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Diet, exercise, stress management tips for men and women’s healthy lifestyle during IVF

Diet, exercise, stress management tips for men and women's healthy lifestyle during IVF
ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Aug 26, 2023 01:39 PM IST

Here are tips on a balanced diet, appropriate exercise and effective stress management to support fertility and promote emotional and mental wellness during IVF

It is estimated that 1 in 8 couples or 12% of married women have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy while beginning fertility treatment can bring on a variety of emotions, including apprehensions about what can and cannot be done during the in vitro fertilization or IVF process. IVF is a fertility treatment that involves extracting eggs from a woman’s ovaries, fertilizing them with sperm in a laboratory and then transferring the embryos back into the woman’s uterus.

Diet, exercise, stress management tips for men and women's healthy lifestyle during IVF (Shutterstock)
Diet, exercise, stress management tips for men and women’s healthy lifestyle during IVF (Shutterstock)

While IVF can be a very successful treatment for infertility, it can also be a stressful and demanding process but worry not as we got you covered with some effective diet, exercise and stress management tips that can help make your IVF journey safer and more successful. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Ameet Patki, Consultant – Gynaecology and Obstetrics at PD Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Centre in Khar, shared, “The optimal fertility diet has yet to be established, and the effects of nutritional factors on fertility are largely unknown. However, dietary modifications have been shown to improve ovulatory disorder infertility. Soya containing may help female fertility, yet hinder male fertility. In contrast to men, women may actually benefit from consumption of phytoestrogens during infertility treatments. Mediterranean diet, which includes a large proportion of fresh fruits, vegetables, high dairy products, saturated oils, eggs, fish, is helpful and less of processed meats. ”

Stating that the keyword is moderation, he siad, “Start making a healthy choice much before the IVF process starts and follow through pregnancy. A large cup of coffee a day is fine but more than 4 cups of coffee with caffeine can definitely reduce implantation rates and also affect fetal growth. There is a clear impact on fertility with smoking and alcohol. Hence, cessation should be advised. In women, the toxins in cigarette smoking have been correlated with subfertility, endocrine disorders, earlier onset of menopause, premature ovarian failure, and decreased implantation rate. Smoking is also associated with many earlier pregnancy complications including spontaneous miscarriages, preterm labour, and ectopic pregnancy. However, with smoking cessation, fecundity returns to a similar rate as to non-smokers, even if cessation occurs within one year of attempting conception. Similarly, cigarette smoking was associated with a significant decrease in sperm concentration, total sperm count and total number of motile sperm thereby affecting pregnancy rates even in IVF cycles.”

According to Dr Ameet Patki, anti-oxidants like CO-10 work very well to reduce the oxidative stress particularly in men and hence Co-120 along with Vitamin C, Selenium and L-carnitine amongst other anti-oxidants can be given as dietary supplements. In women, he said, “Folic acid, Vitamin B complex and CO-10 should be given as supplements in the diet. Similarly, weight loss should be recommended if the BMI is in the overweight and obese category, and weight gain should be recommended for an underweight BMI. Higher BMI is also associated with negative outcomes for patients undergoing in vitro fertilization. Extreme exercise may lead to anovulation and infertility, whereas exercise may result in improved ovulation and fertility in anovulatory obese patients.”

Regarding exercise, he recommended, “Continue exactly what you have been doing if it helps you relieve stress. That means do not suddenly start exercising ‘for fertility’s sake,’ if it just adds additional stress to your life. One form of exercise that we tell all patients to refrain from during IVF stimulation is CrossFit or high-intensity interval training. Why? Your ovaries are expanding and growing larger due to the fertility medication and can sometimes twist on the pedicle causing a medical emergency. Fertility treatment is a high-stress, high-anxiety time. There are so many factors feeding into that stress from hormones to hopes and fears. In addition, the high dose hormones can often play havoc with the mind and body. We recommend that people who are trying to conceive stick with their usual routine, especially if it helps them manage their stress levels. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) also notes that reducing stress can help people have a better quality of life while navigating a challenging experience, like infertility.”

