Lifestyle factors for a successful IVF treatment

Andreia Trigo, RN BSc MSc
Founder of Enhanced Fertility Programme, Enhanced Fertility Programme

Emotions and Support

Can lifestyle increase your chances for a successful treatment?
From this video you will find out:
  • What are the 6 modifiable risk factors?
  • What is the impact of lifestyle on fertility and conception?
  • What is a mindfulness-based intervention?
  • Where to find evidence-based information that can help me?
  • How to find experts who can support me emotionally and physically?



How can I boost my IVF chances by improving my lifestyle?

In this webinar, Andreia Trigo, RN, is discussing lifestyle factors for a successful IVF treatment.

Modifiable risk factors

1. Weight

According to the speaker, regardless of the recommendations to either gain or lose weight to improve fertility. However, neither a mechanism nor support is usually given to patients to help them achieve that goal. Research is said to state that the best range for fertility is a body mass index (BMI) of 20 to 24 known as the fertility zone for weight.

The risk of infertility is highest among those at the lowest and highest ends of the BMI distribution. A higher risk of ovulatory disorder infertility was observed for underweight women as well as women with obesity.

  • Women who have a body mass index of 30 or over are likely to take longer to conceive.
  • Women who have a BMI of less than 19 should be advised that increasing body weight is likely to improve their chances of conception
  • Men who have a BMI of 30 or over should be informed that they are likely to have reduced fertility

2. Nutrition

According to the nurse’s study by Harvard University. It identified what matters when trying to conceive.

  • Avoid trans fats
  • Use more unsaturated vegetable oils
  • Turn to vegetable protein (broccoli, avocado, peas)
  • Choose slow carbs (whole grains, vegetables, whole fruits)
  • Make it whole milk
  • Take a multivitamin (folic acid)
  • Get plenty of iron from plants
  • Drink to your health

3. Physical activity

Physical activity is defined as any body movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure. However, exercise is a type of physical activity that is planned, repetitive, and structured to maintain or improve one component of physical fitness. In addition, sedentary behavior tendencies should be reconsidered as they comprise time spent in periods of little or no movement while awake.

Depending on the intensity of physical activity, a series of benefits were associated with the duration of it. For instance, vigorous and moderate exercise is associated with a reduced risk of miscarriage and an increase in the chance of having a baby in women who undergo ART. In the same way, even low to moderate exercise is also associated with increased implantation rates in women undergoing assisted reproduction techniques.

  • To try:
    • Yoga
    • Dancing
    • Leisure bike riding
    • Aerobics
    • Jogging
    • Swimming
    • 30 minutes walks
  • To avoid:
    • Hot Yoga
    • Boot-camp training
    • Extreme running

4. Caffeine & Alcohol

Caffeine is said to be one of the most psychoactive components that is also easily distributed in the body. Drinking no more than two cups of coffee per day is recommended for individuals trying to conceive.

As regards alcohol, the current recommendations are known for dismissing the consumption as much as possible.

  • Heavy drinking increases the time it takes to get pregnant and can affect a developing baby’s health
  • For women trying to conceive, not drinking alcohol is the safest option
  • Men trying to conceive should limit alcohol to no more than 14 units a week

5. Mindfulness

It is usually described as a process of paying attention on purpose, in the present moment non non-judgmentally to allow the unfolding of the moment-by-moment experiences, highly recommended for couples with infertility.

Emotional adjustment in couples with infertility is complex as couples have to deal with:

  • Stress of infertility diagnosis
  • Infertility associated with identity crisis
  • Dealing with the ongoing fertility treatment
  • High possibility of unsuccessful treatment cycles
  • Choosing treatment options
  • Uncertainty of outcomes of consecutive cycles
  • Unwanted effects (e.g. repeated cycles, multiple gestations, high rates of miscarriage)

Evidence shows that mindfulness-based interventions can have a positive impact on experiences of infertility. These consist of one session per week and the duration may range from 8 to 12 weeks.



- Questions and Answers

Is a BMI of 27 acceptable?

