The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF

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.

22 Comments

Lana

Dr. Sher, I am 5 weeks pregnant. We got pregnant naturally between a freezing round (egg retrieval was 1/26/19) and what was going to be one more round with a fresh transfer. I am taking all the supplements you recommended. My concern is with the l-arginine- is that ok to still take? I’ve read mix recommendations online. Thank you for the help!!
Lana

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

I personally don’t believe there is much benefit in taking L-arginine. However, in my opinion, it can do no harm, doing so.

___________________________________________________________
ADDENDUM:
INTRODUCING SHER FRERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Hitherto I have personally performed the actual hands-on treatment of all patients who, seeking my involvement, elected to travel to Las Vegas for my care. However, with the launching of Sher-Fertility Solutions (SFS), I will as of March 31st take on a new and expanded consultation role. Rather than having hands-on involvement with IVF procedures I will, through SFS, instead provide fertility consultations (via SKYPE) to the growing number of patients (from >40 countries) with complex Reproductive Dysfunction (RD) who seek access to my input , advice and guidance. In this way I will be able to be involved in overseeing the care, of numerous patients who previously, because they were unable to travel long distances to be treated by me, were unable to gain access to my input.

Anyone wishing to schedule a Skype consultation with me, can do so by: Calling my concierge (Patti Converse) at 1-800-780-7437 for an appointment,enrolling online on my website, http://www.SherIVF.com, or 702-533-2691; or emailing Patti at concierge@SherIVF.com or . sher@sherivf.com .
I was very recently greatly honored in receiving an award by the prestigious; International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP). For more information, go to the press release on my website, http://www.sherIVF.com .

PLEASE HELP SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

reply
Martha

Hi Dr. Sher. I am 38, we have had 3 failed rounds of IVF. Had 2 natural pregnancies in 5 years trying both missed miscarriages (6 & 9 weeks). Good AMH level, good number of eggs collected (14/17/15), fertilisation tends to be around 50-60% but then seem to deteriorate. First cycle 1 x 3 day embryo transferred, 2nd cycle had better results x2 high grade blasts (1 transferred, 1 frozen) both transfers unsuccessful, 3rd cycle – we switched from short to long protocol & I took ubiquinol for 3 months prior – resulted in 1 x poor quality blast transferred day 5. We have been considering one last try before perhaps moving to trying with an egg donor. Is there anything else that you would recommend? As the short cycle seemed to provide better results we are due to swap back. Do you think this is the best option? Are there any further tests that you would recommend? Would you recommend continuing with ubiquinol despite previous results (is it unlikely to have contributed to the last results?). Thank you.

