What is implantation?
Implantation is an essential part of the conception process.
Once an egg is fertilised by sperm, it travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. When the fertilised egg reaches the uterus, it attaches to the wall of the uterus and starts to burrow into the endometrium (the lining of the uterus).
Once the fertilised egg is implanted, it begins to release hormones that prepare the woman’s body for pregnancy. Then the fertilised egg can develop into an embryo and the placenta can start to form.
In couples undergoing in-vitro-fertilisation (IVF) treatment, implantation will occur a few days after a successful embryo transfer.
The most important aspect of successful implantation is having a thick and healthy endometrium. The endometrium supplies nourishment to the developing embryo whilst the placenta is still forming.
So, what can you eat to optimise implantation?
Oysters are an amazing source of zinc, which is thought to contribute to healthy implantation (1). Just 6 oysters can provide a whopping 30mg of zinc!
Zinc is also involved in the secretion and balance of many hormones, including progesterone (2). Healthy progesterone production is important for implantation as it may help to thicken the endometrium in preparation for implantation (1).
So, next time the opportunity arises, indulge in some oysters. They also have some great benefits for men’s fertility – so it’s a win all round!
It's not advised to eat oysters raw while pregnant. Canned or cooked oysters though are safe to consume.
Pumpkin seeds are also a great source of zinc that can help with implantation.
Pumpkin seeds also contain good amounts of vitamin E. The research has shown that vitamin E can help to thicken the endometrial lining, making it suitable for implantation and increasing chances of achieving pregnancy (3).
Pumpkin seeds are versatile and delicious, they make a great snack and are easily added to many different meals. Try sprinkling some on top of a salad at lunch time or making a homemade pesto with pumpkin seeds in the mix.
Chickpeas are a good source of vitamin B6 as well as fibre and protein.
Vitamin B6 is thought to play a role in implantation. Women with higher preconception levels of B6 are associated with reduced risk of early pregnancy loss and higher probabilities of achieving conception and a healthy pregnancy (4).
Vitamin B6 deficiency is associated with impairment of enzymes involved in the structural integrity of arterial walls, which could affect implantation as well as early placental development, contributing to early pregnancy loss (4).
Incorporating more chickpeas into your diet is a must for implantation. Try snacking on hummus and veggie sticks or make a chickpea curry.
Beetroots, which are high in nitrates, have been shown to raise blood nitric oxide concentrations. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that nitric oxide levels play an important role in implantation (5).
Nitrates found in beetroots helps to dilate blood vessels allowing a rich supply of oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood to flow to the uterus. Increased intake of beetroots and beetroot juice in IVF patients from embryo transfer day may improve the likelihood of implantation in the uterus and decreased chances of miscarriage (6).
What a great reason to incorporate more beetroot into your diet. Try making a roasted beetroot salad, add some cooked beetroot to your favourite hummus recipe, or even slip some into your morning smoothie for an extra boost.
The humble lentil provides a great amount of folate per serving. Folate requirements during pregnancy are 5 to 10 times higher than those that are not pregnant (7).
Most people know that folate is important during pregnancy for so many reasons and one of those reasons is implantation.
Studies have shown that women who have a good folate status before and during pregnancy are more likely to conceive and have a healthy, full-term pregnancy (4). Increasing folate consumption during the preconception period is important as foetal and placental growth and implantation can be affected by current folate levels (7).
Lentils are a nutritious addition to many meals. Add some split red lentils into your pumpkin soup for a nutrient boost or make a simple salad for lunch using tinned lentils.
Whole grains such as brown rice, oats, spelt, barley and buckwheat are high in many important nutrients including fibre, antioxidants, lignans, vitamins, and minerals. It is well known that whole grains are beneficial in preventing many chronic diseases, however there is less focus on whole grains and their impact on reproductive health and fertility (8).
One study that looked at the impact of increased whole grain intake for women undergoing IVF found an association between whole grain intake and a higher probability of live births. It is thought that this is because of an increased endometrial thickness on embryo-transfer day resulting in better chances of implantation (8).
When choosing grain products such as pasta, bread and rice, opt for the whole grain options to reap the many benefits to your fertility and to optimise your chances of successful implantation.
Last, but not least – the humble sesame seed! Sesame seeds are a great source of l-arginine, an amino acid that occurs in protein rich foods such as nuts, seeds, dairy and meat.
L-arginine has been studied for its ability to increase endometrial thickness in women undergoing IVF. It has shown a positive effect on endometrial thickness and could help with implantation (9).
Sesame seeds pack a punch nutritionally and are delicious toasted and sprinkled on top of a stir-fry. Tahini is another delicious way to get more sesame seeds in. Try drizzling some tahini on top of roasted vegetables for added creaminess.
1. Sahin C, Yilmaz Dilsiz O, Bakti Demiray S, Yeniel O, Ergenoglu M, Demirel Sezer E, et al. Increased stem cell marker expressions during the peri-implantation period in the rat endometrium: Constructive role of exogenous zinc and/or progesterone. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014.
2. Askary VR, Jahan NA, Sabbagh A, Jahani FS, Dourandish N, Kamachali ARK. A potential medicinal importance of zinc in human health and chronic diseases. Clin Biochem. 2011;44(13):S323–4.
3. Eftekhar M, Tabibnejad N, Tabatabaie AA. The thin endometrium in assisted reproductive technology: An ongoing challenge. Middle East Fertil Soc J [Internet]. 2018;23(1):1–7. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mefs.2017.12.006
4. Ronnenberg AG, Venners SA, Xu X, Chen C, Wang L, Guang W, et al. Preconception B-vitamin and homocysteine status, conception, and early pregnancy loss. Am J Epidemiol. 2007;166(3):304–12.
5. Thaler C, Epel D. Nitric Oxide in Oocyte Maturation, Ovulation, Fertilization, Cleavage and Implantation: A little dabll do ya. Curr Pharm Des. 2005;9(5):399–409.
6. Halpern G, Setti AS, de Almeida Ferreira Braga DP, Iaconelli A, Borges E. Beetroot, watermelon and ginger juice supplementation may increase the clinical outcomes of intracytoplasmic sperm injection cycles. Fertil Steril [Internet]. 2019;112(3):e3. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2019.07.1334
7. Fekete K, Berti C, Cetin I, Hermoso M, Koletzko B V., Decsi T. Perinatal folate supply: Relevance in health outcome parameters. Matern Child Nutr. 2010;6(SUPPL. 2):23–38.
8. Gaskins AJ, Chiu YH, Williams PL, Keller MG, Toth TL, Hauser R, et al. Maternal whole grain intake and outcomes of in vitro fertilization. Fertil Steril [Internet]. 2016;105(6):1503-1510.e4. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2016.02.015
9. Mouhayar Y, Sharara FI. Modern management of thin lining. Middle East Fertil Soc J [Internet]. 2017;22(1):1–12. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mefs.2016.09.001