Improve Your IVF Cycle – How to Be Successful

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Improve Your IVF Cycle:

How to Be Successful

Wondering how to improve your IVF cycle? The journey is a REALLY big one. For most couples, and especially women, it stretches them financially, physically, and emotionally. IVF often comes after several stressful years of attempting to conceive naturally. IVF can be amazing for some. It can help them to achieve their desire to have a family. Success rates vary according to age, health, and reproductive health. The rates also vary between fertility doctors and clinics. Overall, success rates sit around 30%. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to enhance chance the of a successful cycle:

Preconception Care

All couples trying to conceive, naturally or with medical assistance, should spend a few months preparing their body to be in optimal health. This preparation is ideal for quick easy conception, healthy eggs and sperm, a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Optimising your fertility enhance your chance of becoming pregnant within a short time frame. It will also reduce the chance of miscarriage, and reduce the incidence of asthma, allergies and health issues in your child. This is something we do for couples trying naturally and for IVF.  A preconception care plan will address any hormonal irregularities, underlying imbalances in your health, increase your abdominal circulation, improve gamete (egg and sperm) quality, and assist on your journey to prepare physically, emotionally and spiritually to welcome a child in to your life.

Plans can look different depending on the practitioner you are working with.  Generally, plans will include approximately 3 months of treatment along with some diet and lifestyle modifications, quality supplements and/or herbs, and with me, acupuncture.  I will talk about that a little further down.

Preparation

Given how invasive, stressful and expensive IVF cycles can be, preparation is key. Spending 3 months preparing yourself to ensure your best chance of conceiving is a worthwhile investment. It helps with reducing the chance of miscarriage, as well as assisting the future health of your child. For a more detailed look at the benefits of preconception care, you can check out my website, here.

Improving Your Stress Response

If you have been trying to conceive for a while you will be aware that stress is a major barrier to fertility. Our current culture and lifestyle emphasises a very busy and masculine way of existing in the world.  Our lives are filled to the brim. We tend to feel guilty for taking time out (“I really should be…”). We push ourselves to soldier on through tiredness and illness, and even take pride in it. into to this mix high pressure jobs, caffeine, complex family arrangements. This accumulation of both physiological and psychological stress has a profound effect on our overall health, and particularly on hormone balance. This lifestyle is contrary to what we need to make space physically and emotionally to welcome a baby.

One of the most important things to do when trying to conceive is to slow down. Making space in your life, being present, connecting to your feminine essence can be very useful to invite a baby in.  It will help ensure that your body is at its most receptive to an IVF cycle. Some ideas about how to do this include taking time out for yourself each day to do something pleasurable. Consider meditating or guided relaxations, journalling, yoga, gentle excercise, acupuncture to moderate stress hormones, as an example. Most importantly, be sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Before you start IVF, implementing tools to manage your stress and getting adequate sleep are key to optimising your fertility.

Sex

Continuing to have sex with your partner can play an important role in your journey to have a baby. This is true even if this is not how you will conceive. Sex is important for all couples, both same sex and heterosexual. Whether you are trying to conceive naturally or with IVF, regular sex helps to improve circulation to the reproductive organs, decrease stress hormones, and continue a feeling of connection.

For heterosexual couples, there are some additional benefits. Regular exposure to semen has been shown to modify the immune system so that a woman’s body is more receptive to pregnancy. Also, semen exposure around the time of embryo transfer aids embryo implantation and development. For more info, visit this article.  In addition, regular sex (or ejaculation) also helps reduce DNA fragmentation rates in sperm leading to a significant increase in sperm quality to aid in conception rates, reduce chromosomal problems in any embryos and reduce miscarriage rates.

Most of all, the benefits of regular sex for conceiving are numerous and fascinating,  you can see a full post on this topic here.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is one of the most powerful tools you can use to increase your chances of a successful IVF cycle.  A significant amount of research is focused on acupuncture around the time of embryo transfer, and this has shown to increase live pregnancy rates (http://www.bmj.com/content/336/7643/545). However, the most benefit is seen when acupuncture is used regularly in the lead up as part of preconception care, where egg and sperm quality can be influenced and hormones can be regulated, and we can improve blood circulation and enhance the circulation of oxygen and nutrients to the reproductive organs.  Preliminary research indicates that this has a more even more substantial impact on pregnancy and live birth rates when used in combination with IVF (http://www.rbmojournal.com/article/S1472-6483(15)00092-9/abstract), then when acupuncture is used with embryo transfer alone.

Acupuncture can influence all the important systems in fertility. Therefore, as mentioned above, it can increase several factors. Such as, circulation, improve egg and sperm quality, improve uterine health and endometrial lining, regulate hormones, reduce inflammation, improve blood quality, soothe the nervous system and regulate the immune system. It is becoming increasingly clear that benefits of acupuncture are cumulative and dose dependent. For the best results, especially to influence egg and sperm quality, a course of treatment over 3 months is optimal, possibly longer for some cases of imbalance, like PCOS, endometriosis, auto immune disease.

Embryo Transfer

There are ways to improve your IVF cycle, and an experienced practitioner can assist you with optimising your own health.  Embryo Transfer and the 2-week wait is one of those key, times for a couple. Here is my checklist of things to aid a positive result:

DO 

  • Have acupuncture in the llead-up on the day of transfer & again 4 days after
  • Eat lots of good quality, nourishing, whole foods
  • Have sex the morning before transfer, and anytime from 12 hours after ET to reduce stress hormones and prime the immune system for a pregnancy
  • Find time each day to relax, eg do some meditation, a guided relaxation, read a book etc
  • Take quality omega 3 & quality prenatal (Quality is very important)
  • Take time off work 3 to 5 days where possible
  • Keep warm, especially your abdomen and lower back
  • Eat fresh pineapple, including the core, approx 1/4 small pineapple per day as bromelain & vitamin C both may aid implantation
  • Spend time each day on gratitude journal or  focusing on some positive affirmations or visualisation
  • Get 8 to 9 hours sleep each night

AVOID 

  • Coffee, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, sugar, trans fats
  • Heavy lifting: shopping, loads of washing
  • Strenuous excercise, including housework (yes, really!)
  • Sauna’s, hot tubs, jacuzzis, hot baths, spas
  • Horseback riding, trampolining, or significant bouncing activity
  • Swimming (for a couple of days)

Finally, this is not a definitive list for optimising your odds of a successful IVF cycle. This is a big topic. An individualised plan to improve your health and fertility will give you the best chance of having a successful IVF cycle. However, these are a few basics that are applicable to most people. In conclusion, if you would like more information, get in touch here.

Also, I lead workshops highlighting how to Get Your Body Baby Ready, and can help you formulate an individual plan to enhance your own fertility and maximise your chances of conception.

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