You’ve been trying to conceive naturally for 12 months and it hasn’t happened, there doesn’t seems to be an obvious reason why so you find yourself in an IVF clinic ready to start the journey of assisted fertility. I have personal experience with this myself and know what an emotional and draining experience this can be. Fortunately, I was able to conceive naturally in the end.
Before you take the step into the IVF journey as well as during here are 5 things you can do to improve your chances of conceiving.
- Address any hormonal condition: Such as PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, hypothalamic amenorrhea, adenomyosis, and thyroid dysfunction. Any of these conditions being present means the body is in dysfunction and there is hormonal imbalances contributing to decreased fertility. Hormonal imbalances can be managed really well through lifestyle, nutrition and specific supplementation.
- Reducing Xenoestrogens: Xenoestrogens are endocrine disruptors and interfere with our natural hormonal state by blocking or mimicking our own hormones. Unfortunately, they are found frequently in our everyday environment and we really have to make a conscious effort to avoid them. Some common items we need to be aware of are; skin care, make-up, cleaning products, non organic produce, receipts and plastics.
By reducing these toxic disrupters your hormonal cycle will more likely regulate naturally.
- Improve Sperm Health: Sperm health is important and goes beyond just conceiving, it also plays a role in the health of the overall pregnancy and possibly the baby. Sperm health includes sperm count, morphology (structure) and motility (movement). The life cycle of sperm is only 72 days so men can improve the quality of their sperm within just a few months.
Lifestyle and nutrition modifications apply to men too such as minimizing alcohol, quitting smoking and eating an anti-inflammatory diet plus exercising.
Avoiding xenoestrogens as mentioned above, excessive phytoestrogens such as soy have been shown to reduce testosterone bonding and sperm production.
There are some key nutritional compounds that are necessary for sperm health such as;
- Zinc – plays a role in regulating sperm count and quality. Foods high in zinc are oysters, re meat and poultry, shellfish, nuts and beans.
- Folate – Low folate has been indicated in damaged sperm DNA, lower sperm densities and sperm counts. Foods high in folate are leafy green veggies, fruits, nuts and beans.
- B12 – is important for overall sperm health, improving sperm motility, increasing sperm count and reduces DNA damage.
- Vitamin C – is an antioxidant that improves sperm motility, count and morphology. Foods high in vitamin C are citrus fruits, other fruits such as kiwi, strawberries and cantaloupe and vegetable like tomatoes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, potatoes.
- Vitamin D – supplementation has been shown to increase testosterone and improve sperm motility.
- Vitamin E – It’s antioxidant action protects sperm from damage and may help improve the quality.
- Omega 3 fatty acids – enhance sperm count, motility and morphology. Foods high in omega 3’s are fish and seafood, nuts and seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds.
- CoQ10 – has been shown to improve sperm quality in men who are infertile.
Herbs that are beneficial for sperm health are tribulus terrestris which may increase libido and help with erectile dysfunction. Fenugreek and ashwaganda are two herbs that have shown to increase testosterone levels.
- Improving ovarian function: While there is no way to increase the number of eggs you have you can certainly improve the quality of them. It takes around 120 days for the chosen egg to mature and potentially be fertilized, this is how far out we should be preparing the egg. IVF has traditionally intervened at the last 2-4 weeks which is too late to improve the quality.
Llifestyle modifications are extremely important; good sleep, stress management, real, whole food, an anti-inflammatory diet, blood sugar regulation, moderate exercise and social support. Additionally, there are some supplements that have been researched which show promising results.
- CoQ10’s action in the mitochondria has been shown to improve egg quality by giving them a better chance of sufficient energy to propel to healthy growth, as well as its role as an antioxidant protecting the egg from oxidative stress.
- Melatonin can boost antioxidants, encourage ovarian function and aid in sleep.
- Fish oil (EPA/DHA) can help produce higher quality eggs and help reproductive function in advanced maternal age.
- L-arginine is an amino acid that has been shown in studies to increase ovarian response, endometrial receptivity and pregnancy rates in IVF.
- Myo-inositol has been shown to help modulate insulin in the body which can significantly effect ovulation. It helps improve glucose metabolism, improve egg quality which increases fertilization.
- Glutathione is the master antioxidant and detoxifier. Adequate amounts are needed for protective capabilities of the chosen egg. Oxidative stress can interfere with hormone levels and overall ovarian health.
- Royal jelly is a fertility superfood which may help increase follicular growth and development in ovaries due to its antioxidant and estrogenic effects.
A practitioner standard pregnancy multivitamin is important to ensure optimal maternal health as well as egg health and quality.
Be sure to be guided by a qualified practitioner with these supplements in relation to your specific health circumstances.
- Methylation: Is a biochemical process in the body that effects vitamin B12 and folate utilization, neurotransmitter synthesis, regulation of gene expression, hormone activity and immune system regulation among other things. As you can see it is very important for ‘normal’ functioning of the body systems.
Any defect in methylation can affect fertility but in particular the MTHFR gene. I myself had a defect on this gene which may have been contributing to my infertility.
It can affect implantation, oocyte (egg) immaturity and poor early embryo quality. It has also been associated with low ovarian reserve, diminished response to follicular stimulation and reduced chance of live birth after IVF.
The good news is, there are lab test you can do to find out if you have MTHFR and other gene defects which you can manage through the right nutrition and supplementation.
If you do have MTHFR it is essential you are taking activated folate, not to be mistaken by folic acid. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate and can be toxic to someone with MTHFR.
You can increase your food intake of folate by eating more leafy greens, asparagus, eggs, beets, brussel sprouts, broccoli, beef liver, spinach avocado and legumes.
All the above topics should be addressed when conceiving naturally hasn’t happened in 6-12 months and IVF used as a last option. IVF is wonderful technology that has helped many women, implementing all of the above will put your body in the best position to conceive with or without assisted fertility.