The best guide to a successful IVF process: medications, sex, diet, chemicals, and more.
For most persons, IVF becomes a “go-to” when every other fertility options fail. IVF or in vitro fertilization is a medical process involving the fertilization of an egg from a female and sperm from a male outside the body resulting in a biological baby.
The result from the fertilization process is an embryo, a little baby and it is usually kept frozen or transferred to the uterus or womb giving rise to a fetus.
Before, during, and after an IVF cycle, there are different things that take place in your body. Asides from being physically draining, expensive, and time-consuming, IVF can cause a lot of emotions- anxiety, uncertainty, and sadness are quite common ones.
Two weeks into your preparation, your body may feel weak, different and you probably wouldn’t understand how you feel. Also, emotional feelings will be doubled, if not tripled- know that you are not alone.
That is why it is of utmost importance to ensure that your body is strong, healthy, functioning at its best, and 101 percent ready for this mild and yet intense medical procedure. 30 days into your IVF cycle is the best time to get your body ready, on the mark, and set for this process.
What is an IVF cycle?
Ever heard of the IVF cycle? An IVF cycle involves several stages in preparation for the main procedure. The stages involve little lifestyle changes, medications, and regular shots of hormones.
Below is an explanation of all the stages as well as their duration. Let’s begin!
This stage begins 2 to 4 weeks prior to the commencement of your IVF cycle. In this stage, lifestyle changes such as eating healthily, taking adequate sleep and proper rest, reducing stress, avoiding alcohol and smoking, and more –all of this is done to ensure you are super healthy.
Your fertility specialist may decide to take you on medications to ensure your menstrual cycle is regular instead of irregular. This is because an irregular menstrual cycle may make ovulation irregular and hard to track, and as such, you are unaware of when you are most fertile and ready to release an egg.
When all of these are taken care of, all of the remaining stages become easier.
Fortunately, this stage takes just a day to complete. Do note that the first day of your IVF (day 1) is the first day of your period closest to when your IVF treatment has been fixed by your doctor.
So, any day of your period that is the closest to the scheduled day for the commencement of your IVF treatment is marked as day 1.
You need to begin your period to start.
From about 3 to 12 days, this stage begins. At this stage, fertility drugs will be given to you by your doctor. The purpose of the fertility drug is to stimulate your ovaries and propel them to release more eggs than they are supposed to.
An injection called the “pregnancy hormone” or also called, human gonadotrophin (HCG). What this hormone does is assist your ovaries in releasing eggs. After the injection, wait for 36 hours.
If you need to set an alarm or tell your partner to remind you, do it. This is because you have to be available at exactly the time (36 hours) to remove or harvest the eggs.
Just like stage 1, the 4th stage takes a day too, the only difference being that it has two parts. Sperm would have been made available by your partner or a donor. If at all it’s not available, your doctor will ensure that while harvesting your eggs, the sperm is being prepared.
After the fertilization of the eggs, you will start taking a hormone called progesterone. The purpose of this hormone is to prepare your womb for a successful and healthy pregnancy and to also minimize the risk of miscarriage.
In this stage, your healthy embryo will be inserted into your womb which is where it rightfully belongs till after the 9th month.
You do not have to feel scared or uncertain about this stage. The insertion of an embryo into your womb is an easy procedure and you wouldn’t feel anything while it’s being done.
At about 9 to 12 days later, you will have to visit your doctor. Your doctor will carry out a scan to check on your embryo so you will see how well rested it is in your womb.
Also, a blood test will be done to observe your pregnancy hormone levels.
Simple lifestyle changes for IVF
Lifestyle changes have to be made in order to ensure your body is at its healthiest during your IVF cycle, pregnancy, and for your overall health.
What to eat during IVF?
There is really no special food to eat during the IVF process but it is best to focus on consuming healthy and nutrient-dense foods.
There is no need to skip meals or get involved in a keto or gluten-free diet if you were not on any special diet. All you have to do is pack up on balanced meals.
We encourage you rather be involved in a Mediterranean kind of diet since it contains enough nutrient that is beneficial and essential for your body.
A Mediterranean diet has been linked to successful IVF rates among women who are under 35 years old with a healthy weight.
Although more study is needed to prove that a Mediterranean diet actually boosts the rate of IVF success, it wouldn’t hurt to fill up on the right nutrients.
