Monday, February 2, 2009

If I were to give IVF #4 the best shot...

As I gear up for starting stims at the end of the month, I wanted to put a shout out to the blogosphere for thoughts about anything I should consider doing differently in terms of diet and exercise.

Have any of your REs suggested anything? Mine is awesome, but very vague on these types of matters.

It is getting hard to motivate myself to do much more than go through the motions at this point, sorry to say. I've done everything I could think of in the past: vegan diet, acupuncture, exercise, no exercise, cut out aspartame...

Some things have always been consistent: no caffeine, very little to no alcohol, no smoking (never did the last one).

So far all this dietary and exercise and acupuncture tweaking has resulted in: three miscarriages, two failed IVFs, and no take home baby. That said, I still want to try to put my best foot forward - why go through all this if not?

So, please feel free pipe up and let me know what medical/nutrition/exercise advice you've been given. I'm particularly eager to hear if anybody's MD has said anything about artificial sweeteners (which I love) or what kinds of foods facilitate healthy egg development. Not sure if it would impact diet recommendations (I'm thinking yes), but I don't have PCOS or diabetes. Any recommendations on exercise?

How did you approach cleaning up your diet and lifestyle before and during fertility treatments?



  1. Hi Mo. It's so hard to pin them down. The best I could get out of my doc was that I should NOT be doing more than 4 hours per week leading up to stims (of exercise) and once I started stims I should cut back and make sure not to do any twisting, vigorous activity, and to keep my HR below 130 (hard for someone with a resting HR >100!)

    I didn't really change diet. I did cut out caffiene and alcohol (I tink that my last drink was when I was still on OCPs).

    Whenever I asked for specific recommendations the only thing that she would really tell me is that I needed to try to remain calm, relaxed, and positive. I have been trying really hard to do that this time ;)

  2. I'm not sure if you have heard of this, but I have heard that starting the day of the ET and for 4 days after you should eat a fresh pineapple. They said to cut it into 5 equal portions and consume it over the 5 days. The enzyme in pineapple (broemlain) is supposed to reduce inflammation in the uterus. Not sure if you've tried it, but it's worth a shot.

  3. A friend of mine swears by acupuncture. My clinic said it couldn't hurt, but I didn't do it.

    I did walk 2-3 miles daily up until the IVF. When I started getting bloated on sims, that stopped. The most I'd do was one mile. I drank lots of crystal light and had my last alcoholic drink 48 hours prior to the ET. (I can't remember the ER. I think I banned alcohol and caffeine once I started sims.)

    The only thing they told me was don't get your heart rate above 120 when exercises (which is essentially - do not break a sweat).


  4. My RE gave us coffe and amazing chocolate pastry things after egg retrieval (but it was a french clinic - so they do things classy). So no recommendations from there.
    BUT I too have done acupuncture,exercised, didn't exercise, changed diets numerous times.
    This is all I've come up with: b vits, prenatal vits, omega 3 (the stuff that doesn't have chemicals) wheat grass, bee pollin and royal jelly
    When leading up to egg retrieval, nice proteins are good, and lots of omegas, and don't forget carbs from interesting sources(brown rice, millet, quiona).. also yams are good.
    BUT keep in mind i've got an anorexic lining so it didnt' help me that way but, I did get 10 eggs where the RE predicted only a few!
    Also daily meditation and "fertilty yoga".
    My acupuncturist though that all suger and sweetner were evil oh and no cold foods.

  5. I would stick with acupuncture. Making sure to to the pre and post transfer treatment. I was also told no cold food or drinks. And I did the pineapple thing too.

    No exercise. I think with stims that it is just too risky.

    I don't know if you are at all religious but I prayed and prayed and prayed. I would think for a non religious person maybe some sort of meditation. I think it is just good to zone out for a while.

    I wish you lots of luck this round. Hugs.

  6. I've done all the things you mentioned with no success either. I do try to cut down on the artificial sweetners when I am cycling along with all the usual suspects.

