by Angela Heap, fertility expert, sharing 6 tips for nutrition support for IVF.
IVF has become increasingly common since the first IVF baby was born to a British couple in 1978. In fact, there have been 8 million IVF babies born using Assisted Reproductive Technology worldwide.
The IVF process is very taxing on the body. Proper nutrition can help to reduce some of the load on your body. In a 14-day period, a person will in some cases produce up to 12+ eggs (often more than what’s normally produced in a whole year!), multiplying the energy and nutrients needed
The eggs that are eventually chosen and retrieved have been maturing prior to IVF or IUI for a minimum of 90 days. Sperm also has a similar development phase. During this time they are affected by healthy and unhealthy influences. While we don’t have control over the entire process, we do have control over what we eat. This means that ideally we’ll choose healthier food options for at least three months before our IVF cycle starts. Not to worry if you’re not that far out, starting now can still help increase the health of your eggs or sperm and help you navigate the emotional experience as well.
Nutrition Tips to Support IVF/IUI
Focus on healthy fats
Studies suggest that a diet similar to a Mediterranean diet that focuses on monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and avocado, vegetables, fish, and legumes is a great option for those looking to optimize their diet before conceiving. This style of eating often helps reduce inflammation, improve embryo yield, and increase folate and B6 concentrations in the blood which may improve ovarian response and oocyte quality. This style of eating is very similar to the guidelines we offer in the Whole Mamas Pregnancy Program.
Action step: Use olive oil on salads and avocado oil for higher heat cooking like roasting. Enjoy avocado with eggs and snack on olives in between meals. Aim to include low-mercury, fatty fish like salmon and sardines at least 2-3 times a week and/or talk to your provider about taking a fish oil supplement.
Want more information on how to optimize your nutrition before conceiving? We have a FREE comprehensive preconception guide with info for you and your partner. Scroll down to the bottom of our website and sign up for our free newsletter to receive your free guide.
Hormones that feed your reproductive cycle are made from protein and fat, so ensuring you are getting the right amino acid profile with animal proteins is vital to building a robust uterine lining, supporting circulation, improving egg and sperm health.
Action step: Have a source of protein at most of your meals and snacks. If you’re a vegetarian, consider working with a nutritionist or dietitian to make sure you’re getting a variety of essential nutrients and accounting for any deficiencies.
Balance blood sugar
In general, following a higher-fat diet can help to balance insulin, as well as regulate key sex hormones such as follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone.
Action step: Follow a low-glycemic diet that prioritizes whole food sources of carbs like winter squash, sweet potatoes, legumes, lentils, and fruit. This will enable you to balance key hormones like insulin and testosterone.
Eat the rainbow
Oxidative stress can negatively impact egg and sperm health. When possible, choose foods that are high in antioxidants that actively boost your body’s ability to ward off stress.
Action step: Fill your plate with brightly colored vegetables and fruit. Vegetables like red cabbage, tomatoes, leafy greens and berries like raspberries, blueberries and blackberries are great options!
Support your liver
One of the best things you can do is to support your liver. Your liver will be working overtime to process and eliminate all the excess hormones that will be used during this time. Sulfur-rich veggies and fiber can help your liver with the detoxification process. When you’re able, choose organic options to reduce your chemical/pesticide exposure and support healthy egg and sperm development prior to conceiving. If you aren’t able to choose organic, just do your best! You can check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list, which is published every year. Prioritize organic options from the Dirty Dozen which includes fruits/veggies that are found to have the most pesticide residues.
Action step: Consume at least 2 cups of leafy greens, cauliflower, cabbage, or Brussel Sprouts every day. If you’re already doing this, try mixing things up with your veggies. Variety improves your gut microbiome!
Lastly, drinking enough water is key. Start building this happen now since you’ll want to be consuming adequate fluids before you go for IVF/IUI. Water helps flush out toxins through encouraging regular bowel movements and supports key organs, blood flow, seminal fluid and cellular health.
Action step: Consume around ½ your body weight in fluid ounces of water. Consider carrying a stainless steel or glass water bottle with you when you’re on the go and make it a goal to consume 4 cups before lunchtime.
Connect with others who understand
You certainly don’t need to change everything all at once. Choose one of the action steps above that you feel is realistic right now and build from there! If you’d like more guidance and support from mamas-to-be that are considering or actively undergoing IVF/IUI, consider joining our Whole Mamas Pregnancy Program. The group includes women of all stages of the journey. We share a similar goal of achieving a healthy pregnancy and connecting with others who just “get it.”
Angela Heap is an expert in the field of Fertility Nutrition and a qualified Nutritional Therapist from the College of Naturopathic Medicine an is a member of the British Association of Nutritional Therapists (BANT). She has also completed training around genes, epigenetics and using gene testing to help her asses the best route to improving your fertility issues, to help put all the pieces of the puzzle together in regards to your fertility. She is passionate about helping people to develop a deeper understanding about their relationship with food. Though her program and system of consultations and coaching she teaches you all you need to know to help optimize your fertility.