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Trying for a Bump

Trying for a Bump

    Trying for a Bump

    You’ve done the research.You know that after your twenty-seventh birthday, your chances of conceiving start to drop, and suddenly get- ting pregnant becomes like getting into an Ivy League school—you’ve got to be seriously on your game. Many of us (including me) are in this boat now, since one in  ve women today have their  rst child after the age of thirty-ve. If you’ve been working on having a baby for a while, you’ve probably been religiously charting your cycle, peeing on ovulation prediction sticks (oh...how romantic), and buying pregnancy tests in bulk. But you may not have thought all that much about what you’re eating and drinking.
    There are no magical fertility foods, but you can change your diet to im- prove your chances. Making some simple tweaks to your diet three months (or more) before trying to conceive is a smart idea.The main goal is to stay healthy, because a healthy body is a much more welcoming place for a hot date between egg and sperm.

    Fertility Helpers

    The number one change you’ll want to make is to include more folate-rich foods. Eat more forti ed cereals, asparagus, lentils, oranges, orange juice, and everyone’s fave, chicken livers. Check the label on the multivitamin you cur- rently take, as you may already be getting enough folic acid. It should have at least 400 micrograms (mcg) in it. If not, add a supplement with that amount of folic acid. (Folic acid is the same thing as folate, but the latter comes from food sources.)

    Folic acid is crucial for the proper development of the baby’s neural tube (it covers the spinal cord), which is formed during the  rst month of preg- nancy. Getting enough folic acid before you’re pregnant helps prevent serious birth defects, such as spina bi da. It’s the one thing you should change about your diet when you  rst start trying, anywhere from three months to one year before you and your partner get serious about making a baby. You have to make sure you’re fully stocked up on folic acid, because you never know which month is going to be the month. Once you know you’re pregnant, you should increase your intake of folic acid to 600 to 800 mcg per day.
    Beyond the fact that you’re protecting a new little life inside you, fo- lic acid also seems to boost your chances of getting pregnant in the  rst place. Studies have shown that taking a multivitamin with 800 mcg of the vitamin for at least twenty-eight days pre-conception and two months post- conception increased fertility.


    In fact, you may want to start popping that folic-acid pill even earlier than the suggested three months before trying to conceive.A recent observational analysis of National Institutes of Health (NIH) folic acid supplementation reports found that women who began taking a supplement a full year be- fore conception experienced 70 percent lower rates of super-early preterm delivery (twenty to twenty-eight weeks) and a 50 percent reduction in early preterm delivery (twenty-eight to thirty-two weeks).3 The study examined only women who took supplements and did not consider dietary folate— but we know that doesn’t hurt either. Even if it takes you awhile to get pregnant, don’t worry about getting that extra 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid in the meantime—it’ll help keep your heart healthy, too.


    Iron-packed foods are also essential because once you’re pregnant, Junior starts robbing you of your iron reserves. In addition, a 2006 study showed that women who took iron supplements had a lower risk of ovula- tory infertility than women who didn’t take supplements. Consider taking an iron supplement or a multivitamin that contains the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron for women: 18 mg.You certainly don’t need to eat meat at every meal, but try to get a few servings a week of lean beef, chicken,  sh, and pork (each will have about 2 to 3 mg of iron). Raisins, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, forti ed cereals, tofu, beans, and dried apricots are great vegetarian sources of iron. Just remember that the vegetarian form—which is also called non-heme iron—is not as easily absorbed by your body as iron that comes from animal sources. That’s easy to  x: Just make sure you eat a vitamin C-rich food at the same time as an iron-rich one, as vitamin C helps your body absorb iron. Some easy combos: Mix some salsa with your black beans, have a glass of O.J. with your forti ed cereal, or throw some straw- berries into a spinach salad. But watch out for your beloved Starbucks—it interferes with your iron absorption. Both coffee and tea will reduce the amount of iron you absorb, so take that latte break (see below for how much coffee is too much) between your meals.

    Get good fats, such as omega-3s, from salmon,  ax seeds, walnuts, and enhanced foods. Numerous studies have shown that getting enough doco- sahexanoic acid, or DHA, which is a form of omega-3, is essential for the development of a baby’s brain and nervous system. The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t set a recommended daily value yet for omega-3 (it’s currently reviewing the issue), but try to  t in a few servings a day. That’s so much easier today, considering the wide variety of omega-3 forti ed products—juice, milk, soy milk, and enhanced eggs—that are available. Monounsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, olive oil, olives, and avocados are easy additions to your diet, too.They help keep your heart healthy and increase absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Plus, fat is essential for the production of hormones, and Lord knows you need to be making plenty of those to get preggers.


    Now’s the time to load up on antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies like blueberries (and other berries), artichokes, pomegranates, apples, beans, and dried plums (aka prunes).Antioxidants scavenge free radicals in the body and prevent cell damage (think of free radicals as a twenty-two-year-old at the of ce jockeying to steal your job someday). Getting enough antioxidants will help  ght wear and tear on all of your cells, including your fragile eggs. How do you know you’re getting enough? If you eat a beige diet, you’re most likely not getting your antioxidant  x. Basically, the brighter and deeper the color of your food, the better it is for you. So make like Betsey Johnson and go crazy with color at each meal. Even in the winter, when there’s not a ton of good-looking fresh produce available, you can still get your antioxidant  x from frozen fruits and veggies. Juices are a great way to get antioxidants, too—just stick to a small 6-ounce glass, or else you might rack up some serious calories. Studies show that the top antioxidant juices are (in order): pomegranate, Concord grape, blueberry, black cherry, açai, cranberry, and orange.
    Be sure you switch out that  imsy white bread or wheat-colored bread for true whole-grain bread. Same goes for cereal and other grain products. Whole grains are not only a good source of  ber and minerals—they’re also rich in antioxidants. Lookforthewords“wholewheat,”“whole oats,” or “whole barley” as the  rst ingredi-
    ent on the ingredient list. Products that bear the Whole Grains Council’s Whole Grain Stamp on the label have the good stuff.And these days, there are more whole-grain products than ever.
    And get this—that ice-cream cone you’re devouring on the sly may actu- ally increase your chances of getting preggers! A Harvard study found that women who ate two or more servings of low-fat dairy products per week had a higher risk of ovulatory infertility, while women who consumed full- fat dairy (like ice cream and whole milk) with the same frequency had a lower incidence. I’m not saying you should go to bed with an entire pint of cookies ’n’ cream, but try to mix some of the regular stuff in with your low- and non-fat items.And it’s healthier to go with low-fat (1%) than fat-free, because you need a certain amount of fat to absorb vitamins A and D, the fat-soluble vitamins found in forti ed dairy products.