Why the Road to Pregnancy is Paved with a Healthy Diet
A Guest Post by Angela Grassi, MS, RD
Having PCOS can pose some unique challenges to having a successful pregnancy. But the good news is more is known now than ever about the relationship between PCOS and fertility. There is no question that diet and physical activity have a major impact on ovulation. Establishing healthy eating habits and a regular exercise routine now will not only increase your chances of getting pregnant, but will set the stage for a healthy pregnancy.
Although I’m a registered dietitian who specializes in PCOS, I have PCOS myself. I faced the fear of having to undergo fertility treatments or far worse, not being able to get pregnant at all. So, I decided to devote a year to focus on getting my body as healthy and fertile as possible before attempting to conceive.
The Pre-Conception Plan
My year-long pre-conception period started with a visit to my health care provider, who checked my weight and blood pressure and ordered blood tests. The lab results from my blood work revealed that I had a trait of a Mediterranean type of anemia, low vitamin D and elevated insulin levels. My health care provider prescribed me a prenatal vitamin and a mega-dose of vitamin D. Because I was overweight and insulin resistant, she encouraged me to lose some weight. She explained that even losing 15 or 20 pounds (7-9 kg) would significantly improve my fertility. She also prescribed metformin, an insulin-sensitizing medication, to help decrease my insulin levels and improve ovulation.
Exercise has been shown to help improve not only insulin but ovulation. I had been maintaining a routine exercise program that consisted of mostly cardio but also added two days a week of strength training. As for my diet, I made sure to eat plenty of whole grains plus organic and local produce each day. I included some full-fat dairy, ate less meat and more fish. I also cut way back on sweets and sugar and avoided artificial sweeteners. My biggest challenge was limiting coffee to no more than 2 cups daily. I cut back on both my total calories and carbohydrate content to lose weight. In addition to the prenatal vitamin, I also took extra fish oil.
I was reexamined a year later by my health care provider. My vitamin D levels were in normal range and my insulin improved along with the anemia. I had lost 18 pounds (8 kg) and my menstrual cycles were shorter and occurring monthly. My body was ready to try for a baby. Within a few months, to my great surprise, I was pregnant.
I maintained the changes I made in my diet and exercise throughout my pregnancy and continued taking metformin. I had no complications and had a healthy baby boy. Although the road was not always easy, in the end I became pregnant without fertility treatments. My advice to you is be patient and don’t give up!
Angela is the author of The Dietitian’s Guide to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and The PCOS Workbook and the co-author of the The PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook: 100 Easy and Delicious Whole Food Recipes To Beat PCOS Find out more at www.pcosnutrition.com. She will be featured on the #FertilityProject Twitter Chat October 25th. (This post contains amazon affiliate links!)