You might want to skip the fries if you're trying to get pregnant. A new study has suggested that eating too much fast food could make it harder to get pregnant, so too many late night trips for burgers may not be the best plan if you're trying to have a baby. Researchers didn't say that it's completely out of the question, or that you won't get pregnant at all if you sneak some fast food now and then, but it does sound like it might take you a little bit longer if you have fast food too often.
In a new study, researchers compared women who never or rarely ate fast food and women who ate fast food four or more times a week, and found that those who ate fast food somewhat regularly took almost a month longer to get pregnant, according to ITV. That might not seem like a super long time, but when you're trying to conceive, any extra amount of time may seem like a lifetime.
But if you like fruit instead, and you're trying to have a baby, apparently you're in luck, as this study found. Women who ate fruit less than one time a month on average took about two weeks longer to get pregnant than women who ate fruit three times a day or more, the study found. Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia, which led the study, believe this proves that eating healthier foods helps with conception.
Dr. Jessica Grieger, of the university's Robinson Research Institute, who led the study team, said of the study and its results, according to NBC News:
It shows that healthier foods support conception, while unhealthier foods do not so much.
"Our data show that frequent consumption of fast foods delays time to pregnancy," she added, according to ITV. Which isn't great news if you can't live without your frequent fast food fixes.
The study followed almost 5,600 women in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Ireland who had never had a baby but wanted to conceive, according to U.S. News & World Report. Eight percent of the study's couples were classified as infertile — which meant that it took them longer than a year to conceive — while 39 percent of them conceived within a month.
And while, again, the study didn't prove that you should never eat fast food if you want to get pregnant, or that you need to only eat fruit to conceive, it did show that the risk of infertility among women with the lowest intake of fruit increased from 8 percent to 12 percent, U.S. News & World Report reported. Meanwhile, the risk increased from 8 percent to 16 percent among those who consumed fast food four or more times a week. What's that saying — "everything in moderation," right?
The summary of the official Human Reproduction-published study is simple: "Lower intake of fruit and higher intake of fast food in the preconception period were both associated with a longer TTP," TTP here meaning "time to pregnancy." So stock up on apples and bananas if you're trying to conceive, because while eating them won't guarantee that you'll get pregnant, it might help, even the slightest bit.
Guidelines in the United States actually recommend eating two to three servings of fruit a day in general, NBC News reported. So a recommendation to eat a lot of fruit if you're trying to have a baby isn't actually outside of the guidelines of what we should all be eating to be healthy anyway. (But I'll be the first one to admit that eating healthy and making sure to have a lot of fruit in my diet is something I personally could be a lot better about.)
Speaking of eating healthy food, the study revealed another interesting takeaway about what you should eat if you're trying to get pregnant. Although researchers found that fruit and fast food intake can impact your time to pregnancy, pre-pregnancy consumption of green, leafy vegetables or fish didn't seem to have the same effect, according to EurekAlert, a science news site sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. So if you really hate green veggies and you're trying to have a baby, don't feel guilty about not eating them constantly.
Researchers admitted there might be a slight flaw in their findings regarding vegetables in the study, however. The team behind the study wrote, according to NBC News:
Fruits and vegetables contain a range of antioxidants and phytochemicals, and these may beneficially impact fertility. ... As we only asked about green leafy vegetables and did not ask about orange or other types of vegetables, we did not capture total vegetable intake, potentially limiting the impact they may have on fertility.
So maybe don't count vegetables out of this equation entirely just yet.
To determine the results, researchers asked the women in the study when they were around 15 weeks pregnant what specific foods they ate and how much they consumed them. The list included "fresh fruit, leafy green vegetables, specific types of fish, burgers, fried chicken, tacos, pizza and fries," NBC News reported. The women were also asked for details on when they began trying to become pregnant.
I think it's interesting that men were seemingly not included in this study, because at least one recent study showed that the health and diet of men can impact a pregnancy and a baby's health as well, according to CNN. Maybe the team behind this study specifically decided to only include women, but it's probably a good idea for further studies to think about a prospective fathers' health when it comes to couples trying to conceive as well.
The study adjusted for factors like age, maternal smoking, and alcohol consumption, according to Live Science. Almost all the women involved conceived without fertility assistance, and were 28 years old on average as well as of average weight.
The researchers speculated that fast food might impact fertility because of its high saturated fat content, but also wrote, according to NBC News:
The specific dietary components of fast food and their relationship to fertility have not been studied in human pregnancies.
Researchers also wrote that fatty acids, which are found at high levels in fast food, might affect egg cells. Grieger said that these cells "are high in saturated fatty acids and it's possible a woman's diet affects the balance of these fat components," NBC News reported.
Clearly, this is a topic that needs further study, whether it focuses only on the impact of the specific components of fast food on trying to conceive, or on the role of a man's diet in conception as well, or any number of other factors. But this is certainly a start, and might be enough to make people who are trying to get pregnant think twice about that fast food cheeseburger.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.