Even though infertility may not be something that can be completely cured with what you eat or what you do, it may still be possible to boost your fertility and aid with your chances of success with natural conception or with infertility treatments. However, it should be noted that each woman is born with a certain ovarian reserve and following puberty, a certain number of follicles from the reserve are lost each month with a menstrual cycle. It is important that you understand that nothing that you do will generate new production of follicles/oocytes in your reserves. What we are interested in is not to produce new oocytes, but rather, to get good quality oocytes from the existing reserves that have fertilization potential so that we can have a positive outcome.
We sometimes observe that some of our patients decide to follow specific “cures” such as using herbal remedies or chinese medication to restore their fertility levels. However, if you already have a highly diminished ovarian reserves, wasting too much time with herbal remedies trying to “restore” your level of fertility can in fact mean losing all of your ovarian function. While using supplements are recommended and they can complement your treatment protocols or can be prescribed prior to your treatment, solely relying on alternative medicine will not generate desired results unlike the companies marketing these products advertise.
However, there are some instances where the ovarian reserve of a woman has not been depleted and her test results indicate perfectly normal function with many potential eggs, yet, the patient still has a difficult time achieving or maintaining a healthy pregnancy. In these cases, additional testing and screening will be in order for possible underlying causes. However, sometimes, things that may seem little and unimportant can make it more difficult to achieve pregnancy. Below are some of the tips we have put together that should help you prepare for a pregnancy before and during your treatment.
1- Weight Management: Watch your weight and make sure your BMI stays within a healthy range. Excess body fat is not only detrimental to your health, but can also trigger overproduction of certain hormones that can possibly disrupt ovulation. Similarly, being underweight results in underproduction of these hormones and your body may not produce enough of them for ovulation. This means that achieving a normal weight will help you become pregnant more easily compared to when you are over or underweight.
Patients who have insulin resistance and/or PCOS may benefit from following a treatment regimen which aims to treat insulin resistance. For this, it would be best to see your endocrinologist for testing so that you can discuss which options are available to you to manage your insulin resistance and therefore weight problems. For more information on managing PCOS, please see our blog post “PCOS, Infertility and IVF Treatment“.
2- Eat Right: Make sure that you eat healthy and that you receive enough protein, iron, zinc, folic acid and Vitamin C. Deficiency in these nutrients have been associated with variations in menstrual cycles as well as miscarriages. Folic acid is especially important during pregnancy for the neural development of your baby. If your busy schedule does not allow you to measure precisely what nutrients are in your body, it will make sense to receive a daily tablet of “one a day” vitamins.
Another very important tip to know about boosting your fertility is eating more alkaline. The more acidic the body’s environment, the more difficult it us for the sperm to complete its journey and reach the egg for fertilization in the fallopian tubes. Sperm survival is dependent on the correct pH balance. Therefore, avoid foods and drinks that are too acidic and opt for a more alkaline diet. While there may be no “fertility diet” to magically cure the problem of infertility, in most cases, it’s a few small adjustments that can make a world of difference.
3- Avoid drugs, cigarettes and excessive alcohol consumption. They are not only detrimental to your health, but toxins in cigarettes and drugs can damage your eggs, negatively affect the fertilization and implantation processes and can contribute to aging of your ovaries. Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to altered levels of estrogen, which can cause implantation failures. According to a recent reseacrh study conducted on Swedish women, alcohol consumption over two drinks per day has been shown to impair fertility to a large extent. Similarly, while moderate coffee drinking has been shown to have health benefits, excessive consumption (over 5 cups of coffee a day) has been associated with decreased fertility levels according to a recent study. Experts suggest that you should stay under 250 miligrams of caffeine per day, which is equivalent to about two cups of coffee per day.
4- Avoid Stress: Clinical studies indicate that women under stress and psychological distress are less likely to conceive. There is no single prescription for stress management. You should do whatever works for you. Reading a book, yoga, meditation, short weekend getaways, writing your own book! are some examples. This is not just for women who are trying to get pregnant. Stress is a common enemy and it can manifest itself in many channels. Therefore, while having a stress-free life will not be possible in today’s lifestyles, having a comfortable place for yourself, at least for an hour a day will help relieve your stress and feel better about yourself.
5- Have sex! Regular intercourse have been shown to help with more predictable cycles and normal ovulation. Having intercourse at least once a week will help keep things in balance. Also having an active sex life and having more intercourse will increase your chances of getting pregnant. Another important reason why you shouldn’t be delaying intercourse is related to sperm quality. Abstinence by a few days can in fact help the sperm cells to perform better during intercourse, therefore, 2 to 4 days of abstinence can help optimize the sperm parameters. However, longer abstinece periods can actually hurt your chances of success by negatively affecting the sperm parameters. It has been scientifically shown that longer abstinence causes the mature sperm cells to die, lowering the number of live and viable sperm cells in the ejaculate. So while you are trying to “save up”, you might actually end up hurting your sperm parameters if you refrain from ejaculation for a long time.
There is something called a “fertile window” which is defined as the period of time during a woman’s menstrual cycle when pregnancy is most likely to occur. The fertile woman begins approximately 5/6 days prior to ovulation and ends on the day of ovulation. The most fertile period is the last three days before ovulation. Therefore, chances of pregnancy will be maximized if you have intercourse during the three days right before ovulation. Sometimes couples wait until the day of ovulation or after ovulation to have sex. However, if you would like to achieve pregnancy with natural intercourse, you should time it before ovulation.
6- Role of Multivitamins: Certain vitamins have been shown to have a positive impact on oocyte quality during clinical studies. One of these studies shows that receiving a daily dose of 500 mg Vitamin C supplementation will improve the quality of your oocytes during IVF treatment. Similarly, if you have experienced repeated IVF failures and/or recurrent miscarriages, you might be suffering from a thrombophilic defect which may cause deficiencies in zinc and B group vitamins. While it will be very important to see your doctor for further testing, using a vitamin supplement with zinc and group B vitamins will not hurt, as vitamin B is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it is urinated out if taken in more than required by the body.
7- Make sure your partner stays healthy as well! The same things that can affect your fertility are likely to affect his fertility as well. Therefore, heavy smoking, excessive drinking and eating unhealthy are never a good idea for anyone! It has been shown that receiving Vitamins C, E and Selenium are associated with production of healthier sperm. Similarly, excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption, doing drugs and exposure to radiation have been proven to negatively affect sperm parameters. Some men also tend to use anabolic steroids when working out at the gym in order to quickly gain muscle weight. Scientific evidence shows that using anabolic steroids negatively affect sperm parameters and can very commonly cause azoospermia. It is very important to stay away from steroids and any supplements of this sort.
While this list is not a comprehensive list of what you should or shouldn’t do, it provides helpful recommendations for couples trying to get pregnant. However, please keep in mind that solution to the problem of infertility can only be obtained by seeing a fertility specialist. Doing things on this list may help you get pregnant easier, but will not guarantee a pregnancy. There are many infertility problems that cannot be fixed with these recommendations. For these, you need to seek expert opinion. Views that are shared here are for guidance purposes only and they do not aim to replace medical testing and/or medical treatments. North Cyprus IVF Center’s specialists are here to answer any questions you may have about your fertility problems.