(More than 30 years ago, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health hoping to answer a vitally important question—Do birth control pills have long-term health effects?—proposed a bold study. They would survey thousands of female nurses about their methods of birth control and then track their health over time. Little did they know that this study would evolve into one of the largest investigations of how diet, lifestyle, social, and biological factors affect the risk of developing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and other chronic conditions.)
The 10 Rules to Live By
From this vast mine of information, we have discovered ten simple changes that offer a powerful boost in fertility for women with ovulation-related infertility.
- Avoid trans-fats, the artery-clogging fats found in many commercially prepared products and fast foods.
- Use more unsaturated vegetable oils, such as olive oil or canola oil.
- Eat more vegetable protein, like beans and nuts, and less animal protein.
- Choose whole grains and other sources of carbohydrate that have lower, slower effects on blood sugar and insulin rather than highly refined carbohydrates that quickly boost blood sugar and insulin.
- Drink a glass of whole milk or have a small dish of ice cream or full-fat yogurt every day; temporarily trade in skim milk and low- or no-fat dairy products like cottage cheese and frozen yogurt for their full-fat cousins.
- Take a multivitamin that contains folic acid and other B vitamins.
- Get plenty of iron from fruits, vegetables, beans, and supplements but not from red meat.
- Beverages matter: Water is great; coffee, tea, and alcohol are OK in moderation; leave sugared sodas unopened.
- Aim for a healthy weight. If you are overweight, losing between five percent and 10 percent of your weight can jump-start ovulation.
- If you aren't physically active, start a daily exercise plan. If you already exercise, pick up the pace of your workouts. But don't overdo it, especially if you are quite lean—too much exercise can work against conception.
We didn't mention smoking. Only a small number of women in the Nurses' Health Study are smokers, which made it impossible for us to examine in detail its effects on fertility. We didn't really need to, though. Scads of solid studies have established that women who smoke take longer to get pregnant on their own or with assisted reproduction and are more likely to miscarry than nonsmokers. So we'll add an 11th recommendation: If you smoke, stop.