When my wife and I started researching the steps we could take to prepare for IVF one of the things that surprised us was how closely connected IVF success and lifestyle are. We had thought we led a fairly healthy lifestyle and I suspect that many of you will feel the same.
Our opinion soon changed when we found a Dutch study that showed how common it is for people undergoing IVF to have things in their lives that can negatively affect IVF success.
In this study researchers at the University Medical Centre in Utrecht had a group of 101 women undergoing IVF complete questionnaires that covered every aspect of their lives.
The researchers then analysed the results to identify things that could negatively affect the women’s chances of IVF success.
What they found was that 96% of the women had 3 or more lifestyle issues that could hamper their IVF treatment and the other 4% had 2 lifestyle issues.
Now bear in mind that these women were about to undergo IVF so will have been experiencing fertility issues for a long time.
It is reasonable to think that many of these women would have already taken steps to address the things that they thought could harm their chances of success yet 96% still had 3+ issues that could cause problems.
What is even more significant is that there were 7 fertility nurses – to emphasise, nurses who specialised in IVF treatment – involved in the study and at the outset they were very sceptical about the connection between IVF success and lifestyle.
This is concerning because, as we will see, lifestyle factors are extremely important when it comes to IVF success.
Despite the nurses’ scepticism the researchers believe the medical profession is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of taking steps to address lifestyle issues prior to undergoing IVF. Whilst they are starting from a low base, one of the researchers in the study commented:
“Medical professionals are increasingly recognising that there are important links between preconception health and positive IVF outcomes, both in terms of the success of the procedure and the health of the baby”
Let’s hope so. Our experience was that our clinic was not able to give much guidance on “non-medical” factors that could affect our chances of success. The advice was limited to vague things like “eat a healthy diet”, “get plenty of rest” and “take gentle exercise”. From the messages we have received, it seems that we are not alone.
If you would like to read the study it is available here (Integrating preconceptional care into an IVF programme. J Adv Nurs. 2012 May; 68(5):1156-65).
Given the findings of this study it would be wise for anyone undergoing IVF to look at their lifestyle and take steps to address anything that might affect your chances of succeeding.
In the meantime, please leave a comment to let us know about the things you have done to address lifestyle issues prior to undergoing IVF.