"What can I do to improve my chances of success from IVF?"
'What can I do to improve my chances doctor?' - a question I face everyday as a Consultant looking after subfertile couples. There are so many things that you can and should do to boost your chances of conception while having fertility treatment.
Many things like your age, egg, sperm or embryo quality are not in your control. However, there are various other things that are certainly in your control and you can definitely improve the chances of your success by taking care of them.
This blog is written with an aim to provide an overview of the various steps you can take to optimise your treatment outcome.
There is no medically proven diet for fertility.
Eating healthy balanced diet at regular intervals is essential to maintain a healthy body weight and also get all the essential nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy.
Diet rich in fruits and vegetable, fish and low fat dairy products have been shown to be associated with better sperm quality (ref)
Avoid junk and processed food and cut down on alcohol.
According to NICE guideline, alcohol intake should be reduced to no more than 1-2 units once/twice per week for women and 3-4 units per day for men (ref).
Evidence of negative impact of caffeine on male/female fertility is inconclusive (ref). Overall it does not seem to affect pregnancy rates. However, there is some low quality evidence that caffeine intake over 300 mg/day can increase miscarriage rate and hence it would be advisable to limit caffeine intake to one or two cups a day (ref).
Folic acid (400mg/day) should be taken to prevent neural tube defects in the foetus.
Check with your doctor the dose of folic acid you would need, as higher dose (5mg/day) is indicated for some depending of any existing medical conditions.
It is important to keep hydrated.
Drink lots of water.
It is even more important if you over stimulate during IVF.
Both over and under weight can adversely affect your fertility and IVF outcome.
Regular mild to moderate exercise along with balanced diet will help you to maintain your body weight and health.
Staying active can also boost your mood and lessen the risk of mental health problems in pregnancy.
Having fertility treatment can be stressful. It can lead to sleep deprivation.
Stress per se might not cause infertility. Otherwise, women in the war zone would not have conceived.
However, it can affect fertility indirectly:
Stress can cause anxiety, depression, which can affect pregnancy and the child’s mental health. Depression can decrease libido and affect relationship and thus reduce your chances of conceiving. It can also lead to smoking, drinking alcohol or recreational drugs as a coping mechanism and this in turn can adversely affect fertility.
Excessive stress can stop ovulation and thus contribute to infertility.
Hence it is important that you take measures to keep your stress level low. Make sure you get at least 6-8 hours of sleep everyday. This is a vital self-care while you are undergoing fertility treatment.
Mindfulness, yoga, meditation, reflexology are various methods to keep you calm and relaxed (ref).
It is important that you give some time to yourself.
Having a ‘me-time’ will help you to do self-reflexion, which has been shown to boost positive growth and self-acceptance (ref)
Support each other:
Difficulty in conceiving and undergoing fertility treatment can be an emotional roller coaster for the couples.
It is important to support each other during this stressful time.
Nobody understands your partner better than you.
Be mindful of any negative thoughts.
Take a break:
While having fertility treatment, it is easy to get carried away by sea of information on the Internet and online forums.
It is important that you stay optimistic but at the same time realistic.
While you would certainly want to give your 100% to the treatment, do not forget to take a break and enjoy other aspects of life as well.
Last but not the least, it is ok to feel overwhelmed.
Do not hesitate to vent out how you feel and get professional support from counsellors/doctors and nurses.
Written by: Dr Anupa Nandi