Preparing for IVF is critical if you want to give yourself the best chance of success.
Science has proven that there is a lot you can do to boost your chances. By making some simple lifestyle changes the likelihood of your cycle ending in success can increase dramatically.
To help you prepare, there is a free checklist of all the things discussed in this post that you can download below.
Free checklist: how to prepare for IVF...
…to increase your chances of success.
You are (Probably) Damaging Your Chances
If you have read our About page you will know that my wife had leukaemia twice and this caused us to go down the IVF path. We had limited chances of having a baby so we knew that preparing for IVF in the right way was going to be vital.
Because of this we looked at each area of our lives and researched the steps we could take to get ourselves in the best shape possible for our treatment.
Ours is quite a dramatic story so it may be understandable that we took this approach. We had, though, assumed other couples going through IVF would be doing something similar.
We were surprised when we came across a scientific study that showed 96% of IVF patients had 3 or more lifestyle issues that could damage their chances. The other 4% had 2 lifestyle issues. We talked about the study in detail in our post 100% of IVF Patients Harm Chances with their Lifestyle.
Going down the IVF route means that these women will have been experiencing fertility issues for some time.
Because of this many would have already taken steps to correct issues they thought may cause problems. Despite this 96% still had 3 or more lifestyle factors that harmed their chances.
Clearly, preparing for IVF is either not something most couples do or, if they do take steps, those steps are not effective.
Don’t be one of them.
The aim of this post is to show you the things you can do to get ready for IVF and maximise your chances of success.
The 3 Keys to IVF Success
IVF treatment can seem a complicated process. You’re confronted by an array of diagnostic tests, scans, drugs and procedures but succeeding is really quite simple: it boils down to getting 3 things right:
Wherever your fertility issue lies when preparing for IVF you should seek to optimise each of these things. Think of it as the weakest link in the chain: your chances of IVF success are only as good as the weakest link.
Fortunately, science has proven that there is a lot we can do ourselves to get these things right. We can take back control.
Let’s have a look at some of the steps we can take.
One of the ways our minds can impact IVF success is how we handle stress.
The IVF journey can be an emotional rollercoaster. There is no getting away from it. The hormones that you will receive can send your emotions haywire. It is stressful enough anyway and the drugs often make everything seem worse.
Because of this it is important when preparing for IVF to take steps to keep yourself as calm and balanced as possible. Studies have shown that stress can negatively impact IVF success so it would be wise to take steps to reduce it.
A couple of things can be helpful. First, before you start treatment write down your goal. Sure, you want to have a baby but be more specific and project ahead to any obstacles that may come up together with how you can overcome them.
By doing this when you are in a better frame of mind you are more likely to make good choices. If the obstacles do then crop up you will already have a plan in place to deal with them.
Next, plan stress-reducing activities to help keep you calm and in control. With success rates low anyway the last thing we want is to reduce our chances further.
“You are what you eat” is so true. Eating the right diet is a complex subject but when you prepare for IVF you should do two things:
By doing this you will ensure that:
Food has powerful drug-like effects, both positive and negative. Taking these steps will help prime your body for IVF success.
You probably haven’t heard of the term “endocrine disrupters”. If you are preparing for IVF you need to know about them.
Endocrine disrupters are chemicals or other substances that can affect our body’s hormonal (aka endocrine) system. Amongst other things, endocrine disrupters can mimic and block our body’s natural hormones.
This can be extremely problematic for fertility.
Conceiving and having a child relies on a delicate cascade of hormones. Our bodies need the right amount of hormones, in the right balance at the right time. Anything that interferes with this process should be avoided at all costs.
Unfortunately, in the modern world we are surrounded by man-made chemicals and pollutants that act as endocrine disrupters. Without knowing it we are inhaling, eating, drinking and absorbing these things every day.
We have seen how environment pollution can reduce pregnancy rates by 18% and chemical pesticides can lower birth rates by 26%. But these are just the start and things are getting worse.
In our increasingly industrialised world vehicles and industry pump out waste products into our environment and household products are made from harmful chemicals.
