Healthy Living and Healthy Eating – Preparing for IVF

So you’ve been to the doctor and the recommendation is IVF. No doubt you will have many thoughts rushing through your mind. Taking hormones, needles in the stomach, nasal spray to create a temporary state of menopause. It is all pretty scary stuff. Whether the cause of fertility is male factor or female factor the treatment for the most part is the same. The main difference is, if male factor infertility they may recommend ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection). This process is when the healthiest sperm is chosen based on morphology (shape) motility and mobility, and injected into the egg.

There are many protocols for IVF cycles however all are classified into either antagonistic (having the opposite effect to your body) and agonistic. An agonist drug is that which binds to a receptor of a cell and triggers a response by the cell and often mimics the action of a naturally occurring substance. An agonist produces an action. It is the opposite of an antagonist which acts against and blocks an action.

Below I have listed an example of an IVF protocol

1. Contraceptive pill for the first month (sometimes this is omitted)
2. Suppression of own hormones using nasal spray or tablets (Please note: some types of cycles do not require this suppression, your IVF specialist will decide which treatment is appropriate for you) This inhibits the stimulation of FSH to inhibit ovulation so the follicles that are growing from the stimulating injections are not matured and released by the body.
3. Follicle growth (stimulation by injections)
4. Ovulation timing (based on blood tests and size of follicles which are determined by ultra scan)
5. HCG injection given to enable follicles that are growing to mature in time for egg pickup. This is normally injected 38 hours prior to egg pickup.
6. Collecting the eggs from the follicles. Patient is given a general anaesthetic for this procedure.
7. Collection and preparation of sperm
8. Insemination of eggs with sperm
9. Assessment of fertilisation
10. Embryo transfer to the uterus (day 2 to day 3)
11. If not embryo then blastocyst transfer (day 5)
12. Embryo or blastocyst freezing if available.
13. Blood test to confirm pregnancy at approximately 16days after egg pickup.
14. If pregnancy is confirmed, further blood tests and an ultrasound will be required. Celebration time…..YIPEEE!!

So how can healthy living and healthy eating help you with preparation? By the time you are referred to IVF you more than likely had a belly full of albeit good intention none the less irritating suggestions on how to get pregnant and for most of you, you have read up on what can help and what to avoid. It’s a taxing process emotionally, physically and financially and if the first attempt is not successful this can chip away at the foundation of hope and excitement experienced during the first cycle.

So what can I offer you in advice? The intention of this blog is to bring together a plan for your IVF project. It may be odd to view it as a project but it is a project one which offers hope and excitement and you are the project manager. You may feel you are in the hands of professionals and there is little else you can do for yourself but actually there is a lot you still have control of.

Healthy Preparation for your IVF project – This entails what you need to take as a supplement and what you will find in food. If you were going to train for a marathon or aspire to lose weight you would follow a nutritional diet protocol. So why not apply the same logic preparing for IVF.

  • If you are the female, you will need to prepare nutritionally for pregnancy by taking a prenatal product three month prior to the commencement of IVF.  Make sure the one you chose has iodine and folic acid.
  • Both of you will also need to consume 1300mg of calcium each day. You can achieve this by consuming three serves (200ml = one serve) of low fat milk, a 200mg serve of low fat yoghurt and handful of raw nuts and seeds. The milk added to cereal and smoothies can be counted by not the milk added to coffee or tea. Read the label of the milk you drink and the yoghurt you consume. The calcium available per serve is listed on the label. Normally is approximately 300ml of calcium per serve.
  • Omegas 3 –Very important for both of you. It aids preconception care both prior and during IVF. It’s great for the heart and reduces inflammation and the DHA component of Omega 3 aids healthy sperm. After egg pickup you will be tender and reducing inflammation will aid the recovery. Sardines, eggs and Atlantic salmon are great sources of Omega-3. Patient that don’t like any of these foods I recommend a supplement. Most of my patients have a supplement on the days they don’t eat omega-3 in their diet ensuring they have a daily dose. You’re preparing for IVF so opt for a really good quality product one which boasts of European standard of manufacturing and requires refrigeration upon opening if liquid. Liquid forms offer the greatest strengths.
  • Magnesium is essential. You can get it in food however you will also need it in a supplement. It’s a mineral when low will affect the absorption of other nutrients at a cellular level. It’s a mineral which is quickly used by the body when under stress. IVF is stressful. Research show it aids with implantation.
  • CQ10 known as Coenzyme Q-10 or ubiquinone. This will be needed in a supplement and some pre conception products it’s included in the formula. CQ10 diminishes with age. Its specific role is to produce ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), a substance for the energy production in cells. Aids in protecting against free radical damage to cells and DNA.
  • Vitamin C – This is required in a supplement. It will reduce inflammation and also help with healthy connective tissue. It doesn’t stay in the body for very long and when taken every day it will start to have an impact at a tissue level. It will help with the reduction of inflammation and help with healing. The strength of each dose would be based on your weight and the formula you chose. You will need at least 1000 to 3000mg a day.
  • Have your vitamin D tested. Healthy levels are needed for both of you for a healthy pregnancy. This requires a referral from your doctor for a blood test. Once you have your blood test results make sure you know what your levels are and see a naturopath if it is not in a healthy range. Please find link below displaying optimal levels. http://www.d3drops.com.au/findout/optimum-d3-status
  • Give up smoking- Everyone is a winner here.
  • Give up alcohol- You want your liver to be as healthy as possible. Your liver metabolises the drugs associated with IVF so it makes sense to have it as healthy as possible.  A healthy liver will aid healthy DNA which effects sperm and egg quality.
  • No coffee – this is a form of contention for some. However there both pros and cons for not drink coffee when trying to conceive. I believe when embarking on your IVF project, don’t leave anything to chance. Coffee doesn’t help with stress levels and you can easily search on the internet to find it’s not conducive to aiding conception.