The ideal BMI for conception is up to 20-24, however, if your BMI is 27, what you can do is try and see in your diet or your physical activity if there’s anything that you can change. If your BMI is 27, but you have a regular menstrual cycle, and if you don’t have any fertility problems, then there’s nothing wrong with having a BMI of 27. If you have irregular cycles or ovulation problems moving from 27 to a bit lower down can move you closer to having more regular ovulation and making it more likely to conceive.

What is the best BMI for a surrogate to have our embryo implant and lead to a healthy birth for both SM and baby? Anything she should do differently if a natural pregnancy would occur?

We’re talking here about a third person carrying the baby, but there is nothing too much different that she should do compared to natural pregnancy, so her BMI would still ideally be between that range of 20-24. Just having natural healthy nutrition because everything she eats is ultimately the energy and the nutrients that the baby will get. She needs to take all the multivitamins and the folic acid as well. A normal natural pregnancy would follow those same recommendations. If you’re choosing a surrogate with a healthy BMI would definitely be better for the baby and also for her because increased BMI comes with all sorts of pregnancy risks as well for the surrogate in terms for example of high blood pressure during pregnancy, which can be a very big problem or the risk of diabetes or increase on having a baby with low or high weight. When you’re looking for a surrogate, choosing someone who has that healthier BMI range would be the best choice.

Is it OK to eat a lot of eggs, corn?

Corn is absolutely fine, eggs it’s also okay to eat them. They are a good source of protein. A lot for someone could be eating one egg every day, but for someone else, it could be eating I don’t know 3-4 eggs a day, so it just means what a lot is. Having an egg as a replacement for other sources of protein. For example, having 2 eggs a day should be fine. Corn is fine as well, so it comes in a very natural form, so you can either boil it, or you can stick it in the oven, and there’s not a lot of processing to do with corn, so you can eat that.

Which is better, folic acid or folate?

If we look at the medical recommendations worldwide, they talk about folic acid. In a sense, most research has been done on folic acid supplements, so that’s what they are recommending, but it’s not only about folic acid, it’s all about eating the green vegetables that can give you folate in the natural form. We’re eating these green vegetables, and we’re taking folic acid supplements. Some people do not process folic acid as other people. This might be tested with a blood test to see if it’s building up in your system if you’re not being able to process it. It would be best to have supplemented with folate if you don’t know if you are processing it or not. You just need to look at the supplements you’re taking and see if they say methyl folate or folic acid. For the majority of the population, folic acid will be fine, but there’s a smaller percentage of people who absorb methyl folate supplements better.

How do you know that your body has problems absorbing folic acid and when to switch to folate?

You can do a test to see if you are being able to process it or not. That’s something that usually a nutritionist or even your GP could request to see, or you can just start taking supplements that have methyl folate instead of folic acid.

Is cheese ok to eat in moderation?

Cheese has a lot of those unhealthy fats, so it’s okay to eat a small amount of cheese or maybe choose a cheese that is lower in fat. It would be best not to eat it every day. I don’t want you to avoid everything or thrive for an ultimate diet that is impossible to maintain. It’s best to make small changes and eat healthy 80% of the time, and still, 20% of the time, allow yourself to eat the things that also bring you a bit of joy to your life. We’re trying to do something that we can maintain long term as opposed to doing a diet for a couple of weeks, which is not good for your body. We want to try and find something that works long term.

Does caffeine impact the quality of eggs? Or should it only be avoided shortly before /during transfer?

We don’t know. The research hasn’t nailed down the exact impact it has, but it shows that if you take more than two coffees a day, the time to pregnancy seems to be longer. I think that it may affect some of those steps before implantation has happened, so it’s best to stick up to two cups of coffee a day even before transfer.

There might be a month between my egg collection and transfer. How important is it to eat super healthy during that month? Can I relax a bit from my strict diet now, or shall I continue it?

You don’t need to have a super healthy strict diet but try to eat healthy 80% of the time, that’s what I would say because we don’t want to start drinking 4-5 cups of coffee or getting drunk or anything like that just before embryo transfer all of a sudden. I don’t think you need to be super strict with your diet now. You can allow yourself to relax a bit but not to go completely overboard to the other end, trying to find something that works for you and that maybe you can maintain something that you can pass on to your baby as this is good for you, and your family.

