One in six Australian couples of reproductive age will experience difficulties conceiving a child.
Couples struggling to conceive are usually willing to do whatever they can to improve their chances, and new research has shown some could consider an unexpected resource – fish.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and nuts have been touted as beneficial for a wide range of health concerns, but a new study has found that they could specifically be useful for improving semen quality in men, and increasing the chances of a successful pregnancy in couples undergoing assisted reproductive technologies (like IVF).
The researchers followed a group of couples presenting for infertility treatment over more than 15 years, and looked at the diet and nutrition of 229 couples struggling to fall pregnant. They specifically looked at their consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as health factors like age, weight, height and family history. They followed the couples to see whether they had a successful pregnancy or pregnancy loss. The researchers also analysed the semen of men in couples struggling with infertility.
The research found that the greater a woman’s DHA + EPA (types of omega-3 fatty acids) intake and total fish intake, the greater the chance of having a successful pregnancy. How much the men ate didn’t directly affect the probability of achieving pregnancy or going on to have a successful pregnancy. But they found that men who ate more walnuts had a higher total sperm count. In addition, greater total omega-3 fatty acid consumption was linked with improved sperm concentration, and motility.
For women undergoing fertility treatment, increased omega-3 fatty acid consumption could mean a higher probability of success, mostly due to less chance of having a pregnancy loss (miscarriage). For men generally, a higher intake of these fatty acids could improve semen quality. This could represent a simple intervention for couples struggling with infertility, and one that could both increase their chances of a healthy pregnancy and have other health benefits.