting, providing professional expertise to a broad client base. She is looking forward to the new challenge of Nua Fertility.

Share a little about yourself—the things we wouldn’t learn from simply reading your professional bio.


What was your journey to parenthood like?

Right craic!

Do you prefer podcasts or books? And of the one that you prefer, what is a show or title that you recommend?

I love sport…any sport…and the outdoors. Living in the Barrow valley I get to enjoy swimming and kayaking in the Barrow and exploring the Blackstairs mountains. Since I hung up my soccer boots (the body just couldn’t take it anymore!), I’ve been cycling with my lovely friends in Mount Leinster Wheelers and was chuffed to have completed the Ironman 70.3 triathlon event in Dublin in 2019!
I’m an avid reader…books beat podcasts hands down!...although recently I’ve dabbled with audio books through the library app Borrow Box. “A Little Life” left its mark on me. A harrowing story, definitely not for the faint hearted.

If there was just one thing you could impart on women on their journey to parenthood, what would it be?

Don’t be consumed by the roles in your life – parent, partner, employee etc. Parenthood, be it getting there or going through it, will have its tough times. Cherishing yourself as an individual and making time for yourself can help you through those times….it’s good to be a bit selfish!!

Mark Mullins

Director of Sales


What was your journey to parenthood like?

To be honest it was very difficult. At the beginning we thought that when we decided that we wanted to start a family Deborah would fall pregnant shortly afterwards like many of her friends. As time went by, we started to suspect something was wrong. After initial tests we found out that I had a low sperm count which meant that we would have to go down the assisted pregnancy route. This took me several months to get my head around as I blamed myself for this. All I wanted was my wife to be able to go through the pregnancy journey. We couldn’t wait to become parents. There were many long and painful nights where I thought this would never happen for us. After several failed attempts we decided to look at further ways of improving our chances. This led us to look at fertility supplements, our diet, exercise. I will never forget when that morning during our Two Week Wait when Deborah woke me up at 5 a.m. to show me those two lines, we had both been yearning for! We are blessed to now have our beautiful daughter.

On challenging days, what kept you going? Where did you find inspiration?

My wife was my inspiration. She kept me going through those challenging months and years. She was there to help me deal with everything. The guilt I felt when I saw her having to go through everything.

What is your ideal was to relax and unwind?

My latest passion is cooking on my BBQ. I find it so peaceful and I just switch off. It just gives me a bit of alone time which everyone needs.

If there was just one thing you could impart on men as they begin trying to become parents, what would it be?

I would highly recommend communicating with friends and family. A problem shared is a problem halved. Failing that there are some really good private Facebook groups for men suffering from infertility. I found this great support through the good and especially the bad times.