According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1.7% of all births in the United States are due to Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) — including in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Depending on your situation, IVF may provide a suitable option for you to fulfill your dreams of becoming a parent. Generally, IVF is a viable option for women of childbearing age, and patients who will be incorporating donor eggs into their fertility plan.
Perhaps your fertility team has indicated that IVF is your best chance to conceive. The great news is that there are many things you can do to help increase the odds of conceiving a healthy baby. In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about supporting your IVF journey to grow your family.
The Stages of IVF Treatment
IVF involves the fertilization of the egg in a special laboratory, known as an embryology lab. During IVF, mature eggs (from the intended mother or pre-arranged egg donor) are extracted from the ovaries and fertilized by sperm (the intended father or pre-arranged sperm donor). Once fertilized, the egg (known as an embryo) is implanted in the woman’s uterus. If implantation is successful, this can lead to pregnancy.
The entire IVF cycle involves many stages. It’s also common to need more than one IVF cycle for a successful pregnancy to take place. The following outlines the stages and schedule involved in one IVF cycle.
Stage 1: Preparation
In the weeks before your IVF treatment, your fertility team or doctor may recommend certain lifestyle changes to improve your chances of getting pregnant.
At this stage, further medication may be recommended by your healthcare team to help get your menstrual cycle on track and regular. This can make starting the IVF process that much easier.
Stage 2: The Start of Your IVF Cycle
This stage marks the beginning of your IVF cycle. It is signified by the first day of your menstrual cycle. This is referred to as your “Day 1” when you contact your clinic.
Stage 3: Ovarian Stimulation
Between days 3 and 12, you will begin taking fertility medication prescribed by your doctor to stimulate your ovaries to release your eggs.
Stage 4: Trigger Injection
You will be given an injection containing human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) exactly 36 hours before your egg retrieval. This is a hormone that helps your body release eggs, which makes it easier for your doctor to retrieve them.
Stage 5: Egg Retrieval & Semen Collection
Around the same time your eggs are retrieved, your partner (or pre-arranged sperm donor) will provide sperm for the procedure. Your fresh eggs will be fertilized using this sperm in the embryology lab. At the same time, you will be given progesterone to help prepare your uterus and body for pregnancy.
Stage 6: Implantation
Your team will implant the embryo in your uterus within a week of having your eggs harvested (known as ‘implantation day’). During and after this non-invasive procedure, you may feel slight cramping. Yet, most individuals don’t feel any discomfort. If any unusual pain occurs, simply contact your fertility nurse.
Stage 7: Pregnancy Test
Approximately 9-12 days following your embryo transfer, you will attend a follow-up visit with your fertility team or doctor. They will take a scan and perform blood tests to determine if pregnancy has occurred. Typically, one full IVF cycle takes about three weeks.
Lifestyle Tips to Support Your IVF Cycle
You want to give your body the best chance at conceiving and achieving a successful pregnancy via IVF. As such, it’s important to examine your lifestyle and make changes accordingly. There are various ways you can increase your odds of IVF success, including through your diet, exercise, sex life, stress levels, and more.
The Ideal IVF Diet
Many experts recommend not making any drastic changes to your diet throughout your IVF cycle. However, before you begin IVF, you will want to ensure you are eating a balanced and healthy diet — one where you are obtaining a variety of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. This is known as the preconception period.
In various studies, experts have suggested that following the Mediterranean Diet for six months before IVF may help improve clinical outcomes. This diet includes eating a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and fish, with small amounts of red meat. Researchers found that those who followed this diet for at least six months before IVF had a 65-68% greater chance of achieving a successful pregnancy.
Here are some tips to help you introduce aspects of the Mediterranean Diet:
- Include a variety of colors on your plate with fresh veggies and fruit
- For protein, begin including more chicken and fish
- Incorporate whole grains, such as whole-grain pasta or quinoa
- Include legumes such as beans or chickpeas
- Consume a moderate amount of healthy fats, like avocado, nuts, and seeds
- Stick to eating red meat only once a week or three to four times a month
- Avoid highly processed and pre-packaged food. Instead, opt for homemade meals
An IVF diet to improve egg quality follows a similar protocol. You may also benefit from getting blood tests to ensure you are obtaining enough nutrients in your diet, such as B12, Ferritin, and Folate. By doing so, you can find out if you’re deficient in any nutrients and find ways to combat this which, again, improves your chances of a successful and healthy pregnancy.
Coffee During IVF Treatment
According to WebMD, drinking five cups of coffee or more per day can reduce your chances of success with IVF by up to 50%. While further studies on pregnancy and coffee consumption are necessary, most experts recommend sticking to 1-2 cups of coffee or less per day during IVF treatment and pregnancy.
Alcohol During IVF Treatment
Reducing your alcohol intake during IVF treatment may increase your chances of implantation. However, a glass of wine or a beer here or there usually isn’t a problem. For instance, if you’re attending a wedding during the first stages of IVF or before and want to have a glass of champagne, this shouldn’t have any adverse effects. However, always follow the advice given to you by your fertility team and doctors. Alcohol may interact with fertility drugs. Thus, it’s always a good idea to check with your specific healthcare professional.
