Many Canadian families are turning to In-Vitro fertilization (IVF) to treat their fertility issues as infertility is on the rise. As high as 16% (that’s 1 in 6 couples) are diagnosed with infertility. This is defined as trying to conceive naturally for 12 consecutive months with no success. For ladies over 35, it is 6 months.

Though chances of success with an IVF cycle (and other assisted reproductive therapies) have improved over the years, there is still only about a 40% chance of success. There are other things that can be done in combination with IVF to increase (and in some cases double) the odds of a successful outcome – that is, a live birth and healthy baby.

EAT FERTILITY FOODS Eating for fertility can differ greatly from the common North American understanding of what it means to eat a healthy diet. A diet meant for longevity and illness prevention tends to be less nutrient dense than a diet for fertility. When trying to conceive, it is important to eat a wide variety of the most nutrient dense foods possible. For example, it may surprise some people to know that it is generally recommended to consume greater amounts of animal proteins and healthy fats.

If you have particular diagnoses in relation to your infertility, a qualified practitioner can help you determine which foods to consume and which foods to avoid in order to best help your constitution. A qualified practitioner can help guide you in choosing the best foods to treat your individual fertility needs. There are, however, some foods that are beneficial to fertility, in both men and women, no matter what the diagnosis is.

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GET ENOUGH SLEEP – your body goes through a whole host of important physiological processes during sleep. This includes the production of certain hormones. For example, studies have shown that insufficient sleep is linked to a deficiency in leptin. To view the study, go here. Leptin plays a role in regulating the menstrual cycle. In addition to this, leptin has been linked in this study, to poor egg quality when levels are too low. It is recommended that folks trying to conceive get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. This applies to both the man and the woman. *spacial thanks to Kirsten Karchmer and her article here, for this info*

GET TO YOUR OPTIMAL WEIGHT – This can be a sensitive subject for some, but it is an extremely important consideration when trying to conceive. It is recommended that women have a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9. This means that is important to make sure that you are neither underweight nor overweight, to optimize your chances of successful conception.

It is also important to look at the man’s weight, as his contribution is fifty percent of the genetic material. Studies have shown a higher chance or poor sperm count and sperm motility (ability to move effectively) in men who are overweight.

In her article here, Dr Laurence Jacobs gives a more detailed explanation of the importance of attaining ideal weight for both the man and woman.

FIND YOUR TRIBE  – Infertility can be a very isolating and lonely place. Seeking out a support group during your IVF cycle can be very helpful. While leaning on your spouse, friends and family can be helpful, speaking with people who are going through the same process can be a great platform to ask questions and gain understanding. Receiving support from these groups can be invaluable because these members simply “get it”.

This may mean finding a local organization so you can attend meetings in person or perhaps your support group is online. In Canada, there is an organization called Fertility Matters. They have an excellent database of IVF and infertility support groups across Canada. Online, simply pop IVF Support into the search bar, or join our online tribe here.

TRY ACUPUNCTURE – Acupuncture, used as a complimentary therapy, alongside your IVF cycle, has been shown in studies to significantly increase your chances of conception. More importantly, it has been shown to improve odds of live births, not just pregnancy. The two are very different!

When using acupuncture, dosage can impact the outcome. Simply having one treatment can still have benefits in terms of decreasing stress and calming the nervous system. However, since acupuncture is cumulative in its effect, each treatment brings you closer to experiencing that significant increase in odds of success.

A fellow colleague and researcher, Lee Hullender Ruben said this about her most recent study, which can be viewed here.

“I looked back at 5 years of outcomes of women who did IVF alone and compare them with women who added acupuncture on the day embryo transfer and women who had acupuncture during their IVF cycles, around 13 to 15 sessions. The women who added more acupuncture were associated with a significant increase in the likelihood of having a baby. They were twice as likely to have a baby than women who did IVF alone, and 60% more likely when compared with women who just had two acupuncture treatments on the day of embryo transfer. Acupuncture helped their IVF outcomes. The key difference was that patients received more treatment.”

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