We all know how important it is to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to combat weight gain and avoid heart disease, diabetes and other medical complications. But did you know a healthy diet and consistent workouts can help your reproductive health, too?
“In general, healthy eating is good for all physiologic functions, reproduction included,” says John T. Repke, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., university professor and chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Penn State — Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. “The linkage between healthy eating and ideal body weight has been established, as has the linkage between obesity and infertility, and obesity and adverse pregnancy outcome.”
So how can you and your partner better prepare for reproductive health, whether for present family planning or future? Eating a balanced diet of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and avoiding simple sugars and trans-fats is ideal, Repke says. In addition, regular exercise — Repke recommends 30 minutes per day (at a minimum) or the equivalent — is a must. In addition, alcohol, if used at all, should be used only in moderation, and all use should stop once pregnancy is suspected.
The same advice goes for men, as well (although your hubby can still indulge in a beer or two while you’re pregnant, of course). Repke says paying attention to diet and physical activity is especially important for older men (age 50 and older) who may be contemplating parenthood. “Obesity can contribute to oligospermia (reduced sperm count) and erectile dysfunction,” Repke says.
While some believe organic food is better for the body overall, and therefore may create healthier conditions for the reproductive system, Repke says the term “organic” is not uniform across the board. Some foods are labeled as such because they were grown without the use of fertilizer or raised without the use of hormones, or they are devoid of artificial preservatives. He recommends investigating why a particular food is determined to be organic to decide if the extra cost often associated with foods deemed “organic” is actually worth it. However, he does recommend avoiding excessively processed foods as part of a healthy diet.
But as far as staying away from any particular foods or beverages, Repke says moderation is the key. “Limiting coffee to two cups per day (or the equivalent in caffeinated beverages of other types, like colas) is reasonable and safe.” This includes some teas, which can also be caffeinated.
During a pregnancy, the rules obviously change. But up until pregnancy is suspected or a couple is trying to get pregnant, the rule of thumb is the same for most health prescriptions: Eat balanced meals, fit in those sweat hours and enjoy caffeine and alcohol moderately. Then, when you’re ready, you should be in good shape to welcome a little one into your life!