Healthy Eating – The diet plan

Omega 3 – healthy levels found in Atlantic salmon, sardines and eggs.

Calcium – three glasses of low fat milk, 200mg approx of low fat yoghurt.

A serve of fresh salad each day.

A serve of vegetables each day.

Don’t use manufactured dressings but try making your own with olive oil and lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.

At least three pieces of fruit a day.

Drink the right amount of water. This will aid circulation and also keep the muscles fibres free and flexible not sticky. Please click on link below for hydration calculation.


Have two serves of complete protein. All protein is comprised of amino acids. Some of these amino acids our bodies can make and others we can’t and required them in diet. Complete protein consists of the amino acids your body cannot make. Anything from the animal kingdom is comprised of complete protein as well as mixing cereals with legumes or legumes with nuts.

Three serves of lean red meat each week. Kangaroo is very lean and the iron content is high. Raw beetroot, green leafy vegetables and pulses have healthy levels of iron as well.

Be adventurous with your grains. Make bread from spelt, add quinoa to your salads or use instead of rice for curries.

Serve of raw nuts and seeds daily – such as pepitas, sunflowers, almonds, pistachios and no more than four Brazil nuts a day.

Healthy Eating for Healthy Sperm –I have copied below a link to another blog where I specifically wrote about Healthy Eating for Healthy Sperm.


Stress Release- Aim to have this in place prior to the commencement of your IVF project. Please find following some suggestions.

• Massage fortnightly or whatever you decide works for you.

• Meditation.

• Date night with your partner.

• Watching a really funny movie weekly (I found Bridesmaids hilarious and prior to that Death at a Funeral).

• Reiki.

• Counselling. It’s very important to have this in place prior to the commencement of your cycle especially if you and your partner have made the decision not to tell anybody. Some people are happy for others to know and others view it as private. The choice is yours however this is an experience that is taxing emotionally and professional support is a wonderful foundation.

• Yoga – best to find one that also offers yoga for pregnancy so you don’t have to change.

• Walks along the beach front daily. There is something soothing in watching waves tumbling in and out against the shore.

• Walks in the forests on a sunny afternoon after it has stopped raining. More enjoyable if you wear sensible shoes.

Exercise – This is also something you would have started prior (3 to 6months earlier, the early the better) to the commencement of your IVF project. Consider employing a personal trainer so your partner and you can work out together, or design a walking program, or swimming, running (but be mindful to rest during the cycle or just walk) or cycling. The aim is to be as healthy as possible and this includes physical fitness. Once the cycle starts and you are in the process of injections then you may find you need to just rest. Or a gentle walk will suffice. Remember your ovaries are been stimulated growing more follicles and eggs than normal so you may feel bloated and tender and resting is fine. It’s what you have done up to this point that will make the difference.

What To Do if your IVF cycle is not successful –This is heart breaking for both you and your partner. For the woman it is especially hard as the disappointment of not being pregnant is being dealt with by a body still surging with hormones.

Take time to grieve. Allow yourself to vent your emotions either thru counselling, a friend, running or exercising…crying helps. Nobody can guarantee you 100% success, not even an IVF clinician. Why some people are parents and others are not is part of the mystery of life.

Once you have dealt with the disappointment then think about your next step. Do you want to have a break? Are you ready to try again? Do you need a different approach? These are decisions only you can make. You don’t need to rush but you do need to keep the channels of communication open between you and your partner.

I am a great believer for those resting in between cycles to see a naturopath to help balance your hormones and get you both feeling healthy again. The greatest gift you can give to your child is healthy DNA.

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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