Foods to Avoid When Trying To Get Pregnant: What to Eat Instead

Diet is an important part of getting pregnant. Learn the top foods you should avoid to increase fertility, along with tips on the best diet for getting pregnant.

The Promescent Team
Hands on, practical experience – this is our expertise
by The Promescent Team Last updated 12/11/2023
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Foods to avoid when trying to conceive

Getting pregnant can be difficult for many women. But having the right diet can help to improve fertility and increase the odds of conception.

Some of the main foods to avoid when trying to conceive include sodas, alcohol, and other unhealthy items. However, even more healthy options like tuna and white rice may lead to fertility problems when eaten excessively.

Quick FAQs

Some of the worst foods to eat when trying to get pregnant include high sugar foods, processed meats, and fast food.

Omega-3 foods, high-fat dairy foods, and foods with dietary fiber can all help with trying to get pregnant.

Unhealthy habits to avoid when trying to get pregnant include smoking and sleep deprivation. It's also important to avoid excessive stress.

In this guide, we’ll go over the top foods you should avoid to increase fertility, along with tips on the best diet for getting pregnant!

Foods to Avoid When Trying to Get Pregnant

Having a diet plan before trying to conceive is a great way to boost your health and increase your fertility.

From fast food to candy, certain fish, and even white bread, these are foods that can affect your hormones, ovaries, and overall health. Plus, a number of these foods may lead to other problems, like diabetes, which can also cause infertility.

Before we cover which foods to avoid, remember that it’s not the end of the world if you have some of the items on this list. Many of these foods are quite common, and having them occasionally won’t lead to catastrophe.

However, based on numerous studies, these foods may promote infertility in some women when eaten in excess. For the best guidance, try to avoid these foods as much as possible.

Incorporate the healthier foods listed at the end for a well-balanced and fertility-friendly diet!

1. High Sugar Foods and Drinks

Excessive sugar intake can be harmful for fertility by promoting insulin resistance and potential weight gain. A high body mass index, or BMI, has been shown to lead to infertility issues in women of all ages.

Another side effect of long-term high sugar intake is type II diabetes, which usually stems from insulin resistance. Both of these diseases can lead to hormonal imbalances that make pregnancy more difficult. Diabetes can be especially damaging to the circulatory system, which is vital for fertility.

It’s important to minimize your sugar intake to help stay fertile and healthy, and some common high-sugar foods to avoid include:

  • Soda
  • Energy drinks
  • Packaged fruit juices
  • Milk chocolate
  • Candy
  • Sweetened cereals

2. Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates are those that are stripped of fiber and protein, essentially reducing them into pure sugar, which causes insulin to rise fairly dramatically.

Over time, excessive refined carbohydrate intake can lead to insulin resistance and type II diabetes, and it may also lead to oxidative stress within the body. 

With oxidative stress, more free radicals flow throughout the body which can damage cells and DNA within the ovaries. This may lead to a decline in egg quality for some women.

A few foods with high amounts of refined carbohydrates include:

  • White bread
  • White flour
  • White rice
  • Sweet pastries
  • Certain pastas

In many cases, opting for the whole wheat versions of the above items can help to limit refined carbohydrates.

3. Processed Meats

Processed meats are very high in trans fats and saturated fats, both of which can raise cholesterol significantly, which may lead to weight gain and heart disease.

However, even without the risk of weight gain, processed meats and their associated trans fats may also directly harm a woman’s eggs by impairing the ovaries' metabolic pathways. 

Researchers found that a high intake of trans fatty acids, which are abundant in processed meats, can lead to increased infertility rates in women.

Some processed meats to avoid include:

  • Sausage
  • Bacon
  • Smoked meats
  • Pepperoni
  • Salami

4. Low Fat Dairy

While high fat dairy is generally safe, low fat dairy has been found to increase the risk of anovulation, which is when ovulation fails to occur. 

Low fat dairy has also been shown to increase the risk of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS,) which may also lead to anovulation along with hormonal imbalances.

Foods to avoid include:

  • Low fat milk
  • Low fat yogurt
  • Low fat cottage cheese
  • Low fat cheese

5. Excess Alcohol

Studies have found that excessive alcohol intake may lead to hormonal imbalances along with changes to the menstrual cycle and ovulation.

Other potential problems from alcohol include a higher BMI, insulin resistance, and reduced circulation, all of which may lead to infertility in women.

