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How making changes to your diet before fertility treatment can improve your chances of pregnancy

We speak to Professor Nick Macklon, Medical Director of the LWC, about his research into preconception care and fertility and how diet can influence the outcome of fertility treatment.

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Eating a Mediterranean diet

Studies have found that women undergoing IVF who follow a Mediterranean diet may have an increased chance of pregnancy.  “Our research has shown that even a relatively short period of following such a diet, say 6-8 weeks can improve embryo development” says Professor Macklon. 

A Mediterranean diet means eating foods rich in:

  • - Vegetables

  • - Vegetable oils

  • - Fish

  • - Legumes (peas, chickpeas, beans and lentils)

  • - Low carbohydrate and snacks

An analysis of impact of diet in men has suggested an improvement in semen quality when they consumed less carbohydrate and fibre and had a higher intake of protein and fat.


Carbohydrate is recommended to make up half of your daily intake and this should increase to prior to fertility treatment and conception.  “I would recommend carbohydrate intake prior to treatment be from low glycemic index (GI) foods.” says Professor Macklon.

Carbohydrates with a low GI include:

  • - Beans

  • - Fruit

  • - Milk

  • - Pasta

  • - Grainy bread

  • - Lentils

“Carbohydrates with a high GI index including potatoes, white bread or rice should be avoided as this can increase in glucose and insulin levels which in turn can lead to weight gain during pregnancy.” says Professor Macklon.


“Studies have found that increasing the amount of protein you eat even by 1g per day before fertility treatment and then during pregnancy can result in a better birth weight of your baby.” says Professor Macklon.  However, it’s important to consider the type of protein that you are eating. In a study examining over 18,000 women who had a high intake of animal protein (including meat, dairy products and eggs) were more likely to have problems with ovulation than those who consumed more vegetable protein. 

Vegetables with the high levels of protein include:

  • - Spinach

  • - Broccoli

  • - Watercress

  • - Asparagus


A high fat intake can lead to detrimental effects on your fertility.  Women who have a higher intake of saturated fats (such as dairy foods and processed meat) have been shown to less mature eggs collected during IVF.  “However, foods with omega 3 fats have been shown to be beneficial in increasing egg quality and embryo development.” says Professor Macklon.

Foods high in Omega 3 can include:

  • - Fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines

  • - Nuts and seeds such as flaxseed, chai seeds and walnuts

  • - Plant oils including soybean oil or flaxseed oil

“A diet high in saturated fat can also affect male fertility,” says Professor Macklon, “and can be associated with a decreased sperm count and concentration.”

Making changes to your diet

Effective changes to your diet prior to fertility treatment can make a difference to your chances of pregnancy.  If you feel you need advice regarding your own diet, our resident Fertility Coach, Cindy Charles, is available for all patients at the LWC.  To contact her please email

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