Making the decision to try for a baby can be both an exciting and stressful prospect for those involved and whether the conception is natural or not, every story has its differences and challenges along the way.
If you’re considering IVF, you’ll likely know that the treatment begins with women having a course of hormone therapy to help stimulate the development of follicles in the ovaries. After this course of treatment, the woman’s eggs are collected and fertilised to create several embryos, which are then implanted back into the womb, usually one at a time.
Certain lifestyle changes are recommended that, in addition to benefiting those trying to fall pregnant naturally, can further prepare a woman’s body for IVF and help facilitate a successful treatment.
Here’s what you should do to increase your chances:
1. Maintain a healthy weight
‘Maintaining a healthy weight is extremely important for you and your baby when it comes to IVF conception and is important to bear in mind when hoping to conceive naturally. If you are underweight or overweight, this can impact your chances of successfully conceiving during treatment, and of getting complications during pregnancy. Where possible you should aim for a BMI is between 18.5 and 30, and you can check your BMI online for free using calculator tools, and by speaking to your GP or fertility doctor.’
2. Increase Your Folic Acid Intake
‘Folic acid is a B vitamin which plays an important role in the body during pregnancy by helping to form healthy DNA which can minimise the chances of your baby having major birth defects of the brain or spine, and may improve egg quality. It is important that a woman has enough folic acid in her body at least one month before pregnancy, but as folic acid cannot be stored for long periods in the body, it is important that it forms a key part of a woman’s everyday diet in the lead up to pregnancy. The recommended dosage of folic acid for an adult is 200mcg a day, but when planning to conceive the recommended intake increases to 400mcg.
3. Know Your Good Fats From Your Bad Fats
‘Some types of fats found in foods can be good for you, such as the fats found in avocado, mixed nuts and oily fish such as salmon. However, we advise our patients who are due to undergo IVF treatment to try and cut down on their consumption of artificial ‘trans fats’. These are also known as hydrogenated fats and are most commonly found packaged snacks, fried food, cakes and other types of processed food items. Although there are currently no legal requirements in the Nigeria for food manufacturers to label trans fats, you can look out for hydrogenated fats or oils by looking through the list of ingredients on food packaging where possible.’
4. Kick The Habit
‘Not only is smoking strongly discouraged during pregnancy, it also highly advised that you give up the habit before undergoing IVF treatment or before trying to fall pregnant naturally. Smoking tobacco impacts fertility in both men and women, and can significantly lower the chances of successfully conceiving during IVF. This is because the smoke in cigarettes has a range of toxins that can damage the DNA in eggs and sperm, also leading to an earlier menopause. By quitting smoking at least three months prior to your IVF treatment, you are not only increasing your chances of having a successful treatment with a healthier pregnancy, you are also lowering the health risk to your unborn baby and its development.’
5. Reduce Alcohol
‘From three months before fertility treatment, it is recommended to completely cut out or drastically reduce your alcohol intake. Although there is conflicting evidence on whether alcohol can decrease fertility, it is best to avoid drinking in excess whether you are trying to conceive or not. Prior to IVF treatment, it is recommended that patients really cut down on their alcohol before and during the pregnancy, to keep all health risks to the baby and mother as low as possible, and to increase the likelihood of a successful and healthy live birth.’
6. Cut Down on Caffeine
‘You don’t need to completely cut coffee or tea out of your diet when trying to conceive, but it is advised not to drink more than 200mgs of caffeine, which is roughly one or two small cups a day. Heavy caffeine consumption is associated with fertility problems and interfering with pregnancy as it hinders your ability to absorb iron, which is especially important for keeping energy levels high during pregnancy. It is also essential for creating extra haemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells) which allows the body to adequately transport oxygen to your baby.’
7. Adopt Good Routines
‘Taking some time to get into good routines and habits, can help the body to be more receptive to the changes in hormones levels, and help in encouraging successful conception. We recommend that patients try and get between seven-eight hours of sleep a night in the lead up and during IVF, and adopt a routine which gives your body ample chance to regulate and prepare.’
8. The Time Needs To Be Right
‘The IVF process is different for everyone, so it is important that you take the time, with the support of your doctor, friends or family, to prepare. It is vital to undergo treatment at peak wellness, which applies to the mind as well as the body, so I recommend against pursuing IVF during periods of high stress or significant change. Although everyone is different, for those that have stressful lifestyles and busy jobs, some patients find that yoga can be an effective way of unwinding and keeping levels of the stress hormone cortisol low.’