I remember leaving the hospital with my little bundle, feeling so joyful and yet so frail. I had dropped an awful lot of weight in hospital. I was thinner than I can ever remember being. And I was bloody starving. All. The. Time. I slept with a banana and nuts (and the occasional roast almond chocolate!) next to my bed so that I could snack on them during the night feeds to quiet my grumbling tummy.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding take so much our bodies. It can take time to rebuild your nutrient stores, especially for water-soluble nutrients like iron, folate and Vitamins B6 and B12 which all fall well below non-pregnant levels. This could be one of the reasons why some couples struggle to fall pregnant second time 'round (known as secondary infertility).
Some other causes of secondary infertility:
- Ovarian reserve - you are born with all the eggs you will ever have and egg quality and quantity commonly decrease as you age (particularly after 35).
- Sperm quality + quantity – likewise yours partner age can negatively impact their ability to conceive. Men keep producing sperm however the quality often decreases. The sperm cycle is around two and a half months so diet and lifestyle changes will take a few months to see improvements.
- Structural complications – can occur after pregnancy or childbirth for example the fallopian tubes are blocked or there is scarring on the pelvis from a cesarean.
- Weight gain – can lead to ovulation dysfunction, insulin resistance, women producing more testosterone and men producing more estrogen.
If you want to grow your family soon, I would recommend taking a few months to rebuild your overall health before trying to conceive, to really focus on improving sperm and egg quality.
To improve sperm + egg quality you should add more of these to your day:
- Iron – a deficiency in iron can cause the eggs in the ovaries to weaken and become unviable, or can result in miscarriages and impaired fetal development[i]. Lentils, beans, cashews, pumpkin seeds, red meat and dark chocolate are your best bet. Another reason to make these healthy chocolates.
- Zinc – men especially may look at supplementation if you’re TTC, and load up on foods like eggs, shellfish, meat (beef, pork, lamb, chicken), brown rice and spinach. Check out these Prawn Omelette which are part of the Preconception Program. Marilyn Shannon, author of Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition says, “Zinc is so valuable for overcoming infertility and other reproductive dysfunctions that I hesitate to limit the suggested supplement amount.”
- B6 – is heat sensitive so try foods like bananas, spinach, or lightly cooked tuna.
- Vitamin E – is great for sperm health and motility, the antioxidant helps protect sperm and egg DNA integrity[ii]. Almonds, sunflower seeds and eggs are good sources.
- Selenium – is another antioxidant that helps protect eggs and sperm and it is required to produce sperm. Brazil nuts and seafood are your go-to sources.
I know it can be really hard to prioritise yourself when you’ve got little ones demanding your attention (constantly), but we need to keep trying. Remind yourself that it is in the best interests of yourself and your family (and potentially your future family).
[i] S.Sasikumar, J.Shyam, Sundar, D.Dakshayani, R.Prabavathy, and M.KarthikaInt. J. Curr. Res. Aca. Rev. (2014); 2(2): 96-115. A study on significant biochemical changes in the serum of infertile women. Retrieved from: http://www.ijcrar.com/vol-2-
[ii] S.Sasikumar, J.Shyam, Sundar, D.Dakshayani, R.Prabavathy, and M.KarthikaInt. J. Curr. Res. Aca. Rev. (2014); 2(2): 96-115. A study on significant biochemical changes in the serum of infertile women. Retrieved from: http://www.ijcrar.com/vol-2-