Today I’m sharing a personal post on what I did in preparing for IVF. Since sharing our fertility struggles I’ve received a lot of messages about this and thought, ‘why not put it together in a blog post?’
Infertility is hard, and it was really helpful for me to speak to couples who had experienced it first hand to learn how they prepared for IVF and a successful outcome.
Although I don’t have the “magic answer,” and I know that every body responds differently to treatment. There are lots of things that me AND Mitch did (yes, there’s lots men can do too) to improve fertility and in preparing for IVF that I truly believe helped in our IVF success story.
These are tips that I took from speaking to other women, and doing my own research and inquiring. I hope that you find them helpful in your journey.
Preparing for IVF
1. Learn about your diagnosis. Empower yourself.
I cannot stress enough how impactful it was to learn more about our infertility diagnosis when preparing for IVF. I spent a LOT of time on the web researching and learning.
Some people find Google a scary place – and there’s definitely a fine line. But I strongly believe that knowledge is power. It really helped me feel more informed about our diagnosis, what it entailed, and what we could do to improve our fertility to improve our chances at IVF (both through lifestyle changes and a personalized IVF protocol).
Researching your infertility diagnosis:
If you are given a diagnosis for your infertility, I strongly encourage you to research it and use credible sources to see what information is available. Start with simple and credible sites like Healthline.com, and as you gain knowledge about your diagnosis, switch to scientific journals and articles. I personally found Pubmed and ScienceDirect to be really helpful.
There are often good tips/remedies online to improve fertility (be it sperm quality, egg quality, or both). I’d encourage you to write them down and discuss with my doctor.
I encourage you as well to learn more about the IVF process in general and what to expect. This was helpful, because I knew exactly what I was getting myself into when starting IVF. I could ask my doctor and nurses targeted questions, instead of general ones, which is ideal when their time is limited.
To get you started in preparing for IVF, I highly recommend listening the podcast Big Fat Negative on iTunes or Spotify, starting with season 1. Both hosts walk us through their IVF experience while it’s happening in real time.
They also interview other couples who have undergone IVF for all various types of reasons. I learned many tips listening to these stories. The podcast also brings on a fertility specialist (Dr. Tim Childs) to answer questions from the community. Best of all, the women are funny and they often keep things light. Which is really nice when you’re going through such a difficult time.
All-in-all, it was important for me look back with no regrets, no matter the outcome. I felt I was setting myself up for success by learning on my own.
Get a second opinion? Get on the same page!
I’m often asked if we got a second opinion before doing IVF.
In our situation, we did not get a second opinion. And here’s why…
Mitch and I found our clinic to be very responsive to all of our questions, and thorough in doing multiple testing to confirm our diagnosis. We felt listened to and cared for. Ultimately, this is what’s most important.
Getting a second opinion, however, is helpful when you find that you and your clinic are not on the same page about your treatment. Our doctor was always willing to have a call with us (I tried to be very mindful of her time, and gather all my questions together). As well, the nurses were very kind and responsive.
Ultimately, I think what’s most important is that you feel that you and your doctor are on the same page! Maybe you’re not ready to start IVF and want to try a few rounds of IUI first… how does your doctor feel about this and what is their reasoning? If you feel you’re not on the same page, a second opinion is worthwhile.
2. Diet and Fertility
It’s no surprise that a healthy diet and exercise is beneficial for a host of health reasons. Fortunately, this was an area where Mitch and I are pretty well versed, and so there weren’t too many dietary/lifestyle changes that we needed to adjust when preparing for IVF.
We eat a healthy plant-based diet, with plenty of colourful fruits, vegetables, and whole foods. Our doctor felt confident that we were doing a good job in this space (her general recommendation was to increase foods rich in antioxidants – cue the fruits and vegetables – and reduce meat intake. Check!).
That said, Mitch and I definitely ate cleaner in the lead-up to IVF, and during our IVF cycle. Three months prior to starting IVF, we cut out recreational drinking (full disclosure: we aren’t big drinkers. But there was no wine or glass of whisky on weekends!) and we reduced refined foods like white sugars and flours. Think eating whole foods!
How to Improve Fertility:
Supplements for Preparing for IVF
In addition to eating a healthy diet. Mitch and I both added new supplements to our regiment when preparing for IVF. Our fertility specialist and our traditional Chinese medicine specialist, who specializes in fertility treatment, recommended the supplements below.
Here’s what we added, starting 3 months prior to doing IVF:
If you’ve never heard of this supplement before – don’t worry, I hadn’t either! CoQ10 is an enzyme our body produces to help repair cell damage, and studies show it’s helpful in improving egg quality AND sperm quality. Coq10 is predominately found in organ meats (which we don’t eat). So we took a coQ10 supplement in the lead up and during our IVF cycle.
According to Healthline, 100-600 mg are shown to boost fertility. We took a daily supplement of 400 mg. (*Note – I stopped taking this after my egg retrieval as it’s not recommended for pregnancy).
2. Vitamin D
Another supplement we added to our roster was vitamin D, which was recommended by our Chinese medicine specialist. Turns out, vitamin D is linked to better fertility and pregnancy outcomes, and most of us are deficient in this vitamin! Even those who live in sunny climates like California! I took this in pill form. Here’s a little bit of information about vitamin D and fertility.
3. Omega-3 (algae oil)
Another recommendation from our Chinese medicine specialist was to add an Omega-3 supplement to my diet. We did this via algae oil. There are many articles and studies that recommend swapping to healthy fats from trans-fats for improving fertility for men and women.