To give you an idea of the scale of the problem a study in the US identified 70,000 different industrial chemicals in the environment with 1,000 new synthetic chemicals being produced each year.
It is impossible to avoid all of these chemicals all of the time but there are lots of things you can do to limit your exposure.
For example, we included some of the steps you can follow to reduce your exposure to chemical pesticides in our Can Pesticides Damage IVF Success? post. To limit your exposure to pollutants you can follow the tips in our post Air Pollution Lowers IVF Success Rates.
In addition to these, be very careful about food and drink packaging and the scented products you use in your home.
Nutritional supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet. We cannot eat unhealthy food then expect a few pills to sort us out.
Having said that there are many supplements that science has proven can increase success rates. In the IVF Success Plan we cover 11 different supplements, each of which has been shown to be very effective.
Let’s look at an example.
You will probably have heard of folic acid and how important it is for pregnant women. It is so important that many government health authorities recommend supplementing with it before and during pregnancy as it reduces the risk of children developing certain conditions.
A number of studies have also shown how beneficial it can be in preparing for IVF.
Firstly, a study of women undergoing IVF treatment at Massachusetts Fertility Centre looked at the levels of folic acid in their blood. The researchers found that women with the highest levels were 62% more likely to have a live birth compared to women with the lowest levels.
Another study again looked at levels of folic acid but this time in the fluid that surrounds the ovaries (“monofollicular fluid” to give it the scientific term). The study followed women undergoing IVF and found that doubling the levels of folic acid in this fluid resulted in women being 3.3 times more likely to become pregnant.
Folic acid is also beneficial to men with sperm issues. For example, a study took 89 men and looked at the proportion of their sperm that had some form of abnormality.
The men were required to keep a diary of their food intake and the researchers calculated the intake of various nutrients from this. They found that sperm of men with the highest intake of folic acid had 20% fewer abnormalities than those with a low intake. Abnormal sperm is unlikely to successfully fertilise an egg so this finding is important.
I have used the term “folic acid” here because it is the name that most people are familiar with. Folic acid is actually the synthetic form. Folate is the natural occurring form and is the best option to go for. Avoid supplements with “pteroylmonoglutamic acid” on the label as this indicates that it is synthetic.
When preparing for IVF you should discuss any step you take with your doctor but the studies suggest a dose of between 400 and 800mcg per day of natural form folate is beneficial.
Being both overweight and underweight can significantly reduce your chances of having a baby with IVF. This applies to both men and women and the more overweight or underweight you are the bigger the effect.
Weight is such an important factor in IVF that some clinics refuse to treat patients that are outside the ideal range.
If you are either overweight or underweight part of preparing for IVF should include addressing the situation. We talked about nutrition above and eating well will not only make you healthier, it will help get you within the ideal weight range.
If you are overweight, please don’t adopt an extreme diet. Starving yourself of nutrients may help you lose weight (at least temporarily) but it is likely to prevent your body being in an optimal state for your treatment.
Eat healthy food (not too much), avoid junk and add in a form of moderate exercise you enjoy and will persist with.
To help you obtain the ideal IVF weight in the IVF Success Plan we provide you with a step by step plan using little known, science-backed techniques to lose fat easily and healthily.
Those who are underweight can easily gain healthy lean weight by consuming a little more (healthy) food at each meal and by snacking on healthy calorie-dense food such as nuts and dried fruit.
Adding in weight training 2-3 times per week is proven to be a great way of gaining weight healthily. Women, don’t worry! You will not end up “muscly” weight training will just help you looked more toned.
Preparing for IVF: wrap-up
Wow! This is a long post already and I have only just started. There are lots of other things science has proven can boost your chances of success so I’ll do another post.
I hope it has given you a taste. Taking steps to get ready for IVF is critical to giving yourself the best shot.
Take the information contained in this post and put together a plan. To help, there is a free checklist of all the things discussed in this post that you can download below.
Once you have decided which steps you are going to take it is important that you discuss them with your doctor first. By working as a team you will give yourself the best chance of succeeding.
If you have any questions please leave a comment below or get in touch via the Contact page.
I wish you well.
Free checklist: how to prepare for IVF...
…to increase your chances of success.