    I did and IVF meditation last cycle - I downloaded in from I liked it!


  7. It sounds like you're doing all the biggies, diet-wise.

    I have definitely found that upping my protein intake during stimming has helped with the bloating. But of course that's more of a comfort issue, not a likelihood-of-success thing.

    I will be doing the pineapple thing, too.

  8. I did both exercise and no exercise.... I did acu and no acu. The last cycle where I did the frozen transfer that actually worked... I exercised right up until ET (didn't get HR above 150, though). I did pre/post Acu. Not sure that either of these things made a difference... but they did make me feel better.

    The one thing that I can pretty much guarantee actually helped me was that I went back to yoga. Once you start stimming there are poses you can't do (i.e., twisting), but I found it fabulous in terms of stress relief. It helped me to be calm and kept me centered with a broader perspective. I tend to be real anxious so if you aren't you may not find it as helpful.

    I don't that any of this actually makes a difference... so I would consider doing whatever feels right to you:) Good luck!

  9. My clinic recommends limiting alcohol (I went from 1 glass of wine a night to none after transfer), only walking for exercise during stims, acupuncture, limiting caffeine and eating a healthy diet (which in my world included cheeseburgers.) I also didn't take estrogen supplements during this cycle until the 2nd week of stims because of recent research indicating it could affect lining (which has always been an issue for me.) The only real difference I noticed with this last cycle was that I really relaxed. I hate that word with a passion, but I took it to heart, low stress at work, books and movies galore. Oh, and I insisted on a blast transfer (my clinic usually only does three day transfers), even though I didn't have a huge number of embryos. I'm not sure why it was such a big deal to me, but I dug in my heals on that one.

    My protocol changed as well, even though I technically wasn't a poor responder, we used the lupron microflare protocal because my RE felt like we had to make some changes. (I will also admit to daily raspberry leaf tea and pineapple, the latter only because I love it.)

  10. Ah, see, here's the thing. I think we modify out of the sens of control it gives. I cut down the booze and caffeine because there's reasonable evidence for them, but I didn't do anything else different.

    Oh and NO SMOKING!!! :) Does reduce conception odds with IVF and in general, but I'm sure you already know that one.



  11. I wish that I had good advice. I didn't do a lot of exercise b/4 the transfer and ate pineapple afterwords. I don't know if either made a bit of difference....

  12. When I began seeing a RE I basically began to live as if I were already pregnant. I splurged here and there, but never got crazy. My RE gave no advice at all, but she was a raging bitch.

  13. Your acupuncturist might be a great resource about diet and nutrition. Mine had lots of great advice about this.

    My acupuncturist said no exercise once stim meds start. She said that you want all of your body's energy going toward follicle development, not building biceps.

    As for nutrition, my RE says to do what makes sense. She isn't opposed to one caffeinated drink a day or a little chocolate here and there. No alcohol ever, however.

    I think you have to do whatever feels right to you. That's what the nurses at the clinic always tell me.

  14. A couple of things that I did that I think are part of the reason I had such good quality(according to my RE) eggs:
    starting with menses(or at least with stims:
    1. cut caffeine down to about 1/2 cup of caffeineated tea. Or no caffeine.
    2. No more art. sweeteners. The no-gum was hard for me(hardly any have real sugar, nowadays)
    3. ate 1 organic egg each day(great source of good fat, and lots more)
    4. drank tons of water and juice mixed with water
    5. ate full-fat yogurt, yum.
    6. had a few smoothies with bee pollen or royal bee jelly in them.
    7. ate as much organic, local produce as possible.
    My RE was really surprised to get such good quality eggs, all 14 were mature, I was 36. Of course, we didn't get pregnant, but we did with the FET. Who knows if it helps, but I am doing all of this again, this time.

    Good luck! Also, let yourself have a little break after ER, my RE said to go ahead and have a glass of wine, a couple of days, to chill out.

