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Optimizing Your Diet for IVF Success: What to Eat When TTC

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By Dr. Sarah Zadek ND

The IVF journey can be both emotionally and physically taxing. What you expose your body to (including the foods you’re ingesting) during this process can affect your mood, energy, and your chances of success.

Your body relies on your diet to provide key nutrients for egg and sperm development. Meanwhile, dietary choices play a major role in managing inflammation and promoting a healthy bacterial flora in the gut and reproductive tract.

So, what makes up an ideal IVF diet plan? In this article, we answer this question and more, helping you make the best dietary choices as you navigate through the IVF process.

How will an IVF diet plan affect my outcome?

It takes about 100 days for eggs and sperm to fully develop. Your lifestyle and diet choices within this 100-day period can impact the growth and maturation of those follicles or sperm.

These choices can influence:
• Nutrient availability (for sperm production and maturation, and egg development)
• Protection against cellular and DNA damage
• Hormone production
• Detoxification in the liver
• Metabolic health

Looking at the big picture, these factors affect your chances of conceiving and carrying to term, but also the health of your baby. This is why it’s important to follow a healthy IVF diet plan both during your cycle and in the months preceding it.

This isn’t meant to be a restrictive or stressful diet, but one to set you up for making healthy habits a part of your reproductive journey and beyond.

Best Food To Eat (or Avoid) During IVF Treatment

You might be wondering what to eat during IVF. So, let’s explore the best foods to consume leading up to an egg retrieval, and before and after an embryo transfer. We’ll also cover what foods to avoid during these processes.

What To Eat Leading Up To An Egg Retrieval

We want to provide nourishment to your developing eggs, so we can set them up for proper maturation and the ability to create healthy embryos.

Research indicates that this is best supported with:

  • Low-glycemic index foods: Vegetables, fruits (like apples, pears, berries), minimally processed whole grains like oats and oat bran, legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, beans, and other foods like quinoa and unsweetened yogurt.
  • Plant-based proteins: Chickpeas, lentils, beans, quinoa, ancient grains, nuts and seeds.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: The richest sources include mackerel, sardines and anchovies, though salmon, nuts and seeds, and fortified eggs can also provide omega-3s.
  • Fruits and vegetables, especially those high in antioxidants like berries, purple cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and artichokes.

Many of these recommendations overlap with a Mediterranean-style diet which includes high amounts of vegetables, fruits, legumes, olive oil, and unrefined grains, with moderate consumption of fish and a lower intake of other animal meats.

One study found that following a Mediterranean diet while going through IVF increased the probability of pregnancy by 40%. Another study found that for women 35 years or younger, those who had greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet had significantly higher rates of clinical pregnancy (50.0% vs 29.1%) and live birth (48.4% vs 26.6%) compared to those with low adherence to this diet.

What Foods To Avoid Leading Up To An Egg Retrieval

Avoid these foods while going through IVF, which can be detrimental to fertility:

  • Trans fats and partially-hydrogenated oils: found in pastries, theatre-style popcorn butter, margarine, and even some commercially available peanut butter.
  • High-glycemic index foods: Refined sugars and processed carbohydrates such as pastries, cookies, white bread and buns, white rice, donuts, sugary sodas and candy.
  • Red meat and processed meats.

As you get closer to your egg retrieval day, you’re likely to feel more bloated, uncomfortable, or just plain tired. However, don’t fall into a drive-thru or fast food trap. Avoid fast foods, fried foods, and processed foods before your retrieval since these can all be inflammatory and cause oxidative stress in the body. They can also cause increased bloating and gas which is not what you need when you’re already feeling it! Instead, focus on healthy whole foods that are steamed, boiled, baked or sauteed.

What To Eat Before Embryo Transfer

If you imagine your embryo as a seed, the uterine lining represents the soil and we want it rich and hydrated—which in uterine terms means good blood flow, proper thickening, healthy nutrient-filled cells, and having beneficial bacteria around to facilitate implantation.

