More people in Ontario are gaining access to fertility treatment and IVF since the Ontario government began funding IVF cycles this year. The way it is currently set up, people have one funded cycle available to them in a lottery system.
I think this is great!
I want everyone who goes through the IVF process to have the best chance of success. And success with IVF means a little preparation! (Check out this incredible study my colleague did!)
IVF is a very useful technology, allowing people who would otherwise not get pregnant to create their families. However, it is a technology that still relies on the good health of the bodies that are involved in order to be successful.
IVF is like a fallopian tube substitute, ensuring the eggs and sperm come together to form embryos, but the eggs and sperm still come from bodies where the egg and sperm cells are influenced by the overall health of the people trying to get pregnant. And the embryo is returned to a uterus, inside a body that is influenced by the overall health of the person who will carry the baby.
So if you plan to do IVF and want it to succeed, it is absolutely critical to do what you can to improve your fertility. And there is a lot you can do.
Having worked with people who are trying to get pregnant over the last 10 years, I have found a few things that make the most difference:
Take your time: With any supplement or treatment you are doing to improve your fertility, allow for a 3 month window for it to be effective. The egg and sperm have a 3 month maturation cycle, from the time they are recruited until they are fully mature. So the supplement or therapy needs to be present in the body for the full three months in order to have it’s full effect on the growing eggs and sperm.
Get some acupuncture: Research shows that acupuncture done in preparation for an IVF cycle (9-12 weeks) is more effective than only doing acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer. These treatments help to improve responsiveness to IVF medications and decrease the side effects of IVF.
Eat well: Foods that benefit fertility are generally foods that are nutrient dense, like seaweeds and organ meats, high in healthy fats like avocado and pastured ghee, and low to no processing from their origin to your plate. Eat a wide variety of fruits, veggies, meat and animal products and gluten-free grains as the mainstays of your diet.
Move: Movement does double duty, both helping to balance your hormones and getting your blood pumping to your reproductive organs. Sitting all day at a desk or doing repetitive movements in your job can lead to a deficiency of movement nutrition. Vary your movement (move out of just chair sitting, standing and walking positions) with stretching, squatting, floor sitting and dancing!
Rest: Regular great sleeps are essential. In addition, make time for stillness, in your mind and in your body. The ends of the day are a natural time for stillness practices such as meditation, in the morning before you get going with your day or in the evening as you prepare for bed. However, a period of stillness in the middle of the day, around the mid-afternoon energy slump, is a great way to decompress and refresh for the rest of your day. My favorite app for a quick de-stress session is the calm app.
Take some supplements: Some folks will be making some big lifestyle changes at the beginning of preparing for an IVF cycle and they need results quickly. Supplements can be a great way to get concentrated nutrients quickly. In “It Starts with the Egg”, Rebecca Fett recommends a multivitamin, CoQ10, myo-inositol and melatonin. Check out her book for the research to support her recommendations.
Have great sex: Sex is still important, even if it’s not going to be the way you get pregnant. It’s a way to connect emotionally with your partner through this stressful process. Sex with orgasm is also an amazing stress reducer, a way to both physically and emotionally relax.
You CAN improve your fertility!
With funded cycles, often there is a wait until your turn comes up. Spend that time wisely, preparing for a successful IVF cycle.