It is clear that infertility causes stress but what is less clear is whether or not stress causes infertility. Dr Ameet Patki highlighted, “The impact of distress on treatment outcome is difficult to investigate for a number of factors, including inaccurate self-report measures and feelings of increased optimism at treatment onset. Despite the prevalence of infertility, the majority of infertile women do not share their story with family or friends, thus increasing their psychological vulnerability. The inability to reproduce naturally can cause feelings of shame, guilt, and low self-esteem. These negative feelings may lead to varying degrees of depression, anxiety, distress, and a poor quality of life. Physical, in-person, emotional support still seems to be superior to support through the internet and chat rooms, but the use of the internet for support can still help people facing infertility by educating, empowering, and diminishing feelings of depression. Yoga is one method of stress management and relaxation that may be beneficial for women undergoing fertility treatments. Yoga helps with relaxation through meditation, breathing, and achieving a deep sense of calmness.”

He added, “Mind-body therapy that focuses on cognitive behaviour therapy, relaxation training, negative health behaviour modification, and social support components was found to improve pregnancy rates for those undergoing their second IVF treatment cycle. A good doctor patient relationship, getting all your doubts cleared from your team, availing counselling services at your doctor’s clinic for diet, exercise and psychological stress helps to improve the couple’s outlook to the treatment and definitely makes the process worth the effort, time and money.”

Dr Vaishali Chaudhary, Director- IVF and Fertility at Sahyadri Hospitals in Pune, insisted, “Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) is crucial to enhance the chances of successful pregnancy outcomes. A balanced diet, appropriate exercise, and effective stress management techniques can significantly contribute to the overall well-being of individuals undergoing IVF treatment. These practices not only support the physical aspects of fertility but also promote emotional and mental wellness throughout the journey.”

Tips on Diet:

Maintaining a healthy and well-balanced diet is essential for individuals undergoing IVF and Dr Vaishali Chaudhary advised the following diet tips –

1. Nutrient-Rich Foods: Consume a variety of nutrient-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products. These foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support reproductive health.

2. Folate and Iron: Adequate intake of folate and iron is crucial for both preconception and pregnancy. Leafy greens, legumes, fortified cereals and lean meats are good sources.

3. Healthy Fats: Incorporate sources of healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish, which provide omega-3 fatty acids that promote hormone balance.

4. Hydration: Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day to support overall bodily functions.

5. Limit Processed Foods: Minimise processed and sugary foods, as they may contribute to inflammation and hormonal imbalances.

Tips on Exercise:

Engaging in appropriate physical activity can positively impact fertility and overall well-being hence, Dr Vaishali Chaudhary recommended the following exercise tips to consider –

1. Moderation: Engage in moderate, regular exercise routines that include cardiovascular activities (like walking, swimming, or cycling) and strength training. Avoid excessive or intense workouts that could potentially affect hormonal balance.

2. Yoga and Stretching: Gentle forms of exercise like yoga and stretching can improve flexibility, reduce stress, and promote relaxation.

3. Pelvic Floor Exercises: Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles can provide support to the reproductive organs and improve blood circulation in the pelvic region.

4. Consultation: Before starting any new exercise regimen, consult your healthcare provider to ensure it’s safe and appropriate for your individual situation.

Tips for Stress Management:

Managing stress is essential during the IVF journey as stress can impact fertility and emotional well-being so Dr Vaishali Chaudhary listed these stress management techniques –

1. Mindfulness and Meditation: Practice mindfulness and meditation techniques to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Deep breathing exercises can also be helpful.

2. Family Support: Build a strong support system of friends, family, or support groups to share your thoughts, concerns, and experiences.

3. Hobbies and Leisure Activities: Engage in hobbies, activities, and leisure pursuits that bring joy and distract from stressors.

4. Professional Help: If stress becomes overwhelming, consider seeking guidance from a mental health professional who specializes in fertility-related issues.

5. Time for Yourself: Allocate regular time for self-care, whether it’s reading, spending time in nature, or enjoying a soothing bath.

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