Sunday, November 27, 2011

Veganism and Infertility

Despite years of battling infertility, I recently found myself unexpectedly pregnant (WOOHOO!!!). Since my four year-long battle trying to conceive my daughter, I have made many lifestyle changes. Chief among them were losing weight and adopting a vegan diet.

On another blog, I made the suggestion that my veganism could have contributed to my increased fertility, and I received a comment that that couldn't have been the reason at all. This made me really interested in learning about how a vegan lifestyle can affect a woman's fertility and I have been delighted with the results that I have found!

My major issues hindering my fertility were: Obesity, endometriosis, PCOS (with insulin-resistance), and not ovulating. I was fascinated to learn that each of these issues can be countered by a plant-based diet!

“If this type of diet means less heart disease, less diabetes, less cancer, it’s no surprise to me that you’re going to find it leads to less infertility,” says Susan Levin, R.D., director of nutrition education at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit organization that promotes health through nutrition (“Natural Fertility,” 2011; Tarkan, 2010).

So here’s a little bit of information I found regarding each of my specific issues. I am not a medical expert and while I *DO* *absolutely* condone a plant-based diet for EVERYONE, I’m not telling you what to do, nor promising it will reverse your infertility. However, if I had this information sooner, perhaps I wouldn’t have struggled the way I did trying for our first miracle. But remember, there are plenty of UNHEALTHY ways to go about a diet, so if you are interested in taking the leap into veganism, please take your time to learn about the important specifics regarding the lifestyle! : ) (Hint: You need a B12 supplement and to do your own research on soy)


I didn’t ovulate on my own. Every time I took an OPK it was positive (EVERY time) but according to my three specialists there was a good chance I NEVER ovulated the months I didn’t take Clomid. So, I took Clomid when we were trying for baby #1.

Studies have “found that women who received more protein from vegetables than from meat had a significantly lower rate of infertility caused by ovulatory problems than those who ate more meat. Ovulatory infertility accounts for as many as 25 percent of all infertility cases" (Tarkan, 2010).

“By eliminating animal products from her diet, a woman may ovulate more regularly. A study by the University of British Columbia showed that vegetarian women ovulated normally more than 95 percent of the time. According to Neal D. Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, this is because eliminating animal products from the diet stabilizes hormone levels. Adhering to a high-fiber vegan diet helps the body expel excess estrogen and protects one from the harmful growth hormones given to cows (which can cause a person’s hormone levels to fluctuate)” (Harper, 2008).


When I was 14, I was diagnosed with PCOS and endometriosis. It was then that I was told to prepare myself to perhaps never have children. I didn’t want to believe the diagnosis and for the first three years of my marriage I tried to get pregnant without ever accepting I had these disorders. Though I refused to accept their presence in my body, they played a huge role in my life, and living as I did, I could not get pregnant without drugs to counter their affects. I truly believe my plant-based diet has helped me overcome the obstacles associated with both PCOS and endometriosis.

"Take note that dairy foods such as milk and cheese may be congesting to the body. In cases of congesting fertility issues such as PCOS and Endometriosis, they may aggravate the imbalance. Observe how your body does with it. Dairy that is not organic should be avoided as it contains added hormones and antibiotics which can contribute to increased estrogen levels in the body" ("The Natural Fertility Diet," 2011).

“Adhering to a vegan diet can keep the ovaries healthy. Barnard’s research suggests that following a low-fat, plant-based diet can help to prevent polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis. It can also protect the ovaries, since one of the simple sugars in lactose is toxic to the ovaries” (Harper, 2008).

"Women who eat a diet high in red meat may be at increased risk of endometriosis, which can lead to infertility, a new study has found. The study, published in the August 2004 issue of Human Reproduction also showed that eating a diet high in fruit and vegetables may reduce the risk of the condition" (Rodriguez, 2011).


Tied in with PCOS is insulin-resistance. When I started trying to get pregnant with a fertility doctor, I was confirmed as having Metabolic Syndrome/pre-diabetes.

"Also, animal protein tends to be high in saturated fats, which can increase insulin resistance, a known culprit in infertility. When there’s more insulin circulating in your body, it can affect the hormones that regulate ovulation, explains Jorge Chavarro, M.D., lead author of the Nurses’ Health Study and author of The Fertility Diet (McGraw-Hill, 2007). Insulin resistance is one component of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), another leading cause of infertility in women" (Tarkan, 2010).

