Lifestyle factors for a successful IVF treatment

Explained by: Andreia Trigo, RN BSc MSc, Enhanced Fertility Programme
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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.

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

Authors
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 achieve their reproductive goals. Her mission is to improve accessibility to fertility care and support worldwide at minimal cost to populations. She is the founder of the Enhanced Fertility Programme, the evidence-based programme that improved help for fertility, currently in use by several clinics and patients worldwide.
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Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka is an International Patient Coordinator who has been supporting IVF patients for over 2 years. Always eager to help and provide comprehensive information based on her thorough knowledge and experience whether you are just starting or are in the middle of your IVF journey. She’s a customer care specialist with +10 years of experience, worked also in the tourism industry and dealt with international customers on a daily basis, including working abroad. When she’s not taking care of her customers and patients, you’ll find her travelling, biking, learning new things or spending time outdoors.

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