  15. I have tried so many different things - I did hear about eating protein - not a vegan diet...but what the hell, there are so many different suggestions...

    For #3.5, I am going to quit caffeine or have no more than 100 mg per day, take prenatals with fish oil, try to eat healthy, small amount of exercise, massage, meditation and try to stay calm.

  16. OMG, I could write a book on the topic. Well, I've alluded to some of it on my blog. REs don't talk about it much because there isn't much if any medical literature on the subject in regards to egg quality. I think there is a lot we don't know about egg quality. Sperm quality is just as important, so hubby needs to be in on the same thing.

    No artificial anything. If you must have sweets, go for natural sweeteners, like fruit juices and evaporated cane juice. Yes, it's sugar, but it's not crap. Minimize sugar, but have it if it makes you not stress! I like agave nectar because it doesn't spike your blood sugar. I could write one chapter of my book just on sugar!

    Have you had a full thyroid panel done?

    I would recommend eating some meat. Not dairy, but meat. Honestly, I think that meat protein is just better than vegetable protein. I mean, you are going to be growing eye balls. Are eye ball amino acids in vegetable sources? I think not. The meat should be organic. Fish is tricky because of the mercury contamination issues, that you don't want to mess with egg quality. If meat doesn't work with you, can you at least eat organic eggs? I've been vegetarian and vegan in the past, and neither worked for me. Unfortunately, I had to learn that the hard way. I got weak and sick. That was the start of my food allergies too.

    Exercise: I think walking is ok. I walked all through my last cycle, at least up until transfer. I think it helps get more blood flow to the ovaries and uterus. Sex will do that too ;)

    I've been posting tidbits on my blog on the "Gluten Free Fridays" posts that you have seen.

  17. Hi Mo

    Before the actual injections start, I go to the gym regularly (as is my normal custom). I always eat very healthy food, don't drink caffeine and drink 2L of water daily.

    My clinic doesn't like any exercise except for walking while you're in the IVF cycle, and you have to increase your water intake to 2,5 - 3L daily. They also ban ANYTHING being taken, even vitamins and supplements. You're only allowed the medication they prescribed, which for me is folic acid and nothing else.

  18. P.S. And then of course I spoke to those ovaries and told them to make beautiful mature eggs so we could have babies :)

    Also, because i hate needles, every day I had to pray (seriously) for strength to get through that day's injections!

  19. Stop all caffeine and alcohol right away. Avoid fatty, oily foods. Lots of water and try massaging your leg, going up in the direction of the uterus as this is supposed to increase the blood flow to the uterus and make it more conducive for implantation

    Good luck Mo! I'll be praying for you.

  20. Hi Mo,

    Thanks for dropping in + commenting on my blog. Checking yours out... Never fails to boggle my mind what kind of CRAP we IFers go thru. 4th IVF. So sorry. And kudos to you for your fortitude.

    All of our bodies and situations are SO different (and within ourselves from cycle to cycle). If I actually got pg. on mine and told you what worked for me, it so doesn't mean it would for you.

    The really screwed up thing is, there's something you did or didn't do in IVF 1-3 that might or might not work for #4. It starts to become a "witch doctor" practice.

    Here's my input:

    Project yourself into the future asking yourself if you did everything you possibly could have to have achieve a pregnancy. Whatever actions will give you a "YES," follow that path. My motto: follow the path of least regrets.

    You have all the answers you need: Listen to your gut.

    If you're even questioning artificial sweeteners--CUT THEM OUT. I say, whatever crosses your mind as an "iffy" something over which you CAN exert CONTROL, grab the control and run.

    Beyond that VISUALIZE healthy, dividing embryos happily nestling into the plushy lining of your ready womb. Have music playing in a surround sound for them. Hmmm. Making this part up. Maybe we can assign ourselves a playlist to welcome them to their new home for the next 9 months...

    So, in summary: DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN and let go of everything you can't. Keep the faith!


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