It is important to nurture and take care of yourself mentally and physically when preparing and going through your IVF journey. This starts with trying to have a positive attitude about what you are about to go through, creating a stress support system for yourself by using tools such as visualization, acupuncture and meditation, eating the right foods taking a few supplements (see below) and balancing exercise with sufficient rest. . Not only will it help your experience but it may also help to increase your chances for IVF success
This article will focus on the role of nutritional supplements in preparing for IVF. You’ve probably wondered whether commercially available fertility supplements could help you achieve your goal. The answer is complex.
Here is my take: Nutrition is indeed a vital prerequisite for optimal reproductive function. However, a well-balanced diet that meets food preferences, coupled with modest vitamin, mineral and antioxidant supplementation (as can be found in many prenatal vitamin preparations) should suffice.
This having been said, conceiving is a delicate process, and eating the right foods is essential to optimize reproductive potential. Indeed, a balanced diet (i.e. a lot of organic and brightly colored foods) will provide most of the nutrients you need. But the truth is that most people do not have a balanced diet and are unwittingly often deficient in important nutrients.
A balanced diet is one that is rich in good quality protein, low in sugar, salt, caffeine and industrially created trans-fats (trans-fatty acids or partially hydrogenated oils) and soy, uncontaminated by heavy metals, free of nicotine, alcohol and recreational drugs. This is why routine supplementation with the following nutrients could enhance preconception readiness:
- Folic acid (400 micrograms daily)
- Vitamins D-3 1,000U daily; Viamin A (2565 IU daily); B3 (250-500mg daily); B6 (6mg -10 mg daily); B12 (12-20 mcg per day); C- (2,000 mg a day for both men and women); E (both sexes should get 150-200U daily)
- Co-enzyme Q10 (400-600mg daily )
- Amino acids such as L-Carnitine (3 grams daily) and L-arginine (1 gram per day )
- Omega 3 fatty acids (2,000mg per day)
- Minerals, mainly zinc (15mg per day); selenium (70-100mcg per day); iron (up to 20mg per day ); magnesium (400mg per day )
There are likely to be significant reproductive health benefits (including enhanced fertility and intrauterine development) associated with the use of nutritional supplements. However there are also certain potential pitfalls associated with their use. Some supplements are not as safe as they would seem. For example, excessive intake of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) can even be dangerous to your health and may be associated with fetal malformations.
Additionally, numerous supplements have been found to contain contaminants such as toxic plant materials, heavy metals and even prescription medications that can compromise fetal development. Prior to the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, supplements (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and botanicals) were required to demonstrate safety. However, since passage of “the Act”, they are now presumed to be safe until shown otherwise, thus establishing a rather hazardous situation where a typical prenatal vitamin that will provide sufficient vitamins and minerals for a healthy early pregnancy and potentially dangerous supplements can and are being sold in the same store without product liability.
What about the use of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)? DHEA is a male hormone supplement that is metabolized to androstenedione and testosterone in the ovaries. While a small amount of ovarian testosterone is needed for optimal follicle and egg development, too much testosterone could be decidedly harmful. DHEA supplements probably won’t do harm if taken by healthy young women who have normal ovarian reserve, but they probably would not derive any benefit either. However, in my opinion, DHEA supplementation could be potentially harmful when taken by women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR), women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and older women in their 40’s as such women often already tend to have increased LH-activity, leading to increased ovarian testosterone. Additional ovarian testosterone in such women, could thus potentially compromise follicle development and egg quality/competency.
In summary: Maximizing reproductive performance and optimizing outcome following fertility treatment requires a combined strategy involving a balanced diet (rich in protein, low in sugars, soy and trans-fats), modest nutritional supplementation, limiting/avoiding foods and contaminants that can compromise reproductive potential, and adopting disciplined lifestyle modification such as not smoking, reducing stress, minimizing alcohol intake, avoiding nicotine and recreational drug consumption, and getting down to a healthy weight through diet and exercise.