Preparing for IVF: Nutrition, Lifestyle, and Supplements

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Did you know that your nutritional requirements when undergoing In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) are different to those of "natural" conception?

Our fertility nutritionist Isabelle is on hand to explain the key differences and how to set yourself up for success.

"Natural conception typically involves nurturing just one egg per cycle", Isabelle says. "Whilst we want to do everything possible to ensure this egg is the highest quality possible, IVF is a little different".

In IVF, medications are used to stimulate the release of multiple eggs, increasing the chances of successful fertilisation. This fundamental difference should inform your IVF preparation choices, especially in terms of nutrition, lifestyle, and supplements.

"Nurturing multiple eggs requires far more energy and resource during IVF versus nurturing the one".

An egg is the largest single cell in the body. "When you are trying to mature several at once, your energy requirements are raised" explains Isabelle.

The Role of Nutrition in IVF Preparation

Nutrition plays a critical role in IVF preparation, as it can significantly impact the quality of eggs and overall reproductive health. Isabelle recommends that those preparing for IVF consider a Mediterranean-style diet.

The Mediterranean diet is characterised by:

  • High consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Healthy fats from sources like olive oil and nuts
  • Lean protein, such as fish and poultry
  • Whole grains
  • Moderate dairy intake, typically from sources like yogurt and cheese
  • Reduced consumption of red meat and processed foods

Why is the Mediterranean-style diet recommended for IVF preparation? "This style of eating prioritises antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can support reproductive health." These nutrients help protect eggs and sperm from oxidative stress, promote hormonal balance, and improve overall fertility.

Learn more about the Mediterranean diet for conception here.

Lifestyle Choices for IVF Preparation

Aside from your diet, certain lifestyle choices can also impact your IVF journey. Here are some lifestyle considerations:

  • Exercise: Engaging in regular, moderate exercise can help maintain a healthy body weight and reduce stress. However, Isabelle cautions overexercising on the build up to IVF and recommends avoiding exercise during IVF. "Excessive intense exercise prior to IVF may potentially disrupt hormonal balance and increase stress, which could negatively impact fertility. It's important to strike a balance". During IVF it is recommended to avoid exercise because “the ovaries are working pretty hard and you don’t want to be jumping about whilst they are maturing eggs, nor do you want to divert blood flow to the extremities”.
  • Stress Management: High stress levels can negatively affect fertility. Consider relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or mindfulness to keep stress in check.
  • Alcohol and Smoking: Alcohol and smoking hinder fertility and IVF success. It is advised to quit smoking, which will have a myriad of health benefits. When trying naturally or before a cycle alcohol should be limited, though trying to be too strict can be stressful, try your best to cut down. During IVF alcohol should be completely avoided.
  • Weight Management: Weight management is also important, as both underweight and overweight individuals may face fertility challenges.

Supplement Recommendations for IVF Preparation

While a balanced diet should be your primary source of nutrients, supplements can complement your IVF preparation efforts. Some key supplements to consider include:

  • Folate: "I always recommend folate over folic acid. Unlike folic acid, which is synthetic, it is more easily absorbed by the body". It is essential for foetal development and reducing the risk of neural tube defects. "Folate may also help provide a favourable receptive environment for implantation."
  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): The development of eggs and sperm requires large amounts of energy and Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a critical ingredient in its production. "Nurturing one egg takes a lot of energy. Nurturing multiple eggs takes a lot!" Isabelle says. "For anyone going through IVF I would recommend CoQ10".
  • Vitamin D: Important for hormonal balance and fertility. "It's very hard to get enough vitamin D through food", says Isabelle. Food sources include egg yolks and fortified foods. However, the amount you will actually get is low. "Do you know how much vitamin D is in an egg yolk?" asks Isabelle. "40iu! That means you would need to eat 10 egg yolks to even get to the minimum recommendation of 400iu, which is still a tiny amount!" A high quality vitamin D3 supplement is therefore more convenient.
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC): A potent antioxidant, reducing oxidative stress, a harmful process that can damage reproductive cells and tissues, which can impact conception. "It's great for both egg and sperm quality" explains Isabelle. "It's a great nutrient with many benefits for both partners".

Remember to consult with your healthcare provider before adding supplements to your regimen, as individual needs may vary.

Further reading

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