Does taking CoQ10, vitamin D, and A, C help and improve chances, and how much?

Those are antioxidants. CoQ10 is an antioxidant that can be helpful, we haven’t talked about oxidative stress, but it’s one of the factors that can affect fertility, mostly male fertility. It can affect it because our body produces these toxins, and our body has a natural detox system that gets rid of those toxins. However, sometimes when our body produces a lot of it, our cells may not have the ability to dispose of those toxins with our natural detox system. Especially if we have an infection or a medical problem or are exposed to certain environmental factors like smoking, drinking, etc. Taking certain antioxidants seems to be helpful. It helps men more because sperm are sensitive to the oxidative stress problem. I would say that CoQ10 can help, it’s not the formula that that will help everyone but if you are exposed to certain factors that cause oxidative stress, and you’re not being able to limit it, and the key is always to limit the exposure to oxidative stress as much as possible. Taking CoQ10 can help as vitamin D, which can be helpful, particularly if you live in countries where there isn’t much sunlight. It’s about finding what works for you and what are your body needs are in terms of the things that you are exposed to, the things that you cannot be changed by lifestyle, and taking some of these supplements can be helpful.

Should we avoid red meat?

Yes, so red meat has more saturated fats that accumulate in our arteries, so if you eat meat, it’s best to eat meat like turkey or chicken, white meat seems to be better.

Is decaffeinated coffee not harmful at all?

I’m not sure if it’s not harmful at all, but it has less caffeine in it, so in that sense, I think it would be a good replacement for someone who maybe feels they need to have that coffee taste, for example, in the morning switching to decaffeinated coffee might be a bit easier than just totally avoiding it. I think it’s definitely best to try to find solutions that work for you and that don’t leave you completely overwhelmed instead of finding a very strict diet that you’re not able to do or that leaves you more stressed or overwhelmed about the whole journey.

How soon before treatment should we start the diet? Is it healthy to lose some weights 2 or 3 kg short before starting the treatment?

I would say that ideally, it’s best to start a healthy lifestyle three months before treatment because it takes overall three months of doing something routinely for us to start noticing the impact on our bodies. When we think about sperm formation, it takes 74 days, so roughly 3 months to form new sperm. Whatever we are exposed to or eating will affect the sperm collected in 3 months to be used in treatment. In terms of our eggs in every cycle, we also depend on our hormones. They trigger our follicles to grow and the main follicle to ovulate. We need to have our hormones balanced, and that again depends on what we eat, so if you allow yourself 3 months, that would be ideal, so you can make sure you have the best possible eggs and sperm for the doctors to have treatment. Losing weight quickly is not good because your body will immediately shut down your reproductive system, so we don’t want you to lose 2 or 3 kilos in a week, so it depends on what we’re talking about short before starting treatment. We want to lose weight healthily, so if we’re talking about losing 3 kilos over 3 months, that’s fine with a healthy balanced diet. Make sure that you’re still giving your body the nutrition it needs, we don’t want to do any diets that will put your body into a survival mode.
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Andreia Trigo, RN BSc MSc

Andreia Trigo, RN BSc MSc

Andreia Trigo is a multi-awarded nurse consultant, author and TEDx speaker. Combining her medical experience and her own infertility journey, she developed unique strategies to help people undergoing similar challenges to achieve their reproductive goals. Her mission is to improve accessibility to fertility care and support worldwide at minimal cost to populations. She is also The Founder & Director of Enhanced Fertility Programme, the evidence-based programme that improved help for fertility, currently in use by several clinics and patients worldwide.
Event Moderator
Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka is managing MyIVFAnswers.com and has been hosting IVFWEBINARS dedicated to patients struggling with infertility since 2020. She's highly motivated and believes that educating patients so that they can make informed decisions is essential in their IVF journey. In the past, she has been working as an International Patient Coordinator, where she was helping and directing patients on their right path. She also worked in the tourism industry, and dealt with international customers on a daily basis, including working abroad. In her free time, you’ll find her travelling, biking, learning new things, or spending time outdoors.
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