Preparing for I.V.F. Series: Diet
What you eat as you prepare for your first cycle of I.V.F. can improve your chances of success and promote a healthy pregnancy. While we hear quite a bit about the importance of prenatal vitamins and diet in pregnancy, women aren’t the only ones who need to watch their diet. Men need to carefully consider what they eat as well. The foods men eat in the three months before their sperm retrieval can have an impact on sperm count and sperm quality, because sperm mature in the testicles in approximately two to three-month cycles. Women also need to pay close attention to their diet and intake of vitamins, because proper diet and vitamins are required for the development of the fetus. When it comes to preparing for your next I.V.F. cycle and preparing your body for pregnancy, which diet is best?
The Mediterranean Diet & I.V.F.
The research suggests that adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with better outcomes in women undergoing I.V.F. According to observational research published in Human Reproduction, it appears that women who more closely adhered to the Mediterranean diet were 2.7 times more likely to achieve live birth. It’s not just women who seem to benefit from eating the Mediterranean diet. Research published in the journal, Human Reproduction also noted that men who adhered to the Mediterranean diet less closely had a “2.6 times higher likelihood of having abnormal sperm concentration, total sperm count and motility.” While the study is observational and so prone to bias, it confirms research that indicates that diets rich in fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains appear associated with better semen quality in men.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
- Eat fruits and vegetables
- Eat whole grains, like whole oats, whole wheat, rye, quinoa, brown rice or wild rice
- Eat fish, but watch your mercury intake
- Eat beans
- Eat nuts and seeds
- Low intake of meat and sugars
Research published in the journal of Fertility & Sterility found that women undergoing I.V.F. who consumed 34.2 grams, or 1.2 servings of whole grains each day had higher probabilities of live birth. It is believed that a diet high in whole grains could increase endometrial thickness, a factor that can impact your success with I.V.F. However, even with a healthy diet, women and men should also take wellness supplements to ensure that they are getting the vitamins and minerals they need to support healthy sperm and healthy fetal development.
Vitamins & Minerals, I.V.F., and Healthy Pregnancy
What vitamins and minerals do women and men need as they embark on their I.V.F. journeys? Women should take a prenatal vitamin before I.V.F. because these vitamins contain crucial B vitamins that are needed to prevent birth defects and promote the healthy development of the fetus. What specific vitamins and minerals are needed to promote healthy pregnancy, and better chances of I.V.F. success?
The World Health Organization published a list of vitamins and minerals women need for a healthy pregnancy. Eating a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, and fish, and taking a prenatal vitamin should be sufficient for most women to meet these requirements.
The list provided from the World Health Organization includes:
- Vitamin A µg 800
- Vitamin D µg 5
- Vitamin E mg 15
- Vitamin C mg 55
- Thiamine (vitamin B1) mg 1.4
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2) mg 1.4
- Niacin (vitamin B3) mg 18
- Vitamin B6 mg 1.9
- Vitamin B12 μg 2.6
- Folic acid μg 600
- Iron mg 27
- Zinc mg 10
- Copper mg 1.15
- Selenium μg 30
- Iodine 250
There are several vitamins and minerals associated with improved sperm count in men.
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- B Vitamins & Folic Acid
Let’s explore why some of these vitamins and minerals are so essential to healthy pregnancy and I.V.F. success. We’ll start by exploring vitamins and minerals that are crucial for both men and women:
- Folic Acid (Folate) B9. Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate, which is the naturally occurring form of folic acid in food. According to the Centers for Disease Control, folic acid and folate are needed for the healthy formation of the fetus’s neural tube and to prevent devastating birth defects like spina bifida and brain defects. Folic acid is needed very early in pregnancy, often before the woman even knows she is pregnant, so all women of reproductive age should be taking supplements to ensure they get enough folic acid. Men also need folic acid. Research published in the journal Fertility & Sterility found that men who took folic acid and zinc had higher sperm counts.
