IVF may seem like a daunting experience, especially when you may not be sure how to prepare for it. Once you have decided to take IVF treatment, it is important to start preparing your mind and body for it straight away, as it may help with a more successful result. Read our Fertility experts’ advice on how to prepare for IVF to make you feel treatment ready.
As you want to make sure your eggs and sperm are in the best possible health, adopting healthy habits is one of the steps that should be taken straight away when preparing for IVF. Firstly, we recommend looking into your diet and making sure it is well balanced and you’re getting enough nutrients to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and body weight. When preparing for IVF, your diet should include:
Water – essential but usually forgotten. You should drink at least 1.5l a day of mineral or filtered water.
Your 5 A Day – blueberries, raspberries, pomegranates and strawberries are great sources of antioxidants, which help to reduce the environmental damage to our cells. Dark, leafy greens such as spinach or kale provide essential prenatal nutrients like calcium, iron and folate. Broccoli is another great vegetable to be added to your diet.
Whole grains, oats, quinoa, lentils, chickpeas.
Healthy fats – salmon and other fatty fish, nuts, free-range eggs, seeds, lentils. If you are eating meat, go for organic poultry for lean protein and essential fatty acids. Live and organic yoghurt is another great choice.
Caffeine – if you’re a coffee drinker, you should limit your caffeine intake to one cup a day. Don’t forget caffeine is also found in chocolate, green or black tea and some soft drinks. Also, try to steer clear of decaffeinated coffee or tea as they contain several chemicals used during the decaffeination process.
Alcohol – even used in moderation, alcohol can lengthen the whole conceiving process so it should be avoided where possible.
Toxins – any additives, colouring, sugar or emulsifiers should be avoided. Try to make sure you’re eating as naturally as possible.
If you want to be sure you’re getting all the necessary nutrients and vitamins, you and your partner can also consider taking supplements after discussing it with your doctor:
Folic Acid 400mcg daily – this vitamin is not only important for the neural tube development of the baby, but it is also involved in the formation of DNA and the reduction of homocysteine, which is linked to miscarriages.
Otherwise, you could take Methylfolate 2mg once a day (vitamin B9) which is the active form of Folic acid. 25-60% of the population have a genetic variation (in one of their MTHFR genes) that reduces the absorption of folic acid.
Vitamin C 1000mg daily – promotes progesterone (sexual hormone linked to pregnancy) and improves sperm. Vitamin C is also known for its antioxidant properties.
Vitamin D 1000 IU daily – essential for the production of sexual hormones.
Melatonin 3mg once at night – to improve the quality of sleep.
CoEnzyme Q 10 600mg daily (200mg three times a day) – a powerful antioxidant.
Omega 3 DHA daily – improves blood flow, regulates sexual hormones, boosts your baby’s brain.
Zinc citrate 30mg daily – improves sperm. Zinc deficiency has been linked to miscarriages.
Selenium 100-150 mcg daily – improves sperm. Selenium deficiency has been linked to miscarriages.
Probiotics daily – increases IVF success from implantation to live birth.
What medications may interfere with IVF drugs?
You should always discuss any medication or supplements you are thinking of taking with your doctor. Even if they are natural supplements, you should still address it to your doctor as it may not be safe for you to be taking it during this time. Generally, anything that’s safe to take during pregnancy, will be safe to take during IVF, if your doctor approves.
Another great way to improve your physical health is by exercising. Exercising also has a positive impact on our mental health – it reduces stress and anxiety and it positively influences our mood.
During the IVF cycle, the ovaries will become larger and there is a risk of ovarian torsion, however, gentle daily exercise (i.e. walking, cycling or light jogging) is safe during the first steps of IVF. Aerobic exercise should be practised at a slow pace – you should be only slightly out of breath but still be able to keep a conversation. Towards the end of the IVF cycle, before the egg collection, we wouldn’t recommend high-intensity exercise and high cardiovascular activity.
If you have been working out regularly before starting to prepare for IVF, proceed with the intensity and frequency of exercising that is comfortable for you and discuss it with your doctor.
How does sleep affect IVF?
A good night’s sleep plays a big role in our health. Sleep deprivation results in hormonal imbalances and it can trigger weight gain and fatigue, making it harder to deal with stress both physically and mentally. Also, the poor quality of women’s sleep can negatively affect IVF results so it is very important to look into your sleep quality when preparing for IVF.