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Whenever a patient fails to achieve a viable pregnancy following embryo transfer (ET), the first question asked is why! Was it simply due to, bad luck?, How likely is the failure to recur in future attempts and what can be done differently, to avoid it happening next time?.
It is an indisputable fact that any IVF procedure is at least as likely to fail as it is to succeed. Thus when it comes to outcome, luck is an undeniable factor. Notwithstanding, it is incumbent upon the treating physician to carefully consider and address the causes of IVF failure before proceeding to another attempt:
1. Age: The chance of a woman under 35Y of age having a baby per embryo transfer is about 35-40%. From there it declines progressively to under 5% by the time she reaches her mid-forties. This is largely due to declining chromosomal integrity of the eggs with advancing age…”a wear and tear effect” on eggs that are in the ovaries from birth.
2. Embryo Quality/”competency (capable of propagating a viable pregnancy)”. As stated, the woman’s age plays a big role in determining egg/embryo quality/”competency”. This having been said, aside from age the protocol used for controlled ovarian stimulation (COS) is the next most important factor. It is especially important when it comes to older women, and women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) where it becomes essential to be aggressive, and to customize and individualize the ovarian stimulation protocol.
We used to believe that the uterine environment is more beneficial to embryo development than is the incubator/petri dish and that accordingly, the earlier on in development that embryos are transferred to the uterus, the better. To achieve this goal, we used to select embryos for transfer based upon their day two or microscopic appearance (“grade”). But we have since learned that the further an embryo has advanced in its development, the more likely it is to be “competent” and that embryos failing to reach the expanded blastocyst stage within 5-6 days of being fertilized are almost invariably “incompetent” and are unworthy of being transferred. Moreover, the introduction into clinical practice about a decade ago, (by Levent Keskintepe PhD and myself) of Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS), which assesses for the presence of all the embryos chromosomes (complete chromosomal karyotyping), provides another tool by which to select the most “competent” embryos for transfer. This methodology has selective benefit when it comes to older women, women with DOR, cases of unexplained repeated IVF failure and women who experience recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL).
3. The number of the embryos transferred: Most patients believe that the more embryos transferred the greater the chance of success. To some extent this might be true, but if the problem lies with the use of a suboptimal COS protocol, transferring more embryos at a time won’t improve the chance of success. Nor will the transfer of a greater number of embryos solve an underlying embryo implantation dysfunction (anatomical molecular or immunologic).Moreover, the transfer of multiple embryos, should they implant, can and all too often does result in triplets or greater (high order multiples) which increases the incidence of maternal pregnancy-induced complications and of premature delivery with its serious risks to the newborn. It is for this reason that I rarely recommend the transfer of more than 2 embryos at a time and am moving in the direction of advising single embryo transfers …especially when it comes to transferring embryos derived through the fertilization of eggs from young women.
4. Implantation Dysfunction (ID): Implantation dysfunction is a very common (often overlooked) cause of “unexplained” IVF failure. This is especially the case in young ovulating women who have normal ovarian reserve and have fertile partners. Failure to identify, typify, and address such issues is, in my opinion, an unfortunate and relatively common cause of repeated IVF failure in such women. Common sense dictates that if ultrasound guided embryo transfer is performed competently and yet repeated IVF attempts fail to propagate a viable pregnancy, implantation dysfunction must be seriously considered. Yet ID is probably the most overlooked factor. The most common causes of implantation dysfunction are:
a. A“ thin uterine lining”
b. A uterus with surface lesions in the cavity (polyps, fibroids, scar tissue)
c. Immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID)
d. Endocrine/molecular endometrial receptivity issues
Certain causes of infertility are repetitive and thus cannot readily be reversed. Examples include advanced age of the woman; severe male infertility; immunologic infertility associated with alloimmune implantation dysfunction (especially if it is a “complete DQ alpha genetic match between partners plus uterine natural killer cell activation (NKa).
I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.

• The IVF Journey: The importance of “Planning the Trip” Before Taking the Ride”
• Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
• IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS)
• The Fundamental Requirements for Achieving Optimal IVF Success
• Use of GnRH Antagonists (Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron) in IVF-Ovarian Stimulation Protocols.
• Ovarian Stimulation in Women Who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): Introducing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion protocol
• Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
• Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
• The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
• Blastocyst Embryo Transfers should be the Standard of Care in IVF
• IVF: How Many Attempts should be considered before Stopping?
• “Unexplained” Infertility: Often a matter of the Diagnosis Being Overlooked!
• IVF Failure and Implantation Dysfunction:
• The Role of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID): PART 1-Background
• Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID): PART 2- Making a Diagnosis
• Immunologic Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID): PART 3-Treatment
• Thyroid autoantibodies and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
• Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction: Importance of Meticulous Evaluation and Strategic Management 🙁 Case Report)
• Intralipid and IVIG therapy: Understanding the Basis for its use in the Treatment of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
• Intralipid (IL) Administration in IVF: It’s Composition; how it Works; Administration; Side-effects; Reactions and Precautions
• Natural Killer Cell Activation (NKa) and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction in IVF: The Controversy!
• Endometrial Thickness, Uterine Pathology and Immunologic Factors
• Vaginally Administered Viagra is Often a Highly Effective Treatment to Help Thicken a Thin Uterine Lining
• Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas:
• A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF
• How Many Embryos should be transferred: A Critical Decision in IVF?
• The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF

If you are interested in my advice or medical services, I urge you to contact my patient concierge, ASAP to set up a Skype or an in-person consultation with me. You can also set this up by emailing concierge@sherivf.com or by calling 702-533-2691 and/or 800-780-743. You can also enroll for a consultation with me, online at http://www.SherIVF.com.
Also, my book, “In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies” is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com .

