Prepare your mind and body for IVF

The success rates for in vitro fertilization (IVF) have improved markedly over the years since the first cycle was performed. While it is true that the chance for IVF success depends on many factors that are out of your control, getting into the right frame of mind and getting into shape before and during IVF may help influence outcomes.

Lifestyle factors that affect fertilitya

Factor Impact on fertility
Obesity (BMI >35) Time to conception increased 2-fold
Underweight (BMI <19) Time to conception increased 4-fold
Smoking Risk of infertility increased by 60%
Alcohol (>2 drinks/day) Risk of infertility increased by 60%
Caffeine (>250 mg/day) Probability of pregnancy decreased by 45%
Illicit Drugs Risk of infertility increased by 70%
aData from ASRM.org

Natural ways to improve your fertility

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Reduce stress

Issues with fertility and IVF treatment can induce stress, and that stress may have a negative impact on your fertility and your IVF cycle. Psychological stress is a normal response to fertility issues and IVF treatment, so try to go easy on yourself if you don’t feel optimistic all the time during this process.

Consider counseling if you are feeling depressed, anxious, or so preoccupied with your fertility issues that you feel it is hard to live your life productively. Support can come from many different sources:

  • Books
  • Support groups and informational meetings
  • Individual and couples counseling
  • Discussions with supportive family members and friends

If you need to seek help, ask your doctor for referrals to trained mental health professionals in your area, a list of relevant books and articles, and support resources that deal with fertility-related matters.

Visit ReproductiveFacts.org and click on the button labeled “Find a Healthcare Professional” for a list of doctors and mental health professionals in your area.

Reduce stress between you and your partner

Couples face all kinds of challenges in coping with fertility issues and the treatment process, which are two of the most stressful decisions facing a couple.

If you feel that your discussions with your partner are unproductive, counterproductive, damaging to your relationship, or excessively stressful, consult with a fertility counselor who can guide you through the decision-making process and toward resolution. A mental health professional can help you better understand your options, attitudes, and feelings; improve your communication skills; feel less distress; and reach resolutions more quickly and comfortably.

Resolve.org offers advice on how to cope with IVF with your partner and can refer you to support groups to help you and your partner during this stressful time.

Stop smoking

There’s no doubt that smoking is bad for your health, but it is also bad for your fertility and chances for IVF success.b

  • Smokers have lower fertility than nonsmokers
  • Smoking reduces your chances of IVF success

If you or your partner smokes, quit before you start your IVF cycle. Talk to your doctor about ways to quit smoking.

bData from ASRM.org

Put down that drink—alcohol and caffeine

If you’re struggling to become pregnant and seeking treatment with IVF, you may be able to improve your chances for pregnancy by cutting out alcohol.

  • Alcohol decreases fertility
  • Alcohol may increase the risk of miscarriage
  • Alcohol can have negative effects on a fetus

Avoid alcohol while you’re receiving IVF treatment and when you’re pregnant. Don’t substitute that glass of wine with a latte.c

  • High levels of caffeine (more than 5 cups of coffee per day or its equivalent) have been associated with decreased fertility
  • During pregnancy, caffeine consumption of more than 2 to 3 cups per day may increase risk of miscarriage

Stick with moderate consumption of caffeine—1 to 2 cups of coffee per day or its equivalent.

cData from ASRM.org

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise is important for optimizing physical and emotional well-being, but don’t overdo it. Increasing the frequency, duration, or intensity of physical activity may be associated with an increase in difficulty conceiving. Vigorous exercise may also negatively impact IVF outcomes.

In a study of women undergoing a first cycle of IVF, those who reported exercising 4 hours or more per week for 1 to 9 years were:

  • 40% less likely to have a live birth
  • Almost 3 times more likely to experience cycle cancellation
  • Twice as likely to have implantation failure

Data from Morris SN, Missmer SA, Cramer DW, Powers RD, McShane PM, Hornstein MD. Effects of lifetime exercise on the outcome of in vitro fertilization. Obstet Gynecol. 2006;108(4):938-945.

Talk with your healthcare team about the amount of exercise that is appropriate for you.

Meditation and yoga

Meditation and yoga can facilitate stress relief and help your mind and body find more balance during an IVF cycle.

Meditation has been proven to positively impact both your mind and body during pregnancy. It can reduce stress and improve sleep.d Use a website like Meditation Finder to find a meditation class or center near you.

Women who participate in yoga and relaxation techniques are 3 times more likely to conceive, according to research from Harvard Medical School. You can find a yoga class near you at websites like YogaFinder and YogaClassNearYou.

Data from Domar AD, Clapp D, Slawsby EA, Dusek J, Kessel B, Freizinger M. Impact of group psychological interventions on pregnancy rates in infertile women. Fertil Steril. 2000;73(4):808-811.

dData from RESOLVE.org.

Watch your weight

As with exercise, a woman’s weight can affect her chances of having a successful IVF cycle. Learn more about diet and nutrition here.

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