If you want to get pregnant one day but, when the time comes, it doesn’t happen as easily as you hope, you’re not worried. There’s always IVF. Celebrities get pregnant all the time with the help of reproductive technology. And you’ve read about women in their50s (and older) who get pregnant. So while you’re hoping you’ll get pregnant the old fashioned way, it’s no sweat if you don’t, you think. IVF will work.
But IVF isn’t always a guarantee. The per-cycle success rate is only 20 to 35 percent — and that’s despite the enormous cost of the procedure. The average cost of one cycle of IVF is between $12,000 and $15,000 not including the cost of medication, which can cost another $3,000 to $5,000.
Then there’s the toll that the IVF drugs, like Clomid, take on your health. This drug works like the Pill, but in reverse (forcing ovulation instead of suppressing it). And it can bring about a raft of deeply unpleasant short-term symptoms (diarrhea, vomiting, abnormal bleeding, headache, bloating, weight gain, breast tenderness and blurred vision) and long-term consequences (potential for increased risk of certain cancers). In other words, Clomid can be a valuable tool in helping you conceive, but it can send your body into a state of hormonal whiplash that lasts for months or years—whether or not you get pregnant.
But don’t despair. If IVF is in your future, you can dramatically increase your chances of conceiving with a few simple lifestyle interventions. Here’s what you need to know.
How to Improve Your Chance of Conceiving on IVF
Your doctor might tell you the truth about the disappointing success rates with IVF. But your healthcare practitioner is less likely to tell you about simple strategies you can use to boost your chances of getting pregnant with IVF.
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health monitored the fat consumption of 147 women undergoing IVF treatment and discovered that those who ate the highest amounts of monounsaturated fat were 3.4 times more likely to have a child after IVF. They concluded that avocados contain the best kind of monounsaturated fat (and the least saturated fat, which was found to decrease the amount of “good eggs”).
Another study, this time with 4,000 Danish women, found that women who drink five or more cups of coffee were 50 percent less likely to become pregnant with IVF.
These studies reveal an important secret: dietary choices affect fertility. “Food is medicine” is a guiding principle of the FLO Protocol, and these studies support but we’ve been saying for the past 15 years!
IVF shouldn’t be treated as a sure thing. You stand the best chance of conceiving when you take a proactive approach and support your body with lifestyle strategies during your fertility journey. And being proactive isn’t about going against your doctor’s advice. It’s about complementing their guidance with fertility-friendly choices you can make at home every day. You and your doctors can work as a team to improve your chances of getting pregnant.
Your Strategy for IVF Success
Here is my two-part strategy for getting pregnant with IVF:
Strategy #1: Focus on Food. I mentioned the importance of avocados (and other healthy fats) above, and in previous posts I’ve shared the best fertility-boosting foods. But there is more you can do when it comes to what’s on your plate.
I recommend preparing your body for pregnancy six months to a year before starting IVF. That might sound like a long time, but your hard work now will pay big dividends when the time comes to start the IVF process.
Start by adopting The Cycle Syncing Method when choosing what you eat and when you eat it. Taking this step by itself will put you ahead of the game.
Next, make it a priority to:
Reduce inflammation: During your follicular phase, eat sprouted and fermented foods to deliver as many bioavailable nutrients as possible to the ovaries.
Energize your eggs: During ovulation, eat raw fruits and vegetables to increase egg-boosting glutathione levels.
Boost Progesterone: During the luteal phase, add in more root vegetables, like sweet potatoes, and leafy greens from the brassica family, like kale, to support your liver and detox estrogen efficiently. This helps your body maintain an optimal ratio of estrogen to progesterone for pregnancy and reduces the chance of miscarriage.
Boost your mineral stores: Replenish your minerals during the menstrual phase by consuming sea vegetables, avocados, and/or some free-range animal protein to deeply nourish your endocrine system for the next cycle. Consider taking key hormone-supportive supplements during this time.
Strategy #2: List to Your Body’s Internal Fertility Barometer. Your body can offer you clues about your fertility—that is, if you know what to look for. Make it a practice to track your menstrual cycle, your skin, your GI tract, and your vaginal microbiome.