Geoffrey Sher MD

reply
Mima K

Dr. Sheer,
I am 36. Low AMH after a laparoscopy of an endometriotic cyst in February. 0,3 ng/ml. Chromopertubation also done then and shown both tubes pass no contrast. In July I had stimulation with menotrophins and had very low response. Two follicles with no eggs. I was prescribed with Vit.D 800 i.U., CoQ10 300 mg, and DHEA 75 mg. AMH level got even lower… now is 0,14 ng/ml. Now I am preparing for second IVF, but my testosterone level is high and my DHEA-SO4 is too high 22,87 µmol/L. By your opinion is this causing my high-level testosterone, prolongation of my cycle (33 days, average is 27) and is there going to be some consequences of this?
Thank you! Greetings from Europe

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

You need to be evaluated more thoroughly for your elevated DHEAS. You could have an adrenal component and yes, this could have a deleterious effect on egg/embryo development. Ut would need to be addressed in advance of IVF. This having been said, you do have significantly diminished ovarian reserve and this is the bigger issue.

In my opinion, the protocol used for ovarian stimulation, against the backdrop of age, and ovarian reserve are the drivers of egg quality and egg quality is the most important factor affecting embryo “competency”.
Women who (regardless of age) have DOR have a reduced potential for IVF success. Much of this is due to the fact that such women tend to have increased production of LH biological activity which can result in excessive LH-induced ovarian male hormone (predominantly testosterone) production which in turn can have a deleterious effect on egg/embryo “competency”.

While it is presently not possible by any means, to reverse the effect of DOR, certain ovarian stimulation regimes, by promoting excessive LH production (e.g. short agonist/Lupron- “flare” protocols, clomiphene and Letrozole), can in my opinion, make matters worse. Similarly, the amount/dosage of certain fertility drugs that contain LH/hCG (e.g. Menopur) can have a negative effect on the development of the eggs of older women and those who have DOR and should be limited.I try to avoid using such protocols/regimes (especially) in women with DOR, favoring instead the use of the agonist/antagonist conversion protocol (A/ACP), a modified, long pituitary down-regulation regime, augmented by adding supplementary human growth hormone (HGH). I further recommend that such women be offered access to embryo banking of PGS (next generation gene sequencing/NGS)-selected normal blastocysts, the subsequent selective transfer of which by allowing them to capitalize on whatever residual ovarian reserve and egg quality might still exist and thereby “make hay while the sun still shines” could significantly enhance the opportunity to achieve a viable pregnancy

Please visit my new Blog on this very site, http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com, find the “search bar” and type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.

• Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
• IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
• The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
• Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the “Conventional” Antagonist Approach
• Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
• The “Biological Clock” and how it should Influence the Selection and Design of Ovarian Stimulation Protocols for IVF.
• A Rational Basis for selecting Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) protocols in women with Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR)
• Diagnosing and Treating Infertility due to Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR)
• Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in Older women and Women who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): A Rational Basis for Selecting a Stimulation Protocol
• Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
• The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
• Blastocyst Embryo Transfers should be the Standard of Care in IVF
• Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) versus “Fresh” ET: How to Make the Decision
• Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET): A Rational Approach to Hormonal Preparation and How new Methodology is Impacting IVF.
• Staggered IVF: An Excellent Option When. Advancing Age and Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) Reduces IVF Success Rate
• Embryo Banking/Stockpiling: Slows the “Biological Clock” and offers a Selective Alternative to IVF-Egg Donation.
• Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGS) in IVF: It should be Used Selectively and NOT be Routine.
• Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS) Using: Next Generation Gene Sequencing (NGS): Method of Choice.
• PGS in IVF: Are Some Chromosomally Abnormal Embryos Capable of Resulting in Normal Babies and Being Wrongly Discarded?
• PGS and Assessment of Egg/Embryo “competency”: How Method, Timing and Methodology Could Affect Reliability
• Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas:
• Traveling for IVF from Out of State/Country–
• A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF
• How Many Embryos should be transferred: A Critical Decision in IVF.
• The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF
• Premature Luteinization (“the premature LH surge): Why it happens and how it can be prevented.
• IVF Egg Donation: A Comprehensive Overview

If you are interested in seeking my advice or services, I urge you to contact my concierge, Julie Dahan ASAP to set up a Skype or an in-person consultation with me. You can also contact Julie by phone or via email at 702-533-2691/ Julied@sherivf.com You can also apply online at http://www.SherIVF.com .

