A Naturopath and Nutritionist’s Role in Supporting In Vitro Fertilization
1 in 6 couples experience infertility. The stats indicate that by 2050 most couples will need IVF. It’s a tale of thirds: approximately a third of fertility issues lie with the male partner, a third with the female and a third can be attributed to the combination of both partners.
Stress, nutritional deficiencies, inadequate investigation, hormone imbalances, endocrine disruptors, dehydration, couples delaying childbirth due to careers, travel and finding a partner are all contributing factors when it comes to infertility.
Making the decision to have IVF or IUI can feel scary, frustrating, exhausting and never-ending. A rollercoaster of emotions, but with each step you take you are moving toward your new baby.
You have made the decision to have some help and thankfully naturopathy and nutrition can support you every step of the way. In fact, it’s a critical component throughout the IVF journey.
What Exactly Is IVF?
Assisted fertility techniques (ART), such as IVF and IUI, help to assist the physical interaction between an egg and sperm and introduce the fertilized embryo into the uterus with the hope of a successful pregnancy. They help your sperm and egg meet, but they do not address egg quality or sperm quality and count. IVF and IUI do not address the DNA quality of both egg and sperm, endometrial lining, and nutritional deficiencies.
These are all needed for successful fertilization and implantation. Naturopathy, nutrition advice and supplements can help with the implantation and success of carrying an embryo to term.
If you are heading into IUI or IVF treatment, you want to make sure you are doing everything you can for it to be successful.
Becoming a Health Detective is the Best Thing You Can Do!
Unexplained infertility to me means that not enough of the right questions have been asked. Taking a full health history of both partners is important. Asking about digestion, energy, stress, diet, and lifestyle. Inadequate testing plays a huge role, a role that is often not investigated by the medical world. For me, this is the saddest, most frustrating part. With the right questions and more time spent investigating, there would be a much lower need for IVF.
Important Tests – Tests Your GP or Fertility Specialist May Not Do!
- FSH and LH
- Androstenedione and testosterone
- Anti-TPO antibodies/TG antibodies
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
- Autoimmunity – ANA test
- Insulin resistance
- Cholesterol and lipids
- Inflammation markers (CRP)
- Sperm Analysis
- STD testing
- Up-to-date pap smear
Key Fertility Considerations
- Eggs – a great source of quality protein. Eggs contain healthy fats, choline, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and other vitamins. Enjoy 2 eggs daily.
- Salmon and Sardines – a great source of protein. These fish are high in omega 3’s which promote healthy hormone balance and help to reduce inflammation in the body. Aim for oily fish 2-3 times a week.
- Green leafy vegetables – naturally occurring folate, rich in glutathione which helps to support a healthy liver function. Aiming for a minimum of 4 cups daily.
- Beetroot – a great source of resveratrol, an antioxidant that helps with age-related fertility issues and those with high inflammatory markers. Beetroots contain nitrates which are converted into nitric oxide in the body which helps to improve blood flow, increase circulation, and support implantation. Add to salads, smoothies, juices and frittatas where you can.
- Avocado – is high in vitamin E and monounsaturated fats. Studies have shown that vitamin E can be beneficial in improving the uterine lining and helping with embryo implantation. Also high in folate and B6 which is needed to support healthy progesterone levels. Aim for half an avocado daily.
- Brazil nuts – a great source of protein, healthy fats and selenium. Studies have shown that selenium plays a critical role as an antioxidant in healthy egg development and eggs that result in pregnancy contain double the levels of selenium-carrying protein. Aim for 6-8 a day.
- Chia seeds – contain omega 3’s, antioxidants, fibre, iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. They are also a complete protein, and the fibre helps to keep the digestive system regular. Aim for 1 tablespoon daily.
2. Strategic Supplementation
For any preconception client starting on the basics DHA, a quality prenatal and choline are the starting points. Additional supplementation depending on the client may be needed, with some key considerations being:
- Good quality prenatal with active folate and choline.
- Good quality fish oil (2-3g) – for their anti-inflammatory properties and hormone support.
- Co-enzyme Q10 (300mg) – an antioxidant shown to improve sperm count, motility, and egg quality. Co-Q10 has also been shown to improve IVF outcomes.
- Vitamin D (dosing dependent on pathology) – low levels are associated with miscarriage, poor sperm count and quality and low AMH levels.
- Myo-inositol (2000mg, more in PCOS) – improves egg quality and maturation if insulin sensitivity is an issue.
- L-carnitine (3g) – amazing for improving poor egg quality and low sperm count. An antioxidant that also has anti-inflammatory properties so a must for improving both egg and sperm quality.
- N-acetyl-cysteine (600mg) – an antioxidant that improves egg and sperm quality.
3. Stress Management
The whole infertility process is inherently stressful. Stress is one of the biggest fertility killers because it causes a cascade of blood sugar responses and upsets our hormonal system. Stress reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, walking and acupuncture all help to relieve stress and improve fertility.
While I am mindful of the stress and worry that comes with the journey of any assisted fertility, I am wary of asking any client to ‘reduce stress’. The best we can do is address the stress, respond to it, and support the body and mind in the process.
Studies show that acupuncture before and after an embryo transfer in IVF can improve pregnancy rates by up to 43%. Research suggests it can help to reduce the risk of miscarriage, improve implantation and reduce the risk of ectopic pregnancy. Acupuncture also works well to calm the patient and manage feelings of anxiety. Having used it personally myself with my first pregnancy, I am a huge believer in it when it comes to falling pregnant!
There is an abundance of evidence to show the importance of adequate testing, food, supplementation support and stress management strategies. The great news is that so much is in your power when it comes to the pathway of ART. I hope this article provides you with the information you are seeking to empower you in your fertility journey.
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