Submitted by Kate Seldman
In vitro fertilization can be a grueling process, involving pills, injections and a whole lot of waiting and hoping. Couples often decide to undergo IVF after they’ve already been through a battery of infertility tests and procedures: often adding to the stress is their feeling that this may be their last hope for a baby.
How can a couple prepare themselves physically and mentally for IVF? Nutrition is paramount. If you haven’t already, start getting your nutrition in order about four to six weeks before your IVF cycle is due to begin. Make sure you’re properly hydrated – drink about two liters of water every day.
Steer clear of sugary and processed foods. Eat at least 60mg of lean protein a day, to make sure your body is primed to produce eggs. Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
Stay away from smoky rooms and second-hand smoke, because it can affect your uterine lining. Cut down or eliminate caffeine (watch your chocolate intake, too). Take a multivitamin.
Some alternative practitioners suggest beginning to supplement with Co-enzyme Q10 two to three months before beginning IVF. This enzyme is said to protect eggs from free radicals. Studies suggest that taking the amino acid L-arginine may improve reproductive health and pregnancy rates in IVF patients.
Superfoods like maca and royal jelly are also said to improve an IVF cycle’s chance of succeeding, by balancing and stimulating reproductive hormones. Alternative practitioners say patients should eat these foods for two months before beginning IVF.
Acupuncture and hypnosis can be used before, during and after IVF, and studies indicate they may increase the success rate of infertility treatment.
Try to reach and maintain a healthy weight before beginning IVF, and do it gradually rather than with crash diets or excessive exercise. Keep exercise gentle – walk or do yoga instead of doing aerobic exercise. Don’t sit in one position for too long – it may hamper blood flow. Stay away from excessive heat: don’t go in the Jacuzzi, lie out in the sun or take overly hot baths. To prepare emotionally for IVF, stay in close communication with your partner.
Make sure you talk about your feelings and ensure that you’re in agreement about what kind of support you both need. Plan ahead as to whether you will both be at each appointment, and make sure you’re OK if one of you has to be by yourself for any part of the treatment.
Discuss decisions you may have to make during your IVF treatment: you’ll need to talk about how many embryos you want to be transferred, how many multiple babies you’re both OK with, and the possibility of terminating multiple pregnancies if needed.
You’ll also want to talk about what to do with extra eggs or embryos – do you want to donate them, freeze them, or discard them?
If you’re using donor eggs or sperm, talk about your feelings surrounding raising a child who’s donor-conceived. Also, decide when you will call it a day if your treatments do not work.
You and your partner may want to see a counselor to help you navigate through the procedure with the least possible amount of emotional turmoil.
You may also want to lean on your friends and family: decide ahead of time who will be your confidants, and how much support you want from them.
You might even want to join a support group with other infertile parents undergoing IVF.