Although we already consume healthy fats in our diet through olive oil, avocado oil, nuts, seeds and avocados; we thought it worthwhile to add Algae oil with DHA + EPA to our diet as per recommendation. Here’s a little bit of information about Omega-3 and fertility.
Finally, I added selenium to my diet, taken in the form of 2 Brazil nuts a day, as per recommendation from my Chinese medicine specialist. Studies have shown its benefits for conception and pregnancy. I buy brazil nuts from the grocery store and look for ones that are raw and organic.
3. Fertility Acupuncture in Preparing for IVF
3 months prior to staring IVF, my husband and I both did acupuncture to help improve egg quality and sperm quality.
I took this recommendation from family and friends who had undergone IVF. I did acupuncture in the lead up to IVF, during my IVF cycle, embryo transfer, and in early pregnancy.
Now, there are mixed opinions regarding the benefits of acupuncture and fertility, so I encourage you to speak with your doctor if you’re interested. My doctor believed there was no harm in pursuing it, as long as we found relaxing and stress relieving.
The decision ultimately is up to you (it’s also worth checking if your work benefits/health insurance covers the cost). For me, I wanted to pursue acupuncture for IVF as I didn’t want to look back with any regrets on what I could have done to improve my odds. I truly believe it was beneficial.
If you’re interested in doing acupuncture for improving fertility and preparing for IVF, it’s worthwhile to seek out a clinic that specializes in “fertility acupuncture.” My acupuncturist has been treating women and men specifically undergoing fertility struggles for 20+ years and was so well versed in the topic. She worked on blood flow to my ovaries to improve egg quality, and to my uterus to improve lining, which I believe really contributed to the success of our egg retrieval and transfer.
How to mentally prepare for IVF:
Not to be overlooked in preparing for IVF, is the stress that IVF can take on your mental health. In fact, I found the mental aspect of infertility to be the hardest part. For me, it was harder than the physical toll of IVF. You can read more about that in my IVF success story.
So, I made a point to arm myself with techniques to help manage the stress and anxiety of undergoing IVF.
1. Yoga and meditation
I cannot reccomend enough the benefits of yoga and meditation to my mental health. In fact, I’m a pretty active person – I love dance cardio, HIIT, and running. But in the lead up to our IVF cycle, I focused on physical activity that made my mind feel good.
I spent a lot of time in the lead up to IVF practicing techniques to calm my mind through breath work, yoga and meditation, as well as nature walks. These practices helped me feel so connected to my body and present with my emotions. It’s easy to want to ignore those emotional feelings, but facing them head on was the best way for me to deal with them. (The only way out, is through).
I joined a local yoga studio (offering covid-friendly outdoor classes), which in turn helped me feel connected with nature and my body. In addition, I downloaded the app Insight Timer for good-quality meditation sessions. I highly recommend Sarah Blondin’s guided meditations, including ‘Live Awake” and “Transforming Fear.” They are so moving.
2. Fertility Affirmations
Positive affirmations were incredibly helpful at relieving anxiety during my IVF cycle, and during the two-week wait post-transfer. I wrote down a list of positive affirmations in my journal. Whenever I felt fear or anxiety arising, I would read some of the affirmations, and I instantly felt calm.
Some of the affirmations I wrote were:
- This will happen for you
- Your body is strong and knows what to do
- Your egg/embryo(s) are strong and know what to do
- Something beautiful is taking place
- You are creating a perfect egg/embryo, which will become your perfect baby
- Dare to dream it
- Trust the process
Find a few affirmations that resonate with you, and write them down. Feel free to add to mine, or they could be completely different! What’s most important is that they resonate with YOU and help you to feel grounded.
3. Get support
Finally, I highly encourage you to find your tribe to support you through this process. Infertility is not something to be ashamed of, and there is no reason to suffer in silence.
I know that it can be really hard to find people who understand exactly what you’re going through, especially if they haven’t experienced infertility first hand. However, you might be surprised who shows up in support. In fact, many of my friends who weren’t even thinking of having kids yet were the most supportive!
Seek out people in your circle who you know conceiving didn’t come easy to. This might be a family member or a friend, or even more removed like a co-worker. They truly know what you’re going through and can be an incredible source of support. Consider joining infertility groups, I joined one by My Mind Body Baby, who has a private Facebook group for women struggling to conceive.
I also sought external support from a psychotherapist. It was really nice to speak to an expert, and she provided many of the mental coping strategies that I have listed above. I understand that this is an additional cost, when IVF is already so expensive. In all honesty, I was really struggling with depression from our infertility struggles, and my husband and I decided that this type of professional help was worthwhile.
No matter where the support comes from, it’s important to have it in preparing for IVF. This is a difficult time and you deserve to know that you are loved, supported and cared for.
I hope you find these tips helpful for improving fertility in preparing for IVF. For me, it was incredibly helpful hearing from other women in the community who had struggled, and how they prepared for IVF and a successful outcome.
I also understand that I am incredibly fortunate to be able to share this blog post, as there are many couples navigating infertility struggles that were much harder to overcome than ours. And so, I do not want to downplay these challenges.
My hope is that these tips can help provide a little insight if you are navigating infertility, and shine light on some things that perhaps you haven’t explored yet. And offer tips for coping with the mental aspect of IVF too.
If there’s anything you found helpful in your infertility struggles and IVF journey, I’d love to hear from you! Please include a comment below. It’s so important that we share our knowledge and support one another.
Thank you for taking the time to read. I am wishing you SO much love and success in your fertility journey. Good luck!