As a fertility clinic veteran, and now, finally, mother of two, I know what it's like to desperately want to get pregnant. And I know what it's like to feel like you would do just about anything to make that happen.
You’ve checked all of the boxes: you’re monitoring ovulation with OPK’s, you’ve Googled your heart out, you’re taking the right prenatal vitamins, you’ve run tests to rule out anything obvious, and perhaps you have even done a fertility treatment or two. But unfortunately, you’re still not pregnant.
If you’re considering IVF as the next step in your journey, I’m sure you’re wondering what else you can do to give yourself the best possible chance for success. In fact, as a nutritionist, the questions I get asked most often are, "What should I be eating during IVF?" and “How long before an IVF cycle should I change my diet?”
The short answer is as soon as possible. And here’s why.
We know that women are born with all of the eggs they will ever have, about 1 to 2 million. And, while this may seem like a lot, by the time a woman reaches childbearing age this number will have significantly decreased (and will continue to decrease with age).
Approximately 90-100 days before ovulation, a woman’s eggs will begin to mature. Each month, multiple eggs start to mature until the dominant egg ovulates (sometimes, more than one will ovulate, in the case of twins). The quality of the dominant egg, as well as the others that didn’t reach maturation, is a direct result of the environment in which they grow. But it is particularly during the 90-100 day maturation period that what you eat can highly influence the health of your eggs.
Enter the Mediterranean “diet.”
In this study, a greater observance of a Mediterranean-style diet while going through IVF was associated with a higher likelihood of achieving clinical pregnancy and live birth among non-obese women <35 years of age. And in this study, more embryos were obtained via IVF when the participant followed a Mediterranean diet. In a process over which most of us feel completely out of control, this research proves that we do have some control over the outcome of our IVF cycle after all.
So, what exactly is the Mediterranean diet? The Mediterranean diet is characterized by daily consumption of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthy plant-based fats; weekly intake of poultry, fish, nuts, and beans; moderate portions of dairy; and limited intake of red meat.
A good rule of thumb to follow: ½ your plate should be vegetables, ¼ protein, and the last ¼ some type of quality carbohydrate. Remember, you do not need to ditch carbs to conceive. It’s the quality of those carbs that count! Did you get that? Carbs are A-OK!
Trust me, I know it can be incredibly overwhelming to feel like you have to overhaul your whole diet on top of already stressful appointments, scans, blood draws, and procedures. Even as a nutritionist, I too felt like there was way too much to keep track of while struggling to conceive. That’s why I set out to create the resources I felt were missing on my own fertility journey.
If you are looking for that next level of support when it comes to nutrition and exercise during IVF, make sure to get your hands on myMindBodyBaby’s IVF Fitness and Nutrition guide. It’s an evidence-based approach to lifestyle support to help you improve your chances of pregnancy and live birth, and you can use the code rescripted15 to get 15% off.
The bottom line? If you are embarking on an IVF cycle in the next six months and are wondering whether it’s too soon to make lifestyle changes in preparation, the answer is a resounding no. Start now!
Or, if you’re quickly approaching a cycle and are worried that changing your diet won’t be beneficial this late in the game, I deeply believe that anything is better than nothing. Small changes can lead to big results. And at the very least, you will be supporting a healthier and happier environment to transfer an embryo into and to support your future baby.
Michelle Strong is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist & Co-Founder of MyMindBodyBaby. Being a food nerd and clinical nutritionist for the past 13 years taught her a lot, but it was nothing compared to struggling with infertility for two long years. Since then, she has shifted her focus to helping those on their personal journeys to motherhood. Visit myMindBodyBaby.com, and use the code rescripted15 to get 15% off!