"PCOS typically involves insulin resistance, which means the body cannot properly use insulin to deliver glucose (blood sugar) to the cells. Glucose is the primary source of fuel for the body. When glucose remains in the blood instead of being used by the cells, it leads to problems such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. This means it is important for women with PCOS to eat not only a diet that helps regulate blood-glucose levels but also a diet that meets other heart-healthy dietary guidelines. These guidelines recommend a diet based on whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, unsaturated fat and lean protein (including vegetarian alternatives to meat, fish and dairy). A typical vegan diet scores high for compliance with these guidelines" (Basilicato, 2011).


There is so much that could be written about obesity and infertility and there is so much out there relating to obesity and veganism. So I’ll keep it simple:

"Vegetarians tend to weigh less than meat-eaters, and vegans are even lighter. And there’s good evidence that being overweight or obese decreases fertility" (Tarkan, 2010).

And the safety of this type of diet? “The American Dietetic Association just lately revised their position about vegan and veggie diets during pregnancy stating that they are safe” (“Natural Fertility,” 2011).

So, in all, I feel more confident than ever that my veganism absolutely COULD have played an ENORMOUS role in getting pregnant!

Final note: Not all of these articles are in support of being completely vegan, though all of them recommend more plants and less meat. I encourage you to read up for yourself, of course!


Basilicato, Linda. (2011). Vegan PCOS Diet. In eHow. Retrieved November 27, 2011 from

Harper, Sarah. (2008, July 8). Veganism and Pregnancy – Do I Have to Eat Meat to Have Multiples? Retrieved November 27, 2011 from

"The Natural Fertility Diet." (2011). Retrieved November 27, 2011 from

Rodriguez, Hethir, B.S., M.H., C.M.T. (2011). Study: Endometriosis Linked to Red Meat. In Natural Fertility. Retrieved November 27, 2011 from

Tarkan, Laurie. (2010, Mar 04). Can a Vegan Diet Help You Conceive? In Parenting. Retrieved November 27, 2011 from

“Vegan Diet Can Help If You Can’t Get Pregnant.” (2011, April 5).
In Natural Fertility Retrieved November 27, 2011 from


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  2. I have NO doubt at all that your lifestyle and dietary changes have helped tremendously preparing your body for pregnancy, and will continue to benefit you (and baby bot) throughout the gestation. I also believe that you will be much better "equipped" to handle a natural birth with little or no drugs :-) PS Have I told you lately how EXCITED I AM !!LOL!! Meme xxx

  3. OMG!!! Congratulations!!!!!!!!! I'm so happy for you!!

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  5. Thank you for all this information! It does make me think about my own situation while trying to concieve.

  6. I have had exactly the same experience in getting pregnant. I know for me, that it was without a doubt going vegan that changed my fertility. I spent nearly $10,000 trying to conceive and only ended up with a couple of miscarriages. I decided to give veganism a try for other health reasons, and was pleasantly surprised to see my cycles regulate (which they never had before in my life - I was also diagnosed with PCOS). It took just one month of "trying" naturally and we conceived. Going vegan was the only change I made to my life, so I know this was the reason why I am pregnant. Amazing! If only more people would give it a try!

  7. Since reading The China Study, and looking at the Nurses Health Study, I have become vegan and recommend a vegan diet to my patients. I am 100% focused on fertility (I practice in Toronto, Ontario), and am delighted by the changes I am seeing with my patients. Plant based eating is the way to go for great health and great fertility. Judith Fiore, ND

  8. Thank you. I was told I am obese and need to lose weight to have Fertility treatment.My diet has been appalling for the last few ddecades. Right now I am making changes. I am going 100 % vegan and cutting out caffeine and alcohol too. My problem is I am 39, I know my chances are lower over 35 and getting lower as I edge to 40, but I have not given up. My Bmi is 33 so I have to do something now. (Debbie UK)

  9. Great article. I went vegan few months ago and ttc at the mo. Just went high raw too now and cut out refined sugar and the weight is slowly coming off and yes my periods increased amazingly since going vegan for ethical reasons but now I'm focusing on it's health benefits: )

    1. I have pcos too (I posted the above comment lol)

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