*FYI
The 4th edition of my newest book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies” is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

Geoffrey Sher MD

reply
Kristin

What are your thoughts on taking Myo-Inositol for egg quality and/or to prevent OHSS?

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common disorder characterized by anovulation, hyperandrogenaemia and insulin resistance. Its prevalence is 5 to 10% in women of reproductive age.

Insulin resistance has a key role in the pathophysiology of polycystic ovary syndrome PCOS. Jnsulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, possibly because of a deficiency of a D-chiro-inositol-containing phosphoglycan that mediates the action of insulin may play a key role in the pathogenesis of PCOS. Administration of myoinositol might replenish stores of the mediator and improve insulin sensitivity in patients with the polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thereby improving ovulatory function and decreasing serum male hormone (androgen) concentrations, blood pressure, plasma triglyceride concentrations and thereby help ameliorate some of the metabolic and physical manifestations of this condition.

More than 18 trials have specifically examined the effects of these drugs on ovulation, and other features of altered metabolism in PCOS. Most of these studies reported have not been randomized but the results appear to be quite promising. It would seem that D-chiro-inositol may improve the potential for ovulatory cycles in patients with PCOS.

Geoff Sher

reply
Jennifer M

So I had a failed cycle in February. I’m 39 with a low AMH but responded well to stims (21 eggs, 19 mature, 11 fertilized). Only two were blasts on day 6. One was frozen day 7. None worked.
I added coq10 and DHEA but now I’m nervous. I’m on an antagonist-vivelle-no BCP protocol. Start vivelle tomorrow with an expectation to start stims in the next two weeks. Is it too late to stop DHEA?

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

I would advise against taking DHEA. I would stop straight away if I were you. Frankly with the egg response you had, I strongly doubt that you have DOR. Something is wrong . Repeat the AMH.

Geoff Sher

reply
Jennifer M

Mine was 2.5 3 years ago before I had my daughter after four rounds of IUI. I had two AMHs done in July and September. One was 0.49. One was 0.61.
I will stop the DHEA. I guess you don’t taper off it? Will add the others. Thank you!

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Yes! I would just stop the DHEA. But discuss this with your RE.

Geoff Sher

reply
Jennifer M

I just wanted to share that I’m spending Christmas with my 3 yo and 4 mo old IVF miracle. Thank you for all your advice. Our last cycle in June 2017 yielded 5 embryos. Our fresh transfer ended in mc at 12 weeks for trisomy 18. We thawed and did pgs on the remaining 4. We had one pgs normal embryo who transferred and stuck in December. Much gratitude to you for what you do.

Dr. Geoffrey Sher

You are so kind!

Good luck and G-d bless!

AND…Merry Xmas!

Geoff Sher

Jessica

Dr Sher: In your opinion, should a mother-to-be continue with this supplemental cocktail post conception?

reply
Pile

Hello Dr Sher, can you please recommend good quality brand for Amino Acids , Vitamin Dand Omega 3’s

Thanks
Pile

reply
Amy

Dr. Sher,

Is it a typo that Vitamin D recommendation is 31,000 IU? I am already deficient in Vit D (13) and taking good prescription dose supplementation. Do all need 31,000 IU? Also, CoQ10 recommendation increased to 400-600 mg from 100 mg (in your prior nutrition blog was 100mg). Is the new recommendation correct?

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Vitamin D3 might be better at 2,000U per day and 400-600mg COAQ 10.

Geoff Sher

reply
Sarah

Dr. Sher,
You mention the challenges associated with fat soluble vitamins. I have been deficient in Vit A in the past and have taken Vit A supplementation; however I always stop this supplementation prior to my fertility treatments as recommended by prior doctors (due to concern of fetal abnormalities). I see you do recommend Vitamin A (2565 IU daily). In your opinion is this amount safe to continue with before and during IVF?
Thank you.

reply

Ask a question or post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *