Dietary changes for optimising fertility

We all know preconception nutrition is vital for a healthy baby and your nutrition, right? Melanie McGrice, Accredited Practising Dietitian and author of ‘The Pregnancy Weight Plan’ outlines 3 key nutrients needed in your diet to increase your fertility before you get the good news.

So you’ve made the momentous decision to try for a baby! Be it your first, or fifth, it’s a good idea to get yourself prepared as early on as possible. Optimal nutrition is vital to ensuring that you and your partner have the best chance of getting pregnant and also setting up a foundation for a strong and healthy new addition. Food, nutrition and lifestyle choices are crucial for optimising your fertility. Let’s look at 3 key changes you may need to consider before you grow your family.

Boost B vitamins

B group vitamins are used in energy metabolism helping us to ‘unlock’ the energy from food. Of all 8 B group vitamins, folate and Vitamin B12 are the most important pre-conception. These two vitamins are essential for healthy nerve and red blood cells. Inadequate folate and Vitamin B12 can lead to developmental problems and neural tube defects in your baby. As requirements increase during the initial stages of pregnancy, it is important for you to increase your intake now as it can potentially be too late by the time you confirm that you are pregnant. Folate is found in wholegrain cereals, bread and green leafy vegetables and Vitamin B12 is found in milk, seafood and red meat.

Recommended Daily Intake

  • Folate: 400µg/day normally, increases to 600µg/day during pregnancy
  • Vitamin B12: 2.4 µg/day normally, increases to 2.6 µg/day during pregnancy


Ensure you’re getting enough zinc

Zinc is a mineral that acts as a stepping stone and enables over 300 enzymes to work effectively in the body. You may have heard that zinc is needed for male fertility, which is true, but zinc is just as important for us females. Zinc plays a role in regulating hormone levels throughout the menstrual cycle and maintaining a suitable environment for egg transportation in the fallopian tubes. Zinc is best known to be found in oysters with 1 oyster providing approximately 5mg zinc, but if you’re not a fan of the little creatures then other fish and seafood options, red meat and dairy are also good choices.

Recommended Daily Intake of zinc:

8mg/day normally, increases to 11mg/day during pregnancy

Increase your iron levels

With 1 in 5 Australian adults low in iron, there’s a good chance that either you or someone you love has experienced some form of iron deficiency. Iron deficiency is more prevalent in women due to our higher requirements and extra losses during the menstrual cycle. Iron is used to carry oxygen around our body and so when iron levels are low, oxygen supply is decreased. Reproductive organs are not exempt from decreased oxygen so deficiency can affect fertility and can increase miscarriage risk by a massive 60%! It is crucial to increase your iron levels before conception because iron requirements increase by a further 50% during pregnancy. The best source of iron comes from lean red meat but seafood, white meat, eggs, green leafy vegetables, nuts and wholegrain cereals offer significant amounts of iron too.

Recommended Daily Intake of Iron:

18mg/day normally, increases to 27mg/day during pregnancy

These are just three of the many nutrients that you will need to optimise before falling pregnant. If you intend to or have already started trying for a baby, make sure you get a blood test from your local doctor and talk to an Accredited Practising Dietitian to assess and monitor your diet to give yourselves the best chance of having a positive result.


Melanie McGrice is one of Australia’s best known dietitians and a highly respected author of ‘The Pregnancy Weight Plan’. An experienced media presenter on health, nutrition and dietary issues Melanie is passionate about educating Australians to eat well, appreciate good food and maintain a healthy lifestyle.