As the researchers noted, a higher alcohol intake correlated directly with higher rates of infertility, meaning it’s better to reduce consumption to only a few drinks per week to help maintain fertility.

6. Fast Food

Fast food contains many of the harmful ingredients found on this list. Frequent fast food intake may lead to infertility in women due to the high amounts of:

  • Trans fats
  • Sugar (in sauces, sodas, and breads)
  • Sodium
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Preservatives

In many cases, fast food meals are also very calorically dense while providing few nutrients like essential vitamins and minerals. A consistent diet of fast food may lead to:

  • Weight gain
  • Insulin resistance
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Infertility

If you do end up in the drive-through, you can make your fast food meal healthier by:

  • Choosing unsweetened tea or coffee instead of soda
  • Replacing fries with fruit or salad
  • Avoiding extra sauces, which are often filled with sugar and sodium
  • Limiting the quantity of fast food you consume at once

7. Excess Caffeine

While some studies have yet to find a clear link between excessive caffeine and female infertility, the researchers did note that more information is needed to form a complete picture.

One worry is that caffeine releases cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. High amounts of cortisol may lead to estradiol (estrogen) changes in some women, which may affect their fertility.

Despite the research being murky, it’s advised that you limit your caffeine intake while trying to get pregnant. A few cups of coffee or tea likely won’t hurt, but the relationship between caffeine and cortisol means that some caution is advised.

Some caffeinated drinks you should limit include:

  • Energy drinks
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Caffeinated sodas

8. Soy Based Foods

Soy based foods, which use either the soybean itself or its oil, are considered quite healthy in many cases. They are rich in essential vitamins and nutrients, pack a lot of protein, and have an abundance of antioxidants.

Unfortunately, studies have found that high soy intake may not be ideal for female fertility.

While there are no direct links between soy and infertility, soy can significantly raise estradiol in some women and may increase the risk of PCOS.

Despite the research being inconclusive, it may be best to avoid soy based foods while trying to get pregnant. Given how it raises estradiol, some women may reduce their fertility by consuming excessive soy.

Some soy products to limit include:

  • Soybean oil
  • Tofu
  • Soy milk
  • Soy nuts
  • Miso
  • Tempeh
  • Soy sauce

9. High Mercury Fish

Mercury is a very toxic element that can have profoundly negative effects on your health. While the average person is unlikely to be exposed to a fatal amount of mercury, most people are exposed to trace amounts throughout their lifetime without issues.

However, mercury should be avoided as much as possible when trying to get pregnant. Studies have found that mercury can negatively affect the menstruation cycle and ovarian cells, which may make pregnancy more difficult for some women.

Certain fish contain higher amounts of mercury than recommended. If eaten in excess, the mercury may build up inside the body and cause harm to the reproductive system.

Some fish with high mercury levels that you should avoid include:

  • Tuna
  • Herring
  • Swordfish
  • Anchovies
  • Tilefish
  • King Mackerel

10. Unpasteurized Soft Cheese

Unpasteurized soft cheeses aren’t inherently harmful for fertility, but they may be harboring bacteria that could make a successful pregnancy more difficult.

One such bacteria is listeria, which can cause a serious infection known as listeriosis. This infection can take months to appear after ingestion, and it is similar to a very serious case of the flu.

To protect your overall health, try to avoid unpasteurized soft cheeses so you don’t risk getting sick when trying to get pregnant.

However, you can enjoy many other cheeses, including hard cheeses like:

  • Cheddar
  • Parmesan
  • Gruyere

Plus pasteurized soft cheeses like:

  • Ricotta
  • Feta
  • Mozzarella
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cream cheese

Foods to Eat When Trying to Get Pregnant

Aside from all the foods you should avoid, there are also some amazing foods that you should eat when trying to get pregnant.

Many of the following foods are great for your overall health while also promoting strong ovarian functioning, balanced hormones, and proper circulation. 

Plus, most of these foods are packed with essential vitamins and nutrients along with antioxidants to prevent free radicals.

Let's look at which foods are great for boosting fertility and your overall health.

1. Omega 3 Foods

Omega 3 fatty acids are amazing for your health and fertility. They have numerous benefits ranging from lowering cholesterol, improving circulation, and providing tons of antioxidants.

Plus, they are a part of a healthy diet for conceiving, as research has found that Omega 3’s may help to boost ovarian functioning, balance hormones, and potentially increase egg quality.

