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How to Prepare for Your IVF Cycle : 10 Ways to Increase IVF Success for Women

An IVF cycle is a such big emotional, physical and financial investment. A single cycle costs somewhere in the range of $15,000.  Hormones and emotions run at their peaks. So who wouldn’t want to do everything humanly possible to optimize their outcome? Every day I have patients who ask me what they can do to prepare for an IVF cycle with nutrition, lifestyle and supplements. There are in fact several important changes you can make to increase IVF success.

For women, good quality follicles (eggs)  and a rich, implantable endometrial lining are the keys to having a successful cycle. Your chance of success lowers dramatically if either of these factors are not optimal. It is best to work on the points below for several months to prepare for IVF cycles. This is key, as the eggs which will be retrieved for your IVF cycle spend several months developing in the ovary.

Although each patient has specific needs which are best addressed individually, I have made a list of 10 important things that women can do to prepare for IVF. I have consistently seen that being on the right combination of supplements can increase IVF success rates and in this article I will mention two of the basic supplements for IVF that all women should be taking.

  1. Eat high quality, whole grain and low glycemic index foods. Avoid processed foods, hydrogenated oils, sugars, and alcohol. Avoid large amounts of soy products. Quit smoking if you smoke.
  2. High quality healthy fats should be a big part of your diet– unrefined oils, foods rich in polyunsaturates such as nuts, seeds, and avocado, and uncontaminated fish. Check out the Seafood Health Alerts List from the Environmental Defense Fund for a list of low contaminant fish species.
  3. Do gentle exercise such as walking or fertility yoga 4 times per week. Gentle exercise reduces stress and improves circulation. Avoid exercise that is overly strenuous.
  4. Acupuncture and meditation : these are important for both stress relief and the ability to improve IVF outcomes. Acupuncture can simultaneously improve circulation to the reproductive organs and reduce overall stress levels.
  5. Eliminate caffeine, especially after transfer.
  6. Eat organic to reduce load on the liver and to avoid hormone disruptors. Check out the Shoppers Guide from the Environmental Working Group to determine which foods are most heavily sprayed in pesticides. Many pesticides have estrogenic effects which can lower egg quality.
  7. Check your thyroid (my opinion is that your TSH should be below 2.0 for IVF) and have full blood work or saliva hormone analysis completed including antinuclear antibody, prolactin, ferritin, INR, prolactin, FSH, LH, DHEA-S, testosterone, and Antimullerian hormone.
  8. Get into a healthy sleep cycle for at least 1 month before IVF, aiming for 8 hours of sleep. Be in bed by 10:30 pm and sleep in complete darkness to improve natural melatonin production. Melatonin is required for healthy follicle development.
  9. Take an omega 3 fish oil supplement. Aim for around 600 mg of DHA and 1000 mg of EPA daily. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to improve embryo morphology during IVF. Be sure to choose a product that has been third party tested for contaminants.
  10. Take Coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 improves egg quality by acting as a mitochondrial antioxidant. Aim for approximately 400mg twice daily. Choose a crystal free or ubiquinol form.

You may have noticed that improving circulation and delivering quality nutrients to the cells are key if you want to increase IVF success rates. For IVF, it is important that the follicles receive protective nutrients to protect them from damage and improve their integrity during the stimulation process. Nutrients and medications reach your ovaries, endometrial lining and eventually the implanting embryo through the circulation. Good blood flow and optimal circulatory health is an essential part of having a cycle with a good outcome.

Do everything you can to take care of yourself emotionally and give yourself the time you need to heal. IVF is a bumpy road to travel, full of feelings ranging from optimism to disappointment and hopefully ending in one of the greatest joys imaginable. Allow yourself to feel your emotions fully as you make this journey towards creating your family.

References for this article

  1. Effects of plane of nutrition on in vitro fertilization and early embryonic development in sheep. Borowczyk E, Caton JS, Redmer DA, Bilski JJ, Weigl RM, Vonnahme KA, Borowicz PP, Kirsch JD, Kraft KC, Reynolds LP, Grazul-Bilska AT. J Anim Sci. 2006 Jun;84(6):1593-9.
  2. Ashworth CJ, Toma LM, Hunter MG. Nutritional effects on oocyte and embryo development in mammals: implications for reproductive efficiency and environmental sustainability. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2009 Nov 27;364(1534):3351-61.
  3. Hammiche F, Vujkovic M, Wijburg W, de Vries JH, Macklon NS, Laven JS, Steegers-Theunissen RP. Increased preconception omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid intake improves embryo morphology. Fertil Steril. 2011 Apr;95(5):1820-3. Epub 2010 Dec 3.
  4. Westergaard LG, Mao Q, Krogslund M, Sandrini S, Lenz S, Grinsted J. Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomized trial. Fertil Steril. 2006 May;85(5):1341-6. Epub 2006 Apr 5. PubMed PMID: 16600232.
  5. 1: Bentov Y, Esfandiari N, Burstein E, Casper RF. The use of mitochondrial nutrients to improve the outcome of infertility treatment in older patients. Fertil Steril. 2010 Jan;93(1):272-5. Epub 2009 Sep 3. PubMed PMID: 19732879.

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