Infertility is commonly defined as the inability to get pregnant, or maintain a pregnancy, after adequately trying for 12 months without medical assistance. According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 12% of all women between the ages of 15 and 44 have expressed having difficulty getting pregnant. And if you’re reading this, you’re probably already aware of the fact that IVF (in vitro fertilization) has been the answer for many of these women. An average of 1.7% of all US births are via IVF (CDC).
So I will assume that you are familiar with the basics of IVF and will focus this writing on what you can do to increase your chances of a successful IVF cycle.
“According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 13% of female infertility is caused by tobacco and cigarette smoking“
1. Quit smoking:
The health benefits of smoking cessation go way beyond that of anything to do with an IVF. but it does affect the quality of the sperm and the egg and reduce the chances of conception through IVF. The American Journal of Epidemiology reports that nicotine is ten times more concentrated in the uterine fluid than the rest of your body. Quitting smoking is not easy. The tobacco companies don’t want it to be. But it is vital, not only prior to conception but during pregnancy as well. See you doctor and ask about the various methods and choose that which you feel will work well for you.
Causes of Infertility
2. Quit drinking:
As with tobacco, alcohol will inhibit your ability to conceive. In 2011, a report from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School concluded that the consumption of as little as 4 alcoholic drinks per week in women is associated with a 16% decrease in IVF live birth rate. This study also showed a further reduction in live birth rates if the male partner also drank at least four alcoholic drinks per week. So, neither parent should continue to drink throughout the conception period. And the mother should definitely refrain from all alcohol consumption during the pregnancy. Period.
A healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) is important to the success of your IVF cycle. Preferably between 18.5 and 24.9. And the best way to accomplish this is by maintaining a well balanced diet. If possible, for at least three months prior to an IVF attempt. Being obese (BMI>35) or underweight (BMI<19) can increase the difficulty of conception by 2 and 4 times respectively. Being overweight can also lead to complications with the procedure. If you fall on either ends of the weight spectrum, making changes to your diet and lifestyle and enrolling in a cardio weight loss program can help you become a mother quicker
“25% of all couples have more than one factor contributing to their infertility as a pair, per the ASRM“
One recommended diet is the plant based Mediterranean diet. The main components of Mediterranean diet include: Daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats. Weekly intake of fish, poultry, beans and eggs. Moderate portions of dairy products. Limited intake of red meat
One could also focus on eating fertility enhancing foods. Some examples of these are as follows:
- fish roe
- flax seeds
Whole grains contain fertilized germ cells and nutrition to sustain a new plant, so always eat whole grains. When you are unsure, eat fresh, seasonal, hormone-free, organic whole foods.
While you should exercise and maintain good health, it is important that you avoid vigorous exercise. This will also help to reduce stress.
Anyone who has had children will tell you. Get all the sleep you can now! Seriously, the quality and quantity of sleep influences sex hormones, sperm production, and ovulation. It is therefore crucial to make sure you and your partner are getting enough good quality sleep, especially leading up to an IVF cycle.
- Routine is important. Maintain the same sleep schedule as much as possible.
- Eliminate all distractions from your bedroom, ie. TV, game systems, phone, etc.
- Before retiring for the day it is important that you wind down. Turn off the TV or computer and read for a while.
- Get at least eight hours of sleep for the two weeks prior to an IVF cycle.
- Sleeping in total darkness will help with your physical and emotional well being. It will also assist in the development of healthy follicles for your next IVF cycle.
“It is estimated that 30% of IVF cycles produce a live birth“
5. Reduce stress:
This sort of overlaps several of the other items on the list but warranted a mention in its own right. Stress is such a critical factor and has far reaching impacts on your overall health and well being. It is a constant, massive assault on the body and is known as the “invisible killer” for good reason. Needless to say, it can have an adverse affect on your body’s ability for a successful IVF cycle.
There are ways to help reduce stress. One being meditation. Meditation involves gentle breathing techniques can significantly reduce stress and help your body to function to the optimum.
Another technique would be to slow down your lifestyle pace. Simply put, take your time. And don’t over schedule your day. Plan to do less. Focus on the important things.
One last technique. Try breathing into your belly. This will help your body to relax by influencing your parasympathetic nervous system.
“The CDC reports that 7.5% of sexually experienced men have reported seeing a fertility doctor at least once“
6. Vitamins & Supplements:
It is critical that your body has what it needs for a successful IVF cycle as well as a successful pregnancy. Here are some of what is suggested.
- Prenatal vitamins – This will help to prevent various types of birth defects. It can also help the male to improve sperm health.
- Fish oil
- Vitamin D – Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to Autism.
- DEHA and CoQ10 – Supplements that can improve the quality of both the sperm and the egg.
Yes, acupuncture. Several studies have shown that acupuncture is beneficial for women undergoing IVF, especially on the day of transfer. It is thought that acupuncture improves blood flow to the uterus and ovaries which stimulates the release of neurotransmitters. It is also seen that women who have an acupuncture treatment on the day of embryo transfer have more chances of pregnancy than women who didn’t. Women who are interested in this procedure can add it to their IVF care since it has little downside overall. Studies have shown that women who had acupuncture before and after embryo transfer had a 44% success rate per cycle compared to 29% amongst those who did not.
“20% of infertility cases have no identifiably known cause.”
8. IVF Sex:
Yes, I saved the best for last! The good news is there is no reason to avoid sexual activity. The feel-good factor and endorphin buzz produced by regular sexual intercourse can really help to alleviate stress, it can help you as a couple to communicate in the stressful week coming up to your IVF.
Just remember that during the three to four days before sperm retrieval the man should refrain completely from ejaculation, both vaginal and manual. This is the critical sperm development window and you don’t want to do anything to lower your chances of a successful IVF cycle.
It is also recommended to keep penetration shallow and avoid deep vaginal intercourse to avoid irritating the cervix.
There are other things that you can do or not do to help to ensure a successful IVF. However, those that I listed here are the ones that I feel are the most important. And, as always, it is my wish that all those that read this are blessed with children of their own, whether adopted or natural. There is no more rewarding experience than being a parent