Scientific Update: Preconception Lifestyle Changes to improve Natural Pregnancy Rates
A recent systematic review and meta-analysis was published to evaluate for the benefit of preconception counselling and lifestyle changes to help support fertility and pregnancy outcomes. The number of studies looking at preconception care on fertility outcomes is usually limited to a single nutrient, or single behaviour change (i.e. smoking cessation), this review focused more on the bigger picture and tried to evaluate the effect of more comprehensive treatments during the preconception phase.
The preconception phase is a critical time in which the health of both parents is very important. Preconception care can be useful in improving sperm health, supporting a healthy intrauterine environment and pregnancy rates. Nutrient deficiencies, unhealthy lifestyle behaviours can negatively affect sperm health (motility, count, DNA, morphology), and negatively affect the uterine environment.
In particular, weight loss in overweight Women by implementing healthy amounts of physical activity and calorie restriction was shown to help improve the metabolic hormone profile (improving insulin sensitivity and decreasing fasting glucose levels). By receiving weekly appointments with dietary, exercise, and behavioural counselling over 12 weeks showed an increase in the natural pregnancy rate in Women experiencing infertility. The Odds Ratio (OR) was 1.87, meaning there was a rough estimate that the natural pregnancy rate increased by 87% compared to Women experiencing infertility that did not receive any form of preconception counselling.
The researchers cited other studies that demonstrated an increase in pregnancy rates and IVF success rates even with no weight loss in overweight Women. This increase in success rate was seen by just increasing the amount of exercise and improving dietary and nutritional intake.
The increase in exercise and dietary changes can also positively affect mood and quality of life. The researchers cited the importance of this as depression and anxiety tend to decrease adherence to a healthy lifestyle and promote higher health risk behaviours.
The results of this review were limited to mostly overweight Women, it is not clear how these results translate to Women of a healthy weight undergoing fertility treatments.
1. Lan, L., Harrison, C., Misso, M., Hill, B., Teede, H., Mol, B., & Moran, L. (2017). Systematic review and meta-analysis of the impact of preconception lifestyle interventions on fertility, obstetric, fetal, anthropometric and metabolic outcomes in men and women. Human Reproduction, 32(9), 1925-1940. doi:10.1093/humrep/dex241
This article is in no way a replacement for medical advice or medical care, it is advised that anyone concerned about their Health should speak with their Naturopathic Doctor or Primary Care Provider.