Some easy dietary changes to make in relation to the Mediterranean diet includes:
- Consume lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Fill up on legumes such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas
- Lean proteins like fish and poultry are best for you
- Instead of salt, choose flavorful foods rich in herbs and spices
- Add in healthy fats as they are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Healthy fats include avocado, nuts (walnut, cashew nut, hazelnut), seeds (flaxseed), extra-virgin olive oil
- Try low-fat dairy products instead
- Eat quinoa, whole grain pasta, brown rice, and faro. They are healthy whole grains.
Exercising during IVF
Exercising during pregnancy isn’t bad for you or the baby. In fact, exercising ensures you have a healthy body mass index (BMI) and maintain a healthy weight- and this is great for a healthy womb.
Most pregnant women worry a lot that exercising may affect their baby negatively. Well, there is no need to worry as you could still continue your normal fitness regimen.
But, if you are a runner, it’s best to cut down on the number of miles per week.
At least, run for 15 miles a week. The issue with running is that it could have bad effects on the thickening of the womb lining and may also reduce the quantity of blood in the womb and share it with other organs and muscles in the body when the reproductive system actually needs it the most.
It is best to replace your running with other exercises such as spinning, light jogging, hiking, etc.
What chemicals to steer clear from and products to ditch?.
Yes, they are certain chemicals as well as products to avoid. These items are made with endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCS).
This type of chemical affects reproductive health, prenatal development, and hormones – meaning they are not good for your health and that of the baby’s.
We advise that you carefully check the labels of the products you use daily and if they contain this chemical, switch to a better and natural alternative.
Chemicals you should avoid and their location includes:
- BPA and other phenols: found in materials used to package food
- Formaldehyde: found in nail polish
- Brominated flame retardants: found in electronics, yoga mats, furniture, and clothing
- Phthalates: found in plastics, cosmetics with fragrance, medication coatings
- Perfluorinated compounds: found in nonstick cooking items/tools
- Parabens, benzophenone, and triclosan: found in soap, moisturizers, perfumes, and cosmetics
- Dioxins: found in meat, art clay, and dairy
Are there medications that could interfere with fertility drugs?
Yes. There are medications that could interfere with fertility drugs. If at all, you are on any form of medication, it’s best to talk to your doctor about it. Even simple drugs like over-the-counter supplements, ibuprofen, a daily allergy pill, prescriptions should be reported to your doctor.
This is because certain medications could cause hormonal imbalances which could affect your IVF cycle. These medications could also interfere with fertility drugs and make IVF treatment less effective and further increase your chance for a miscarriage.
Below is a list of medications that could trigger an ineffective IVF and interfere with fertility drugs. Avoid them and ask your doctor for possible alternatives that is best for you during the IVF cycle and pregnancy, that is if any of the medications apply to you.
These medications include:
- Steroids used to treat asthma or lupus
- Antidepressants used for depression, anxiety, and some mental health disorders
- Anti-seizure medications.
- Skin products especially the ones containing estrogen or progesterone
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Thyroid medications
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), whether prescribed or over-the-counter.
Can I take supplements during IVF?
Yes. There are some natural supplements you could take during an IVF. These supplements can help in supporting pregnancy.
Start by taking a prenatal vitamin a few months or 30 days before your IVF cycle to boost your folic acid intake. Folic acid is an essential vitamin that protects against nasal defects in a developing fetus.
Also, your partner can take prenatal vitamins to boost sperm health.
Other supplements to take include fish oil to boost embryonic development. Also, take vitamin D supplements before your IVF cycle if your vitamin D levels are low to protect against defects.
Always ensure whatever supplement you consume is safe by checking labels for an NSF international certification and also reviewing such supplements with your doctor. This is important as the supplements will be a part of your nutrition and healthy nutrition is essential for a successful pregnancy.
How many hours of sleep is necessary during an IVF?
Sleep and fertility are linked together. Prioritizing sleep is necessary as it can support your entire IVF cycle.
Getting at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep can boost successful pregnancy. The best time to fall asleep is between 10 pm to 11 pm. This is because a hormone called melatonin, usually responsible for the regulation of sleep and production is at its peak during 9 pm and 12 am.
In order to sleep properly and adequately, we have compiled 7 tips to help you sleep better.
- Make use of essential oils either in your bedroom or the shower
- Listen to music that is soft, slow, and relaxing
- Try stretching before bedtime. You could try simple yoga stretches.
