When you are having difficulty conceiving, consulting an infertility specialist is certainly a good idea. But there are things you can do on your own, and during treatment, to optimize your fertility.
Nutrition is very important. Recent blogs have discussed the optimum weight for fertility, ideally a Body Mass Index between 20 “ 25. Women with a BMI below 20 and above 30, have lower fertility rates. As BMI gets above 35 IVF pregnancy rates go down significantly and miscarriage rates go up.
Taking Folic Acid, 800 mcg a day (in most prenatal vitamins) reduces risk of having a child with a neural tube defect (spinal or brain abnormality).
Recent evidence suggests Omega 3 Fatty Acids in a dose of 1000 mg a day can improve fertilization rate, number of good quality embryos, and implantation rate in IVF treatment. In men, Omega 3 Fatty Acids can improve sperm morphology.
Vitamin D is the current craze being touted as a protector against brittle bones, cancer, heart disease and more. The facts are that there is mixed evidence for many of these claims. There are however some recent studies suggesting that women with lower levels of Vitamin D may have lower pregnancy rates.
We all think exercise in is good. During fertility treatment, moderation is the key. Some studies have suggested that more than 3 hours of cardiovascular exercise per week can reduce success in IVF cycles. Walking or swimming in moderation are probably ideal exercises for women undergoing fertility treatment.
There is a huge amount of evidence that cigarette smoking has a strong negative effect on fertility. Women who smoke have diminished ovarian reserve, running out of eggs at an earlier age. They have a reduced response to fertility medication, and a lower pregnancy rate and higher miscarriage rate in IVF cycles. Male smoking also has significant effects on sperm, reducing sperm quality and pregnancy rates in IVF. Even second hand smoke has been shown to reduce success in IVF cycles.
Alcohol also seems to be a negative lifestyle factor for fertility. In one study women with highest alcohol consumption took the longest time to conceive on their own. A study looking at alcohol intake and IVF reported that women drinking 4 or more glasses of alcohol per week had a significantly reduced pregnancy rate with IVF. If the man drank as well, the pregnancy rate was further reduced.
Caffeine in small amounts (1 or less cups of coffee per day) does not seem to affect fertility.
There have been numerous studies on stress and fertility. Many have shown a lower pregnancy rate in women with higher stress levels. Some have shown that stress reduction can improve treatment outcome. But some large studies have not demonstrated that pretreatment emotional distress level is associated with any reduction in pregnancy rates with IVF treatment. Certainly infertility and infertility treatment can cause stress. When you are planning on going forward with an IVF cycle it is best not to start treatment when you are in the middle of a significant life stress event, like a move, recent death in the family etc. Stress reduction techniques before and during infertility treatment may be helpful.
If you are having difficulty getting pregnant, seeking good medical care is important to your ultimate success. But as you can see, there are things you can do on your own to increase your chances of having a healthy successful pregnancy.
Dr. Louis Weckstein is a leading Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility specialist at the Reproductive Science Center of the San Francisco Bay Area, where he has served as the medical and IVF director since 1997. Dr. Weckstein has particular interest and experience in all aspects of IVF, including Egg Donation and fertility in older women. He loves his job and is very appreciative to be able to work in a field where so many couples have been helped to achieve their dream of having a family.