The fertility journey can be a life-changing challenge — physically, mentally, and financially. Not only do you have to undergo extensive (and expensive) rounds of shots, hormones, and invasive procedures, but there’s no guarantee of success.
Studies show women under 35 have only a 39% chance of getting pregnant from IVF (in vitro fertilization), and women over 40 have an 11.5% IVF success rate. The chances are even lower with the less-invasive IUI treatments: a 10% to 20% chance of getting pregnant if you’re under 35, and a 2% to 5% if you’re over 40.
That’s why, if you are in the process of undergoing fertility treatments, you want to do everything you can to maximize your chances of conceiving.
So what are the most important things you can do? Tanya Tanzillo, DNP and a functional medicine practitioner at the Center for Holistic Medicine, says reducing your stress, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding toxins are should be at the top of your list.
Here are some of key lifestyle changes you can make to increase your IUI or IVF success rate:
- Do deep breathing
Everyone always tells you that stress is counter-productive to getting pregnant, but did you know why? Tanzillo says stress causes an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in our body, and that affects the function of our cells. “When we have excessive stress, those minerals that are essential for cell function are depleted,” Tanzillo explains. And that makes all of our systems not function properly, including everything involved in fertility.
Although it can be extremely challenging to let go of worrying about whether your fertility treatments will work or not, it’s key to try to keep your stress under control during this time.
Tanzillo recommends trying to do some deep breathing techniques, such as belly breathing or box breathing. In belly breathing, you can sit up straight or lie on the floor and place one hand on your upper chest and the other hand on your belly. Take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth, breathing from your diaphragm so that your breath causes your belly to rise and fall. In box breathing, breathe out slowly, emptying your lungs of oxygen. Then breathe in slowly for a count of four, filling your lungs with oxygen. Hold your breath for a count of four and then exhale slowly for a count of four. Repeat until you feel calm.
- Try Acupuncture
Another great way to potentially improve your IVF success rate is with acupuncture. Acupuncture can slow down your central nervous system, which allows your blood vessels to dilate, bring more blood flow to your uterus and helping with implantation of an embryo. And it can help reduce stress, which can greatly impact fertility rates.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
Because creating an embryo is all about generating healthy new cells, it’s especially important during fertility treatments to avoid eating anything that has a lot of free radicals (like junk foods cooked in saturated fats) and increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, which are full of antioxidants. “I tell my clients to eat the rainbow, and I don’t mean Skittles,” Tanzillo says. “You should be eating five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.”
She also recommends upping your intake of good fats, such as those from avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds, as well as healthy proteins, too.
- Go organic
Did you know that toxins in our environment can mess with our fertility cycles? Turns out that many everyday items we use — such as flame retardants used in plastics, foams, and building materials; chemicals used in sunscreen lotions; weed killers; pesticides and more — contain chemicals called xenoestrogens, which are chemicals compounds that mimic estrogen in our bodies. When these get inside our bodies, they can confuse the body’s endocrine system, causing everything from early onset of puberty, breast cancer, infertility and more.
During fertility treatments, doctors are carefully balancing your estrogen and progesterone levels to stimulate your egg production, so it’s especially important to stay away from anything that can throw that hormone balance out of whack.
That’s why Tanzillo recommends eating organic produce (especially if it’s anything you’re going to be eating the skin of), as well as eating all organic, grass-fed and non-GMO proteins.
- Cut back on alcohol
We all know that drinking during pregnancy is a big no-no, but did you know that drinking during fertility treatments can affect your chances of getting pregnant at all? Tanzillo explains that alcohol elevates prolactin levels, which can throw your hormones out of balance and affect everything from your periods to ovulation and more. “It can definitely influence hormone expression and fertility,” Tanzillo says.
- Take supplements
Another easy way to boost your IVF success rate is to add a few supplements to your daily routine. Tanzillo recommends chasteberry, an herb that has been shown to help with infertility; as well as Vitamin B, which is vital to cell function and is commonly depleted by free radicals; Vitamin D, which is also a key ingredient in cell function; and fish oil, which also supports optimal cell function. She also recommends taking an iron supplement because often infertility can be caused by an iron deficiency, as well as probiotics, which can help balance out the acidity of your vaginal canal, which may play a factor in conception as well.
- Get to a healthy body mass index
Being at a healthy body weight is another important part of fertility, Tanzillo says. If you’re under 20% body fat, you may be getting a period, but not actually ovulating. And if you’re over 25% body fat, the excess fat may be increasing your estrogen and affecting your fertility as well.
If you haven’t started fertility treatments yet and would
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