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Getting Prepared: Secrets to boosting your success rate.

For some of us lovelies, IVF may be the only remaining option towards achieving a successful pregnancy. It may be that you haven’t conceived naturally after trying all other means, or your partner has a male factor issue or maybe you have tubal factors leading to infertility. IVF is generally never the first step in the treatment of infertility except in cases of complete tubal blockage. Instead, it's recommended for cases in which other methods such as fertility drugs, surgery, and artificial insemination haven't worked. IVF is a 4 step process that entails the following :

  • STEP 1: The woman’s ovaries are hyper-stimulated to grow many eggs using hormone injections, which the woman self-injects daily for a few days

  • STEP 2: Mature ova are then extracted from the ovaries in an egg retrieval procedure. A short 30 min procedure done under anesthesia and the doctor removes the eggs via an ultrasound-guided needle

  • STEP 3: The most suited ovum (or ova) is then fertilised using sperm in the laboratory to create an embryo

  • STEP 4: The fertilised egg/eggs are then implanted in the uterus of the women in what is called a blastocyst embryo transfer around 5 days after fertilization

Granted, IVF Is a strenuous and expensive process that challenges you physically, emotionally and even relationally. It is also not 100% and depends heavily on the age of the woman's eggs, as the chances of success decrease with age. That said IVF success rates are improving as modern technology evolves. Since I know that it takes a lot of deliberation to finally take the leap, I want to help you take your best self to the IVF table. The healthier you are, the higher your chances at IVF success, and also the higher your chances at carrying your baby to term.

So what exactly does TCM have to offer when it comes to improving your IVF experience?

For starters; TCM offers great results! One study showed that women who complimented their IVF treatment with TCM had a 3.5 greater likelihood of achieving pregnancy over those who just did plain IVF. Another study showed that the proportion of live birth was significantly higher in those who combined TCM with their IVF treatment at 61.3% vs 48.2%, but not only was the live birth rate higher but there were also fewer spontaneous abortions. Remember that when it comes to IVF a live birth is the gold standard, because a full-term baby is the real marker of whether IVF was successful or not.


  1. Acupuncture - Acupuncture is a powerful tool for fertility treatment. It's goal is to enhance blood circulation and the flow of Qi. Blood and Qi power every organ and system in the body. This is especially important for the reproductive organs. Acupuncture helps build up the womb lining, grow follicles and promotes implantation.

  1. For IVF, we recommend starting acupuncture treatment about 3 months before you begin your IVF cycle.

  2. After the egg retrieval procedure, traditional acupuncture can reduce local tissue trauma, promote healing and help create a suitable environment for the arrival of an embryo.

  3. On the day of the embryo transfer, it is important for the uterus to be in good condition for a successful implantation. Acupuncture treatment on this day may help relax the uterus and increase its blood flow, creating better conditions for implantation.

  4. Following implantation, acupuncture helps to maintain the health and strength of the blastocyst-corpus-luteum relationship and proper levels of progesterone.

  5. After 6 weeks, the placenta takes over the role of secreting progesterone and acupuncture increases blood flow to the placenta for protecting and nourishing your growing baby.

  6. Most importantly, acupuncture help to relieve stress and calm the mind and body

2) Chinese Herbal Treatment

A study on the effects of chinese herbs on IVF success proved that Chinese herbs increase endometrial thickness, improve the quality of embryos and promote embryonic nidation, thus enhancing the success rate of IVF.

Another study showed that starting chinese herbal medicine earlier and taking it for longer is more beneficial in improving the outcomes of IVF. The herbs also help in strengthening the foetus as well as regulating the mother's immunity. Your TCM practitioner is able to properly advise you on which herbs you can take to improve your fertility and all round health while still remaining safe for your IVF process,

3) Diet

Diets full of lean protein, vegetables, fruits, and important nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 can lead to better fertility outcomes in both men and women. Protein is of notable importance in egg development. The best quality protein foods in terms of amino acid balance are eggs, soya, meat, fish, beans, lentils, and quinoa. Always aim to consume organic animal products.