While Omega 3 supplements are always an option, you can get this fatty acid naturally in foods like:

  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Flaxseed
  • Chia Seed
  • Walnuts

2. Dietary Fiber

Fiber helps to regulate your blood sugar and rid your body of excess hormones. It may even help women to fight infertility as they age.

Studies have found that women who follow a Mediterranean diet, which consists of mainly plant-based foods and a lot of fiber, are more likely to be fertile than those who do not.

While more research is needed on the exact role of fiber for fertility, the evidence shows that high fiber diets are likely correlated with higher fertility rates.

Some high fiber foods include:

  • Lentils
  • Avocados
  • Whole grains
  • Berries
  • Apples
  • Broccoli
  • Brown rice

Many fruits and leafy greens are also abundant in fiber. Try to have them throughout the day for optimal health.

3. Plant-Based Protein Foods

Research has found that plant-based protein foods, often found in the Mediterranean diet, are a great way to boost fertility and overall health.

Some top benefits of incorporating plant-based protein foods into your diet plan include:

  • Increased fiber intake
  • High antioxidant intake
  • Reduced cholesterol
  • Lower saturated fats than processed meats
  • Reduced risk of insulin resistance and type II diabetes

Some examples of protein rich plant-based foods include:

  • Quinoa
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Black beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Walnuts

4. High Fat Dairy

Studies have shown that high fat dairy may aid in fertility due to its abundance of fat-soluble vitamins and proteins. Plus, these foods contain trans-palmitoleic acid, which may improve insulin sensitivity in some women.

Some high fat dairy options include:

  • Whole Milk
  • Whole Yogurt
  • Butter (80% fat or higher)
  • Various cheeses
  • Heavy cream

5. Monounsaturated Fatty Acid

Monounsaturated fatty acids may play a positive role in female fertility and live births, according to research. The data shows that the more monounsaturated fats consumed correlated with higher birth rates among women.

Some examples of foods high in monounsaturated fats include:

  • Nuts
  • Avocados
  • Olive oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Peanut butter and oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Canola oil

Things to Avoid When Trying to Get Pregnant

Beyond food, there are also a number of lifestyle habits and other things to avoid when trying to get pregnant.

This includes:

  • Excess stress
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Smoking

1. Excess Stress

Chronic stress can damage both your mind and body, and it may even lead to infertility in some women.

Studies show that women with chronic stress were more likely to have hormonal imbalances along with fertility issues than women with lower daily stress levels. Some ways to help reduce stress include:

  • Exercising
  • Spending time in nature
  • Engaging in hobbies
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Staying hydrated

A therapist or other mental health professional may also be helpful in providing you ways to better manage your stress.

2. Sleep Deprivation

Chronic sleep deprivation, or insomnia, may lead to hormonal changes that can interfere with your fertility.

Women with insomnia may have higher cortisol levels, which can impact ovarian functioning over time. Plus, poor sleeping habits may also make it more difficult to engage in healthy habits throughout the day. 

Over time, this can lead to other health issues that can directly impact fertility. The recommended guidance is eight hours of sleep a night, without interruptions. 

If you’re frequently getting less sleep than that, or are constantly tired throughout the day, make sure to speak with your doctor to help find a solution.

3. Smoking

Studies have found that women who smoke are more likely to be infertile than those who do not.

In fact, researchers noted that this was often dose dependent, meaning that the more cigarettes a woman smoked correlated with an increased risk of infertility.

Smoking can affect fertility by damaging the circulatory system, which may directly harm a woman’s egg quality. It can also cause hormonal imbalances.

The best course of action is to quit smoking, but even reducing the amount of cigarettes smoked may have a positive impact on fertility for some women.

Takeaways

Many of the foods that decrease fertility in females won’t be harmful if eaten once, but it’s important to reduce them as much as possible. Even simple dietary changes, like trading white rice for brown rice, can help to enhance fertility.

Supplements like Fertility Support for Her may also help promote reproductive health alongside a pro-fertility diet. Along with a healthy diet, it’s important to maintain healthy habits such as getting adequate sleep and limiting stress.

Make sure to speak with your doctor about your journey as well, so you can safely improve your chances of pregnancy.

The Promescent Team

The Promescent Team

Our team has over a decade of experience in the sexual wellness field and are experts in sexual dysfunctions, like premature ejaculation. We help couples and individuals better understand treatment options available for different types of sexual needs and educate the public on all things related to intimacy. All of our authored content is medically reviewed for accuracy and reliability.

Sources:

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