Try to come up with the bedtime routine that works best for you. Discover relaxing activities that help you unwind and prepare your mind and body for sleep – it could be reading, meditation, a light body stretch or simply a relaxing shower. Make sure to dim the lights in the evening and avoid using electronic devices right before bedtime. Melatonin, a hormone responsible for sleep and egg quality, gets produced only when it gets dark, and artificial lighting can confuse the body and not make it want to sleep.
Chemicals to avoid when preparing for IVF
Understandably, the fewer environmental toxins we have in our body before, during and especially after the IVF embryo transfer (the procedure when the fertilised egg is placed inside the womb), the better. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up on the beauty procedures you usually get. When going to the hairdressers or to get your nails done, for example – always choose a well-ventilated salon and products with fewer chemicals. The same applies to manicures and pedicures, although dark nail polish (and pretty much all of them) should be removed before egg collection as it can interfere with the check of your oxygen levels on your finger by the pulse oximeter machine.
If you are a smoker, you should consider quitting as smokers have a lower chance of IVF success.
Sex during IVF
It is safe to have sex during the first stage of ovarian stimulation, however, it is best to avoid it towards the end of the cycle as there is a risk of follicular rupture and ovarian torsion. Due to enlarged ovaries, sex can be uncomfortable or even painful. In case of premature ovulation of several eggs, there is a risk of multiple pregnancies if you are having unprotected sex.
Your partner must abstain from sex for 2-5 days before their sperm sample collection to increase the chances of pregnancy.
Preparing your mind for IVF
We all know that stress is not helpful in any situation, however, it’s not always easy to stop worrying, especially when going through an intense period of life. Cortisol, a hormone that gets triggered by stress, can cause hormonal imbalances in both men and women and therefore it is possible for stress to affect fertility. Read more about stress and fertility here.
Having that in mind, it’s even more important to make sure you’re taking the right care of yourself when preparing for IVF. Great ways to manage stress are:
Taking your supplements – consult with your doctor about what would be the right supplements for you.
Meditation – helps to connect with yourself, improve focus and relieve stress. Just 10-15 minutes a day of calm breathing exercises can tremendously improve your well-being.
Acupuncture– this form of alternative medicine has been found to reduce the impact of stress hormones on the body, thereby helping with keeping a healthy balance of fertility hormones.
Journaling– writing down your thoughts is a great way to relieve emotional build-up. Journaling has a positive therapeutic effect as it helps to organise your thoughts and to better understand how you are feeling.
Prioritising yourself – don’t put your life on hold, book the holidays you were dreaming of, start that new job or buy the dress you wanted. If you get pregnant, all of these things will become less important and easy to fix. Don’t forget to take care of yourself and do the things that make you happy.
Research – if you feel that reading about fertility and the IVF process makes you feel more confident about the procedure, feel free to research it as frequently as you like. Just try not to get too overwhelmed by the information – allow yourself up to 45 minutes of daily reading and set a timer to ensure you’re not exceeding the time limit.
What support will I need?
IVF can be a stressful experience for both you and your partner so it is important to take care of your relationship and each other. Take the time to talk about your feelings, making sure you’ve both got a clear understanding of each other’s expectations and how you would like to be supported during the process without blaming each other. Include your partner in the IVF process – discuss and make all decisions together.
Fertility treatment has a big physical impact on women – your partner can help you by taking on tasks such as making sure you have enough medication, and injections, educating them about fertility, how to prepare your body for IVF treatment and how to support you emotionally.
If you feel like you need to speak to a professional, ask your doctor or nurse about our fertility counselling service.
How to prepare for IVF mentally
Be optimistic about your chances but be realistic. Try to enter the clinic with a positive mindset, and discuss anything that makes you feel anxious with your doctor or nurse. Here at The Evewell, we will always make sure to help you relieve these negative feelings.
Plan a pleasant activity to do before or after your appointments, such as a walk in a park with your partner, or having a smoothie or lunch together. If your schedule allows, book a massage or an acupuncture session.
Ask your doctor as many questions as you have about your treatment. Share any side effects or new symptoms you’ve been experiencing, even if they look insignificant.
At The Evewell, we deeply care about all of our patients and their loved ones. If you have any concerns and worries, please get in touch with us and we can help. Whether that’s a consultation with one of our doctors to guide you through the IVF process, or putting you in touch with Fertility counsellors and nutritionists. Get in touch by either emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or giving us a call on 020 3974 0950.
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