A good quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement will also help your body cope with the demands of IVF. Things like Vitamin C and E, zinc, magnesium, selenium, iron and B vitamins are necessary for fertilisation and implantation. Essential fatty acids, the “good fats' ' are also vitally important for hormone balance and general/ovarian health in the period leading up to and during IVF and pregnancy. Load up on the flax seeds, avocados, olive oils etc.

As always, don't forget to drink enough fluid – every system in the body depends on it. A daily intake of 8 glasses of water daily that does not contain caffeine, sugar, salt or anything else is a great start.

4) Regular Exercise

Apart from just making us feel good and calming our minds, exercise has a bunch of other physiological and psychological benefits. Stick to a moderate exercise regimen, as overdoing it can lead to issues with ovulation and implantation. Yoga gets a special shout out here because it is great at increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs, improving endocrine function and hormonal balance. Not to mention helping to reduce the discomfort associated with IVF.

One thing to consider when going through IVF is that since the medication you’ll be taking causes the ovaries to become enlarged, you’ll want to tone down on vigorous physical activity as it can cause a torsion (a medical emergency that occurs when an ovary twists and cuts off its own blood supply). Such activities include exercise that involves bouncing, twisting, jumping and heavy lifting. Instead, try long walks and yoga until your ovaries have settled back to their normal size.

5) Sleep

In a world that considers little sleep a sign of being a heroic hard worker, catching enough shut-eye is more important for fertility than you might think. Disrupting your circadian rhythm can alter levels of hormones like FSH, LH, and prolactin- all extremely important hormones involved in ovulation and conception.

Poor sleep interferes with your circadian rhythm and is known to decrease fertility and even increase miscarriage rates. Make it a priority to get a solid 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep before, during and after your IVF cycle. Better yet, make it a lifetime habit

5) Self Care

Lovelies, Stress is the enemy! Getting stressed is no good. Anxiety over your treatment, the rate of success, the odds against you, etc are all negative thoughts that will hamper the success of your treatment. Sometimes just learning to breathe deeply, taking time for daily positive meditations and light exercise are great ways to keep calm. If that visit to the spa gets all your happy juices flowing, make time to do it - regularly!.

6) Smoking, alcohol & caffeine

You know it sis,

Smoking while pregnant is not advisable and it is also recommended that you do not smoke while going through your IVF cycle. Smoking decreases the ovarian reserve, affects egg quality, and reduces the thickness of the endometrial lining, all of which can have a negative impact on getting pregnant.

Alcohol is another naughty culprit ( sorry, I know we all love that evening glass of wine!). Alcohol consumption is generally detrimental to your fertility. It is well known that alcohol use during pregnancy is also linked to birth defects and in any case you would rather hold off that drink for a couple of months and get to hold a healthy little one.

Coffee, coffee, coffee... A large study carried out by the Yale medical School found that that the risk of infertility (which they defined as not being able to conceive after 12 months) was 55% higher for women drinking just 1 cup of coffee per day, 100% higher for women drinking 1.5-3 cups per day and 176% higher for more than 3 cups per day. Remember the problem is not the coffee bean but the caffeine, so watch out on your caffeine intake from soda, red bull, tea etc.

7) Reduce exposure to environmental toxins

Environmental toxins are things like pesticides and BPA. They have been shown to negatively impact fertility for both men and women and can impair IVF success rates. In the months preparing for IVF, it’s advisable to buy natural and organic food and skincare products. If you can, switch to glass containers, stainless steel bottles and BPA-free canned goods.

Go organic -as much as you can buy all your animal products organic. The dirty dozen list helps you know which are the most pesticide laden foods so that you can prioritize these foods when buying organic.

And finally….

It has been said before that “opportunity favours the prepared '' and indeed preparation really does tip the scales in your favour with IVF. When it comes to something as important as making and nurturing a baby, we need to bring our best and healthiest selves to the table. After all, what you give your baby will be a genetic code that will be passed on for generations to come. So happy baby-making ( whatever this means for you)!


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