What a woman (and her partner) eats before conception plays a significant role in many parts of the pregnancy journey.

This includes how quickly they may fall pregnant, woman’s health through pregnancy, as well as how their baby develops in the womb AND it’s long-term health.

How long before I become pregnant should I be focusing on improving what I eat?

Improvements at any time are beneficial.

However, keep in mind that an egg and sperm can take around 3 months to develop and the quality of someone’s diet in this time influences the processes of producing healthy reproductive cells.

Is there a special diet I should follow to fall pregnant?

The types of food in a woman’s diet can reduce ovulatory infertility (which can occur in PCOS – polycystic ovary syndrome).

Despite some very clever marketing trying to convince us of otherwise, there are no specific foods that will help you fall pregnant. However, we know from big population studies that there is a pattern of eating that may improve your fertility. (Check out the ‘Nurses’ Health Study, if you are interested).

The recommended changes you can make relate to the types of carbs and protein you eat, how you exercise and your weight.

What supplements do I need to take?

Adequate and appropriate folic acid supplementation is essential to prevent neural tube defects (e.g. spina bifida) in your baby.

Women need an extra 400 micrograms (“μg”)/day of folic acid, in the month before conceiving and the first three months of pregnancy. This requirement is higher if your BMI is above 30kg/m2.

Although you don’t need more iodine until you become pregnant, taking a folic acid-iodine supplement is often the best way to take these nutrients.

Unless you have been diagnosed with a nutritional deficiency, you do not need to take vitamin D or iron. A single (nutrient specific) supplement is best for these in each case if you do have a deficiency.

There’s a lot of interest in zinc and selenium supplementation to improve subfertility.

Although there are many research studies in this area, they haven’t all been done well. This means it’s hard to make any firm statements about their benefits. Importantly however, none of the studies showed bad effects of taking them at levels below recommended daily intakes – so they are probably safe to take, if desired.

Want to know more?

Lifestyle Maternity’s Director and Principal Dietitian, Dr Shelley Wilkinson, was recently interviewed by journalist, Jessica Mudditt for this BBC article. Click here for a deeper dive into the links between fertility and nutrition.


If you would like further information book an appointment with a Lifestyle Maternity Dietitian or enrol in one of our online, self-paced courses.



IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Large flat bowl with hands either side. Contents include avocado, orange, purple cabbage, quinoa, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, pumpkin seeds and white and read radish slices. There is a chopping board to the side with half an avocado, radish slices and a knife.

Most people are aware that alcohol should be avoided in pregnancy. But did you know that drinking alcohol can affect fertility?

Drinking any amount of alcohol can make it more difficult to conceive. Despite no definite cut off with alcohol intake and fertility, it is recommended that people do not drink when trying to conceive.

How much is enough?

This advice is supported by recent research from the US that showed the associations between drinking alcohol and decreased chances of successful conception.

It is thought that alcohol consumption disturbs the delicate sequence of hormonal events around ovulation, fertilisation, and implantation. Even light drinking. (What?!)

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie…

Socialising and drinking in Australia tend to go hand in hand. Heavy drinking is seen as acceptable in almost all social situations, from weddings to sports matches, and even at baby showers.

Binge drinking is not uncommon – one in three Australians drink more than they should on a single occasion. (This resource from Your Fertility has a great run down on what a standard drink looks like).

Want more reasons?

Reducing or quitting alcohol can improve your life in many ways. It can:

  • improve your mood and sleep,
  • increase your energy,
  • improve your relationships with your loved ones,
  • help you perform better at work,
  • lower your risk of long-term health problems such as cancer and heart disease, and
  • save you money.

Here are ten top tips from UK’s drinkaware on how to socialise without alcohol.

  1. Plan ahead. If you know you don’t want to drink on a night out, a little bit of planning ahead can make things much easier. Deciding on an alternative drink to have before you go out can also help you avoid stumbling.
  2. Tell people. This can have a few benefits – announcing your intentions can give you the confidence and motivation to stick to them. Friends can also offer support if you need it, and it helps avoid any awkward moments.
  3. Be ready for peer pressure. People will usually move on or respect your decision if you stand firm.
  4. Explore alcohol-free alternatives. Alcohol-free beers, wines and spirits are an easy replacement for your usual tipple.
  5. Organise some alcohol-free activities. Some classic drink-free nights out that never get boring include trips to the cinema, late-night food markets, theatre, or bowling.
  6. Watch your savings grow. Then every month, enjoy putting that money towards a treat or something else you’ve been meaning to get.
  7. Try some new hobbies and grow your network. You might have an old interest you always wanted to pursue or try something completely new.
  8. Get active. Not only will you be getting the health benefits of drinking less, like more energy and better sleep but you’ll be getting fit too.
  9. Have some plans for the morning after. Make sure it’s something you really look forward to and you’ll be more determined to stay alcohol-free the night before.
  10. Celebrate your progress. Drink-free nights are something to be proud of, so celebrate them. You’ve stuck to your goals, saved some money, and made a great step towards improving your health and fertility.


