Definition and Overview

Infertility nutrition consultation is an appointment with a dietitian or a nutritionist who can help create, monitor and modify the nutrition and diet of individuals who wish to conceive.

Infertility is a condition characterised by a person’s inability to conceive or give birth biologically. A person is believed to be infertile if he or she doesn’t conceive after a year of regular sexual intercourse without birth control. It is a common reproductive problem for both men and women.

There are many possible causes of infertility. For example, both men and women may have problems producing good quality sex cells called sperm and egg, respectively. Infertility may also be caused by prior surgeries such as tubal ligation among women and vasectomy among men. Both of these surgeries are performed as part of birth control. As long as they are not reversed, the individual cannot conceive, although men can still produce sperm and women can continue to ovulate. It may also be caused by hormonal changes or underlying conditions including but not limited to polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis among women and erectile dysfunction or impotence among men.

Infertility is a complex problem and is dealt with using several types of approaches. One of these is through proper nutrition.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

More and more health experts, especially reproductive system specialists, recognise the huge role nutrition plays in infertility. Multiple studies have confirmed that people who are not within the ideal weight in relation to their height (e.g. obese or underweight) may have difficulty conceiving. The same thing can happen among people who are diagnosed or suspected to have insulin resistance, a metabolic condition wherein the cells in the body becomes less receptive to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar level (glucose).

Infertility may also be related to hormonal imbalances, especially since it’s the hormones that regulate the production and maturity of both sex cells. A number of studies point out that these hormones may be influenced by nutrients found in the food that we consume.

In a 2011 Polish study on the relationship between nutrition and infertility, increased consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids and less intake of unsaturated fats derived from junk food and sweetened beverages and pastries have been found to be helpful in improving fertility among women.

Infertility nutrition consultation, therefore, can be helpful for people who want to conceive but:

  • Are obese, overweight, or underweight
  • Have hormonal imbalance
  • Need to improve dietary choices and access
  • Are past the ideal childbearing age
  • Are diagnosed with an infertility problem
  • Have metabolic conditions
  • Require special dietary plans based on their underlying conditions
    Note that the goal of infertility nutrition consultation is to increase the likelihood of conception, which means it is considered truly successful if the couple has finally conceived.

How Does the Procedure Work?

Also known as infertility nutrition counseling, the consultation normally takes place due to a referral from a fertility specialist, gynaecologist, urologist, or the primary care physician, although the patient may choose to undergo such on his own choosing. For women, it can be part of their prenatal care.

The initial consultation can take at least 30 minutes to one hour. During this time, the nutritionist or dietitian will:

  • Review the patient’s personal and family medical history by evaluating previous medical records and interviews
  • Provide an overview of infertility nutrition, including possible treatments or interventions such as weight loss, hormone balance and immunity boost programs
  • Create a personalised nutrition plan complete with menus, list of food to eat and avoid and substitutes for food that may be hard to find or not ideal for the patient
  • Refer the patient to other health providers for possible complementary approaches like medications
    A follow-up often follows the consultation in which the objective is to keep track of the patient’s progress and outcome of the treatment plan.

Possible Risks and Complications

Some of the possible challenges in infertility nutrition consultation include difficulty in following the food or diet plan, causing frustration and non-compliance of the patient as well as failure to go to follow-up sessions and poor relationship between the food specialist and the patient.

Reference:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- www.cdc/gov/reproductivehealth/infertility
  • March of Dimes -- www.marchofdimes.com/Pregnancy/trying_fertility.html
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