Today’s post in our series on lifestyle & fertility focuses on vitamins and supplements. Taking vitamins and supplements in preparation for fertility treatment is something that we can control and that’s easy to do. But what’s been shown to help fertility outcomes? What has been tested but shown no or inconclusive results? We’ll discuss folic acid, vitamin D, and antioxidants below – some of the results surprised us. As usual, ask your doctor prior to your treatment for their recommendations and guidance, as they may be aware of even more recent unpublished research.
Can I drink alcohol before or during fertility treatment?
The question of drinking before and during fertility treatment tends to bring out strong opinions. It also comes up a lot with our Ovally customers: “Can I have at least a little Spanish wine during treatment?”. For the purpose of this post, we are going to focus on alcohol consumption before and during fertility treatment until conception only, and leave out any research on pregnancy and alcohol. As usual, check with your doctor on their guidance regarding alcohol intake during any fertility treatment. We’re summarizing the findings of high-quality research studies for you, but your doctor may have access to relevant, yet to be published findings.
How does exercise affect my fertility?
We’re surrounded by positive messages about exercising, yet there are surprisingly few quality studies that have looked at a potential link between exercise and fertility. We know that female athletes often have irregularities with their cycles, and that high levels of exercise seem to be associated with longer menstrual cycles. Research on fertility patients has been inconclusive – one study showed that moderate exercise was correlated with a lower likelihood of having a baby, another showed the opposite.
How does my doctor figure out if my egg freezing or IVF cycle will be successful?
Doctors perform a series of tests and ask a number of questions as you prepare for and undergo the stimulation phase of egg/embryo freezing or IVF. These tests and questions help determine whether you’re a good candidate for the procedure, whether you’re able to proceed or have any risks, and what your outcomes may be. To make the process a bit more transparent, we’ve included some of these questions below (note that they’re neither comprehensive nor prescriptive). Keep in mind that every doctor will have their own protocols, and we recommend asking them about their process:
Why might an egg freezing or IVF cycle result in few or no eggs?
It’s always heartbreaking when an egg freezing or IVF cycle does not work, or the outcome isn’t as good as you’d hoped. Even though Ovally patients complete a battery of pre-treatment tests to make sure to the extent possible that they’re a good candidate for the procedure, these tests still cannot rule out some risks that a cycle might be unsuccessful or less successful, with either no or few mature eggs retrieved. Below are some examples of such situations that we’ve observed, backed up by scientific literature. These examples are not comprehensive, and we advise you to always ask your doctor for what risks might exist in your specific case.
Can my diet improve fertility outcomes?
Relatively clear answers and quality research can be hard to come by in fertility research. However, when it comes to how food relates to fertility outcomes, there are some decent data! The short answer is: Avoid fast food, and instead embrace fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, whole grains, and foods high in omega 3, such as nuts. This goes not just for women undergoing fertility treatment, but also those hoping to conceive naturally. This “Mediterranean diet” has also been linked to higher sperm count and sperm quality in men. And yes, the literature actually refers to it as a “Mediterranean diet” – we swear we didn’t make it up because Ovally‘s partner clinics are in Spain :)!
Does drinking coffee or tea affect fertility?
“Can I have caffeine before and during my treatment?” is a great question we’ve gotten from our egg freezing and IVF Ovally customers. As is so often the case, the research on this question isn’t as clean and clear-cut as we’d like: It’s hard to separate out variables besides caffeine that can affect fertility outcomes, and many studies rely on retrospective self-reports of consumption, which can be unreliable. However, high-quality studies looking at a relationship between caffeine consumption and the ability to conceive during IVF treatment suggest that 1-2 cups of coffee per day don’t significantly affect the ability to conceive. Surprisingly, however, 1-2 cups of coffee a day (or the equivalent level of caffeine in another drink) have been found to double the risk of miscarriage during pregnancy.
Does acupuncture help with fertility treatments?
Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine technique that uses thin needles to stimulate specific points on the body to release blocked energy and jumpstart a healing process. In the context of fertility, acupuncture may help improve blood flow to the uterus and reduce stress and anxiety. It may also play a role in regulating certain hormones that play a role in fertility, including beta endorphins and insulin. However, data from randomized experiments are very limited, and scientific results on the effectiveness of acupuncture for fertility treatments are inconclusive.
10 questions to consider before starting IVF
IVF – how does it work, and what happens when?
Ovally now supports patients undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in addition to our egg and embryo freezing patients, by matching you with clinics that are up to 70% more affordable than comparable top clinics in the US, supporting you throughout your journey as your personal fertility coach, and serving as your individual travel planner for your IVF trip to Spain. That’s why we’re kicking off a new blog post series on IVF, starting with the basics: How does IVF work, and what happens when?