- B Vitamins (Vitamin B12, B1, and B6). B vitamins are essential to pregnancy and play a role in male sperm counts and sperm quality. Research indicates that low levels of vitamin B12 can be dangerous for the developing infant. This is alarming because many people suffer from vitamin B12 deficiencies. When 3,000 men and women in Massachusetts were tested for vitamin B12 deficiencies by the USDA, 9 percent of people were found deficient, while another 16 percent were low in B12. The Food and Nutrition Bulletin noted that B12 deficiency can be a cause of infertility or spontaneous abortion and that babies born to mothers low in B12 are at risk of neural tube defects. B12 is not the only vitamin you need. Oxford Medicine Online notes that vitamin B1 is needed for healthy fetal nervous system development and muscle function. Researchers writing in the American Journal of Epidemiology noted that low levels of vitamin B6 were associated with lower probabilities of conception and higher risk of lost pregnancy. Men should also consider taking a daily wellness supplement with B vitamins. Research in the journal Andrology found that men with genetic polymorphisms (gene variations associated with birth defects) who took vitamins B9 and B12 saw better sperm parameters.
- Vitamin D. According to Fertility & Sterility, women with higher levels of vitamin D were more likely to achieve clinical pregnancy with I.V.F. than women with lower levels of vitamin D. The World Health Organization notes that vitamin D can also reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia and preterm birth, a potentially dangerous condition to the woman and fetus. Men should also consider taking wellness supplements containing vitamin D. Research in the journal, Urology found that sperm have a vitamin D receptor and that this could play a role in male fertility.
- Vitamins E & C. Vitamins E and C are important antioxidants. The World Health Organization notes that these vitamins work together to protect cells from damage. Vitamin C is involved in the synthesis of collagen and the metabolism of iron and folate, can prevent pre-eclampsia, and protect the infant from low birth weight, chronic lung disease, and other conditions. Higher levels of vitamins E and C could have an impact on better outcomes for women undergoing I.V.F. according to research published in Reproductive Biomedicine Online. Men can also benefit from taking vitamin C. Research published in the Urology Journal found that men who both lost weight and who also took vitamin C had better sperm concentration and sperm motility.
- Selenium. According to the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, selenium is needed for the reproductive system to function normally. Low levels of selenium were associated with “gestational complications, miscarriages and the damaging of the nervous and immune systems of the fetus.” Selenium is also needed by men. The British Journal of Urology found that selenium intake could potentially increase sperm concentration and sperm motility.
Women may also want to watch their iron levels, their calcium levels, iodine levels, and consider taking fish oil if they are not eating at least two servings of fish a week. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition notes that iron-deficiency anemia is connected with low birth weight and preterm delivery. The World Health Organization notes that calcium can prevent pre-eclampsia, which is a dangerous high blood pressure that affects pregnant women, and that iodine is needed for proper brain development of the fetus. Vitamin A is also needed for fetal eye development, but most women can get sufficient vitamin A from a normal diet. Finally, women should make sure they get enough omega-3 fatty acids which are found primarily in fish. According to the Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology, many pregnant women don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are needed for fetal brain and eye development. Finally, coenzyme Q10 supplements can also potentially be beneficial for women undergoing I.V.F. According to the journal, Antioxidants, taking 600 mg a day of coenzyme Q10 was associated with better “ovarian response in women with decreased ovarian reserve.”
Men looking to improve their sperm count, sperm motility, and concentration may also want to keep zinc levels high and consider taking a supplement of D-aspartic acid and coenzyme Q10. Research in Endocrine found that a formulation of D-aspartic acid, coenzyme Q10, and zinc was found to increase sperm motility and sperm counts.
At the end of the day, improved pregnancy outcomes and healthy pregnancy depends on having a healthy diet and getting the right vitamins and minerals. Eating a healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet, taking a prenatal vitamin, and taking wellness supplements known to provide essential nutrients known to boost fertility can help couples as they embark on their I.V.F. journeys. FertilityBlend for men and women provides many of the vitamins listed above known to improve I.V.F. chances. Eating healthily, taking a prenatal vitamin, and taking FertilityBlend can help prepare you for I.V.F.
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