Further, after the embryo transfer, it’s recommended to entirely avoid alcohol, assuming a pregnancy may be underway since alcohol consumption during pregnancy is associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Smoking or Vaping During IVF Treatment
Smoking and vaping can indeed impact your fertility. Continuing to smoke or vape during your IVF cycle can reduce your chances of success. It’s likely best to consider quitting altogether since smoking during pregnancy can also lead to various problems for your little one as they grow and develop in your womb.
Nutrition After Your Embryo Transfer
After your embryo transfer, you should continue following the Mediterranean Diet. Eating a variety of foods, without restriction, is best. This can continue to supply your body with the nutrients it needs to achieve a successful pregnancy. At the same time, it is also recommended to limit processed and pre-packaged food items that may disrupt natural processes and functions within the body.
Exercise During Your IVF Cycle
Generally, it’s advised to take it easy during your IVF treatment to reduce excess stress on the body (which can negatively impact your chances of success). However, this doesn’t mean that you should avoid all exercise.
The recommended approach to exercise during IVF is to continue with your routine, assuming you have a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI).
At the same time, many IVF experts don’t recommend running more than 20 km per week. Running, in particular, can be very stressful on the body and the reproductive system. Therefore, it may be best to limit this activity during your IVF treatment. For the committed runners, try doing light jogging, walks, or cycling instead.
It’s also not recommended to participate in intense activity, such as High-Intensity Intervals (HIT), jumping activities, or plyometrics. Again, these can boost your cortisol levels, which can reduce your odds of success.
If you want to add or alternate your routine with a more gentle exercise, try yoga. A light yoga class with stretches, such as Child’s Pose and Seated Forward Bend can help you de-stress and keep you moving. Look up prenatal or restorative yoga classes in your area or online. Further, it may be best to discuss your options with your doctor or fertility team. They can advise you on what’s best for your specific situation.
Sex During IVF Treatment
During IVF, it’s recommended that the male partner abstains from ejaculating 3-4 days before sperm collection. This means not having intercourse or engaging in manual stimulation. It’s also a good idea to avoid sexual activities that will aggravate the cervix, such as deep penetration. Besides that, sexual intercourse is completely okay 24 hours after the embryo transfer.
Recent studies show there is no difference between groups that had intercourse after their embryo transfer versus those who didn’t. Yet, it’s normal to want to abstain from sex if you’re feeling uncomfortable or bloated after the procedure. Generally, as long as you feel comfortable having intercourse, it’s alright to do so.
Supplements to Take for IVF
There are various affordable options for supplements that can help support a healthy pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins may be a viable choice, which can be taken 30 days before an IVF cycle. This will help increase your folic acid, which supports the proper development of your baby’s spine and nervous system.
If you’ve discovered through testing that your vitamin D levels are low, it may be wise to also take a vitamin D supplement.
Before adding any supplement to your diet, discuss your options with your fertility team or doctor. They can help you determine which ones are best for you and your specific health situation.
Sleep During IVF
Research indicates that individuals who sleep 7-8 hours every night have a higher chance of success through IVF. Sleep is very restorative. It’s where repair takes place throughout the body, amongst other processes, and it can contribute to a healthy pregnancy.
Depending on your sleep patterns, your fertility doctor may recommend melatonin for both IVF success and to improve your deep sleep. Melatonin is further thought to help increase the odds of implantation, yet more research is needed. Like other supplements, it’s a good idea to discuss melatonin with your doctor before you begin taking it.
Self-Care & Massage During IVF
While infertility can be very stressful on both partners, finding techniques or methods can greatly improve your chances of success. Reducing your stress levels promotes optimal health and the optimal environment for pregnancy to take place.
Reducing stress involves taking care of yourself. Ensure you are getting adequate sleep, as well as eating a proper and balanced diet. Make sure you have a support network and that you still get out and socialize throughout the process. Massage during IVF is also completely safe, providing relaxation and stress relief. You may also want to practice meditation, journaling, gratitude, and other techniques to help you de-stress and unwind.
Chemicals to Avoid During IVF
Various household items contain chemicals that may impact your health — without you realizing it. Items that contain chemicals you want to avoid during IVF and pregnancy include:
- Nail polish containing formaldehyde
- Certain cosmetics, moisturizers, or soaps with parabens, triclosan, or benzophenone
- Food packaging with BPA and phenols
- Stain-resistant materials or nonstick cooking tools containing perfluorinated compounds
- Meat, dairy, or art clay containing dioxins
- Plastic, medication coating, or fragrant cosmetics containing phthalates
- Furniture, clothing, yoga mats, or electronics containing brominated flame retardants
Use your discretion when it comes to these items, and talk to your fertility team or doctor if you have any concerns regarding the list above.
Set Yourself Up for IVF Success
IVF may be a stressful time for you and your family. However, there are various ways you can increase your odds of success, such as through your diet, reducing stress, adequate sleep, supplements, and being aware of the chemicals in common household items.
At ELITE IVF, we are dedicated to your success. Our team is driven by both passion and science. For families, couples, or singles looking to expand their family, we’re here to help through every step of the way. Let’s work toward transforming your baby dream into reality. Speak with one of our specialists today.