- Limit the use of screen time at least 30 minutes before bedtime to avoid distractions. This includes phones, laptops, and television
- Avoid consuming caffeine at least 4 to 6 hours before sleep. This is because caffeine can cause sleeping disturbances and disorder
- Take a warm shower or soak in a hot bath for few minutes before bedtime.
- Avoid eating 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
Dos and don’ts of IVF sex
In the 3 to 4 days before the doctor will collect sperm from either your partner or donor, ejaculation should be avoided.
The man should avoid releasing sperm whether manually or inside the womb. This is because most couples will prefer a fresh and pre-ejaculate sample other than a post-ejaculated sample.
We are not saying you shouldn’t abstain from sex. Feel free to engage in foreplay and any sexual activity that does not involve deep penetration or vaginal intercourse as it is bad for the cervix.
Can I drink alcohol during IVF?
Yes, you could drink alcohol but in moderation. Drinking a lot during the weeks following your IVF cycle could cause a negative outcome or result.
And also, drinking alcohol plus consumption of fertility drugs will leave your body feeling totally out of whack- and you do not want that.
Plus, after successfully transferring the embryo to your womb, you should avoid alcohol completely.
What to do with IVF symptoms.
IVF actually comes with numerous and unideal physical symptoms. To every woman and every cycle, different side effects, so there is certainly no way to know what symptom you will have to deal with on any day during your cycle.
Below are some of the ways you could cope with and manage the symptoms associated with IVF and also, minimize the side effects of fertility drugs.
Bleeding or spotting
During your IVF cycle, you will bleed seriously because the hormones used will not only propel the ovaries and help the eggs grow, it will also thicken the lining. It is best to be very much prepared for this.
If bleeding or spotting occurs during your IVF cycle, call your doctor immediately. Also, note that the usage of tampons is not allowed. Do not be scared if you notice light bleeding or spotting after egg retrieval. It is very normal, but heavy bleeding after egg retrieval is not normal.
Gastrointestinal and digestive issues.
If there is any gastrointestinal or digestive system issue, you could take over-the-counter drugs such as Pepto-Bismol, Tums, Gas-X, and a stool softener.
Staying hydrated can help relieve bloating. This means you should still continue the intake of fluids even though you are bloating. If consuming water gets boring, try coconut water, liquid- IV, and low-sugar electrolyte drinks or tablets.
If you feel nauseated, and, home or natural remedies are not working, you could try Emetrol, Pepto-Bismol, and Dramamine.
But consult your doctor first.
Stress and anxiety
If you feel stressed and anxious, try:
- Practice yoga
- Practice a slow and relaxing breathing regime
- Continue exercising
- Get adequate sleep
- Visit a therapist if possible
- Have sex to release dopamine and other feel-good hormones.
- Take a warm shower or bath.
Headache and pain
There are various over-the-counter remedies for pain relief and they include ibuprofen, heating pads, and acetaminophen. But remember to consult your doctor first.
- Stay hydrated with cool water
- Wear light and airy clothing
- A fan should be close to you
- Practice deep breathing regimens
- Avoid smoking, spicy foods
- Practice yoga
- Try walking or swimming
- Avoid caffeine
Exhaustion and fatigue
If you feel exhausted and tired, the following tips can help you.
- Sleep adequately, at least 7 to 8 hours each night and 30 to 45 minutes during the day
- Take it easy, set boundaries, reduce stress, and learn to say no.
Self-care during IVF
Yes, you need to do lots of self-care practices. The whole IVF journey is going to be stressful and very much challenging. It is going to be painful, inconvenient, and filled with uncertainties.
Taking care of yourself early enough can be really helpful in combating the whole negativity that comes with IVF. It will also help you manage the painful moments that come during the IVF cycle.
Some self-care tips include:
- Staying hydrated at all times
- Getting plenty of rest and sleep
- Socializing with friends. It is definitely not the time to stay indoors
- Practice yoga or other gentle exercises
- Get a massage
- Go to a movie
- Take a vacation
- Have your makeup done
- Try journaling or reading a book
- Take a long and hot bath
- Try meditation
- Go on a date with your partner or a loved one.
Expectations for a male partner
The male partner is an important personality and plays a crucial role in the entire IVF process. From his diet down to sleeping patterns to self-care, they are all important.
Your male partner can support your IVF efforts and ensure it is a success by:
- Drinking less alcohol or totally abstaining from it
- Getting adequate sleep
- Avoiding chemicals that could wreak havoc on his hormones and reduce sperm quality
- Eating balanced meals
- Regularly exercising
- Being supportive in the entire process.