Boosting fertility

When trying to conceive, there are some important changes you can make to your lifestyle to increase your chances of having a healthy baby.

For women

Smoking: Don’t smoke, or stop well before treatment. Cigarette smoking halves the chance of conception in IVF treatment, and probably does the same for other treatments. Smoking acts by reducing the number and the quality of the eggs that develop in the ovaries, and may reduce blood flow to the uterus. Miscarriages are more likely in women who smoke. Nicotine patches are not recommended because they may mimic some of the biological effects of smoking. Before anyone starts publicly funded treatment, they need to have stopped smoking or have not used nicotine patches for at least three months. There is some evidence to suggest that tobacco may affect sperm production and quality, and increasing evidence that second-hand smoke from others is also bad.

Caffeine: The impact of caffeine is still controversial, but some studies show that even quite small amounts of caffeine can reduce the chance of pregnancy – so why not reduce the amount of tea, coffee, cola and especially energy drinks you consume.

Alcohol: Small amounts of alcohol are probably not detrimental, but we recommend not drinking alcohol after embryo transfer, since the negative impact of alcohol on fetal development is well known.

Drugs: Narcotics can reduce the chance of successful fertility treatment, and many are also highly damaging to unborn babies.

Weight: Being overweight can mean you need more medication to stimulate the ovaries, and may also reduce your response to high doses. Fortunately, even a relatively small loss in weight (often just 5-6 kg) with some exercise can be very beneficial.To check if you’re in a healthy weight range, use the link to the BMI calculator below.

Medications: Some medications may interfere with fertility and/or fertility treatment, so please tell us if you’re using any medications. Particularly important are tranquillisers such as Stelazine or Haloperidol, as well as medications for migraines, inflammatory bowel disease and high blood pressure.

Folic Acid and vitamins: Folic acid can prevent up to 92% of cases of neural tube defects such as spina bifida in babies, so we encourage all women wanting to become pregnant to take folic acid. Tablets of 0.8 mg folic acid per day are sufficient, and should be taken from the beginning of treatment until 12 weeks into pregnancy. Folic acid is available from pharmacies without a prescription. Women on anticonvulsant medications need a higher dose of folic acid, and should take advice from their doctor. A general multivitamin may be beneficial, but large doses of some vitamins, particularly Vitamin A, can lead to birth defects. We recommend Elevit because it contains folic acid and iodine, and it can be purchased from pharmacies and our clinics.

Aspirin: There’s considerable interest in whether low-dose aspirin may improve blood flow to the ovaries and uterus and therefore improve the chance of pregnancy during IVF treatment. Overall the results don’t show a benefit, but it may be useful in some people.

Heparin: Our doctors may prescribe low-dose heparin because of clotting abnormalities.

Acupuncture: Acupuncture at the time of embryo transfer has been associated with a high pregnancy rate in some studies but not others. A recent well controlled study found no difference between a short course of acupuncture and sessions using dummy needles away from acupuncture points. On balance, evidence no longer shows a benefit of acupuncture on pregnancy rates.


For men

Weight: There is some evidence that men being overweight can lead to reduced sperm quality and a lower chance of pregnancy using IVF or ICSI.To check if you’re in a healthy weight range, use the link to the BMI calculator below.

Drugs: Narcotics, tobacco, marijuana and heavy alcohol use can all impair sperm production in men. Sperm production can drop for up to three months after the flu or a high fever, so please tell us if any of these apply to you.

Antioxidants: There is increasing evidence that antioxidants may reduce sperm damage in some men. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and lycopene are present in many foods and in supplements. We recommend Menevit, which is available from pharmacies and from pharmacies and our clinics.

Keep testes cool: Wear boxer shorts not briefs, keep your laptop off your lap, and don’t have hot baths, saunas, or spas too frequently.


Alternative therapies

Many people wanting to become pregnant try alternative or complementary therapies such as Chinese herbs; aromatherapy; naturopathy; reflexology and acupuncture.

Most alternative treatments have not been tested scientifically for their effects on hormones, sperm, eggs or embryos, or the uterus. Some studies have shown that particular herbs inhibit sperm and egg function.

Some substances may affect the efficiency of medications that are going to be used in your fertility treatment.  It is therefore very important to tell your Fertility Associates doctor what conventional, alternative and complementary medications you are on before and during treatment so that he or she can advise you whether to adjust your medications in preparation for and during your fertility treatment.

De-stress – not distress

The most important thing you can do for yourself when trying to conceive is take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Trying for a baby can be stressful and emotional, and can feel overwhelming at times.

We offer full support including counselling services to help you manage your emotions at all stages of treatment. Learn more about our counselling and support services here. We also have an active Facebook community where we often provide free sessions on coping, stress, and diet.

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