Research indicates that diets rich in omega-3 fats positively impact fertility; this includes egg quality and embryo implantation. Omega-3s are also well-known for their anti-inflammatory actions and can even promote uterine blood flow.

Examples of foods high in omega-3s include:

• Salmon
• Mackerel
• Sardines
• Anchovies
• Chia seeds
• Walnuts
• Flaxseeds

Beets are also a great vegetable to include in your diet. Besides being a good source of folic acid, beetroot increases the amount of nitric oxide in the body. This can help to promote blood flow while reducing blood pressure. Beets also contain betalains, special antioxidant pigments in golden and red beets that protect the cardiovascular system.

Additionally, there is some evidence that the gut microbiome impacts fertility. So, eating foods that support the gut can be beneficial. You may want to consider including small amounts of fermented food and probiotic foods. Some examples include:

• Kimchi
• Yogurt
• Kefir
• Kimchi
• Sourdough
• Pickles
• Sauerkraut
• Tempeh
• Miso

However, balance is still important. Make sure to include plenty of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains as described above in the pre-egg retrieval diet section.

Food To Eat After Embryo Transfer

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, having a “cold uterus” is associated with infertility. Cold contracts and slows blood flow. By “warming the uterus,” blood and nutrients circulate more easily. Continue to follow the recommendations of a Mediterranean diet, but aim to consume warm, cooked foods to benefit the uterus, and avoid raw or frozen foods:

  • Avoid ice cream, frozen drinks and ice-cold water
  • Avoid skin exposure to blasts of air conditioning and cold-weather winds
  • Choose cooked (steamed, boiled, baked or sauteed) foods over raw foods
  • Consume “warming” foods like ginger, soups, broths, stews, but not spicy foods which are not warming in the same way

Food To Avoid After Embryo Transfer

In addition to the recommendations above, now is the time to avoid alcohol and limit caffeine. It’s also advised to avoid foods with a higher risk of contamination with Listeria and Salmonella:

  • Soft cheeses
  • Packaged salads
  • Packaged deli meats
  • Raw eggs
  • Raw cookie dough
  • Raw fish or meat

Other IVF Success Dietary Tips

Beyond what foods to eat, here are a few other tips to consider:

  • Make sure to stay hydrated. Some evidence links hydration status to pregnancy outcomes. It can impact implantation, birth weight, blood flow, development of diabetes, fetal development, and more. Consider bringing a water bottle with you wherever you go. Or opt for sipping on a glass of water throughout your day.
  • Consider making most of your meals at home. This way, you know exactly what’s in them. It can also ensure you’re meeting certain nutritional requirements and also avoiding high-sugar or highly processed alternatives.
  • Get tested for deficiencies. While it’s standard protocol to have blood testing before fertility treatment, you can also do this early on. This can help you get your diet on track, ensuring you aren’t missing any critical nutrients.

Fertility Supplements

Folate is undeniably the most important supplement for fertility and pregnancy. Ideally, this is part of a daily prenatal vitamin. Furthermore, we recommend omega-3 and vitamin D supplementation during IVF. This can help with adequate blood flow and immune support.

If you’re unsure about your unique needs, talking with an fertility-focused naturopath can be advantageous. This can help you determine what supplements or dietary choices are best for you and your situation (more on this below).

Work With A Fertility-Focused Naturopathic Doctor

Although we’ve reviewed some great tips and dietary guidelines here, there are a lot of benefits to working with a fertility-focused naturopath, including more individualized support. If you have specific dietary restrictions, or an underlying health condition (like diabetes, PCOS, hypothyroidism, endometriosis, or psoriasis), a naturopath can help you navigate a fertility-friendly diet that also supports your needs. They can also provide nutrient testing and recommendations for supplements.

At TRIO, we’re proud to partner with reputable and caring naturopaths. Together, we can determine a diet that aligns with your unique fertility needs, getting you closer to your goals. Get started with TRIO and naturopathic support today! Book a complimentary 15-minute discovery call.