If you need more help or support please speak with your GP or try one of the available helplines like Hello Sunday Morning or Counselling Online.


IMAGE CREDIT: Unsplash/ Wine Mattheieu Joannon

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Three wine glasses being held up together to touch

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend we ‘Go for 2&5’ … in other words, to enjoy two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables every day.

Where does the recommendation for ‘2&5’ come from?

The benefits of eating fruit and vegetables have long been reported (by doctors, scientists and of course, our mothers!). Not only do they make for a colourful and tasty meal experience, but they also provide lots of nutrients that can help to keep us healthy and protect us from disease.

Scientists are beginning to discover more about how certain foods can protect us from disease. Vegetables and fruit contain phytochemicals, or plant chemicals, as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals. These ‘biologically-active’ substances have been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and some cancers.

How much extra do I have to eat for health benefits?

Did you know that each additional serve of vegetables you eat each day reduces your risk of coronary heart disease?1 And that consumption of at least one and a half serves of fruit each day is associated with a reduced risk of stroke?1 Additionally, researchers have found that overall risk of mortality (dying) decreased by 5% for each additional serving of fruit and vegetables consumed per day (up to five serves per day, beyond which no further reduction in risk was seen).2

Different fruits and vegetables contain different nutrients and can therefore help protect our bodies in different ways. For this reason, it is a good idea to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet – colour your meals and snacks with fruit and vegetables.

Fruit and vegetables may also help prevent excessive weight gain. They are low in energy (kilojoules) and high in fibre relative to other foods and help to ‘fill us up’.1 This reduces the risk of overeating which can cause weight gain.

After some practical (and yummy) tips to help? Read on…

If you’re finding it hard to get enough vegetables, you could try:

  • Aiming to fill half your plate (or meal) with salad or cooked vegetables at lunch and dinner,
  • Having grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach or baked beans at breakfast (yes, legumes count as a vegetable too!), or
  • Including vegetable based dips like hummus or salsa with vegie sticks or crackers as a snack.

If your fruit intake is low, you could try:

  • Adding tinned fruit or sultanas to your breakfast cereal,
  • Making a fruit smoothie, or
  • Including fruit in your salads (such as peaches in a green, leafy salad or apple in potato salad or sultanas in a grated carrot salad).

Remember that each additional serve of fruit and vegies you eat each day can have a valuable effect on your health.

For more ideas on how to add extra fruit and vegies to your day make an appointment to see a Lifestyle Maternity dietitian. We can help tailor these recommendations to your individual needs and preferences.

[1] National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines – providing the scientific evidence for healthier Australian diets. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council; 2013 Feb.

[2] Wang X, Ouyang Y, Liu J, Zhu M, Zhao G, Bao W, Hu F. Fruit and  vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ. 2014; 349: g4490.


IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Close up of tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and carrots

IMAGE CREDIT:  Scen Scheuermeier/Unsplash

CO-AUTHOR: Elin Donaldson, APD

Expectant dads’ diet during pregnancy has lasting impact on future health of unborn child, study finds

What expectant dads eat during their partner’s pregnancy has a lasting effect on the future health of their unborn children, a Queensland-based study suggests.

This analysis of contemporary Australian pregnant women and partners’ dietary intake patterns shows that a large proportion of dietary intakes are not aligned with recommendations during pregnancy, with a high proportion also experiencing excessive gestational weight gain. The findings suggest that dietary intake of pregnant women is influenced by age, education levels, and pre-pregnancy BMI. An association exists between womens’ and partners’ dietary intake and their likelihood of alignment with national food and nutrient recommendations. This was particularly so in regard to fruit, vegetables, and meat and alternatives food groups which provide essential pregnancy nutrition for mum and bub.

In the cohort of pregnant women and their partners that were involved in the study, sub-optimal intakes of all foods and nutrients were documented, reflecting the wider Australian population and comparable pregnant populations. Around a third of the kilojoules eaten were from junk food from both women and their partners. While these foods are enjoyable to eat, when eaten in these large amounts they replace more nutritious foods that are required for optimal fetal growth as well as for mum’s health.

Lifestyle Maternity’s Principal Dietitian and lead author of the latest Queensland diet-in-pregnancy research, Dr Shelley Wilkinson, spoke to Janelle Miles from the ABC about the study’s findings.

Read more here.