Track your cycle: Your monthly bleed can tell you a lot about your progesterone levels and how prepared you are to sustain a pregnancy through the critical first weeks. Look at the color, texture, and number of days of your period, and learn how to interpret what they mean by clicking here. Be sure to share this information with your doctor to get support in avoiding miscarriage. If tracking your period is brand new, my the MyFlo app, which makes tracking your cycle a cinch.
Check your poop: If your GI tract needs some TLC, you will notice it in your bowel movements. Are you constipated? Do you always have diarrhea? Do you poop regularly but only a little bit at a time (it feels like you’re not getting it all out)? Or you might notice other signs of GI distress—chronic heartburn or bloating, for example. If you experience any of these things, focus on healing your gut with fermented foods, probiotics, and a high-fiber diet. A healthier gut will improve your ability to absorb key nutrients like vitamin D3 and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for balancing hormones.
Check your skin: Your skin will give you hints about your liver health. If you’re breaking out a lot, your liver might not be detoxing estrogen effectively. If this is the case, prioritize eating green leafy vegetables and vegetables from the brassica family, both of which help support liver function. You might also consider taking a liver-support supplement.
Don’t forget the vaginal microbiome: The gut isn’t the only area of the body with a microbiome. Your vagina has its own unique ecosystem, and the health of your vaginal ecosystem is important for fertility. Chronic bacterial overgrowth and STDs are linked to decreased fertility rates. Address chronic BV (bacterial vaginosis), UTIs, and yeast infections by following my guide to natural remedies. Then get checked for common STDs like HPV and chlamydia that can create a less than optimal environment for an embryo. Both are highly treatable, so don’t fret if you find something.
Strategy #3: Maximize Your Micronutrients.
Certain micronutrients are essential for getting pregnant. I recommend using targeted, hormone-supportive supplements to boost your chances of conceiving on IVF.
B6. Vitamin B6 is critical for the development of the corpus luteum, the group of cells that’s produced in the ovary after the egg is released. The corpus luteum makes progesterone during the luteal phase of your cycle and during the early stages of pregnancy. A deficiency in vitamin B6—and, hence, a deficiency in progesterone—will have a profound effect on your reproductive health. Supplementing a B-vitamin-rich diet will help ensure a healthy balance of progesterone.
Magnesium. Stress causes the body to jettison magnesium. So does eating sugar and drinking caffeine. Why does that matter? Magnesium helps with cortisol regulation, blood sugar balance, thyroid support, sleep, and—perhaps most importantly for fertility—hormone creation. Magnesium’s ability to support the creation of new hormones is especially helpful for women in perimenopause or women who have just come off the pill and want to conceive.
D3. Ninety-three percent of women dealing with infertility are deficient in vitamin D3, and women with higher vitamin D3 levels are four times more likely to conceive via IVF than women with low levels. That’s because low levels of vitamin D3 have been linked with estrogen dominance, which is a common trigger for hormone symptoms and problems.
Probiotics. A healthy gut is essential for conception because a specific community of gut flora called the estrobolome helps with the metabolization of estrogen. When you take medications, eat dairy, gluten, and foods covered in pesticides, you disrupt the gut’s bacterial balance and compromise your ability to eliminate excess estrogen—which can interfere with fertility.
Zinc. Zinc deficiency is a very common issue for many women, and it can have a negative impact on your natural hormonal balance. That’s because zinc helps to boost your testosterone production and it blocks the enzyme responsible for turning testosterone into estrogen (again, staving off the possibility of estrogen dominance, which is so widely responsible for endocrine dysfunction and subsequent fertility issues).
Always remember, that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you! You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!
Get Actionable Advice in a FLO Coach Consultation
We believe that no woman should suffer simply because she has a period. And we also know that it’s not always possible to get access to functional and holistic healthcare solutions — sometimes they’re too far away and most of the time they are way too expensive. That’s why we offer phone and Skype consultation sessions with our FLO coaches.
In your consultation session, your coach will go over your health history and symptoms, get feedback on any health changes you’ve implemented from our resource library, review your hormone test analysis if applicable, and help you develop a plan of action to solve your symptoms.