Every IVF cycle brings with it hopes, dreams, and sometimes, failure. But there are ways to boost your chances of success when doing IVF. Here are some of them.
Up to one in six Singaporean couples may experience difficulties when trying to start a family. In most cases, In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is the most viable option to turn this baby dream into a reality. And while there are various factors that determine the success rate of each IVF cycle – such as the woman’s age and the cause of infertility – there are several things that couples can do to increase their chances of having a baby.
Dr Seng Shay Way, Specialist in Obstetrician and Gynaecology, Raffles Women’s Centre, Raffles Hospital, suggests these:
1. Reduce stress
Don’t stress too much about de-stressing – simply devote a few minutes every day to unwinding, without totally checking out from your daily routine. Just because you’re stressed doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant. However, if you have high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, this may interfere with implantation. It also blocks estrogen action in your endometrium, affecting success rates.
2. Don’t over-exercise
Exercise is good for health but over exercising can be stressful for your body. A reasonable workout regimen would include about 30 to 40 minutes of cardio three times a week, with yoga or light weightlifting on the days in between. Be especially cautious about high-intensity workouts during the actual stimulation phase of IVF, when you’re receiving hormone injections. During this phase, the ovaries are enlarged and accidents like ovarian torsion or rupture can happen.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
Don’t wait until you’re ready to start trying for a child to worry about your weight. Weight can impact the success of IVF. Being overweight has been linked to poor IVF outcomes, including decreased pregnancy rates, lower live birth rates, and increased risk of miscarriage. So before you start IVF, aim to get your weight into the normal BMI range, or as close to it as possible. If you’re not fully in the ‘normal’ range, a five to 10 per cent reduction in body weight can improve IVF outcomes. On the other end of the spectrum, being underweight can have a similarly negative effect on pregnancy success.
4. Load up on Vitamin D
It’s not just folic acid you should be popping. A 2014 study in the journal Human Reproduction found that vitamin D-deficient women who underwent IVF had a 39 per cent lower chance of pregnancy than ladies with normal levels of the vitamin. Although the reverse isn’t yet proven – that taking vitamin D boosts your pregnancy odds – supplementing with 400 to 800 IUs of vitamin D per day could be potentially beneficial.
5. Keep Acupuncture in mind
This traditional treatment is another way to reduce stress. It’s also a good way to enhance your success rates; it can reduce stress, enhance your ovarian function, and increase blood supply to your reproductive organs.
6. Involve your partner
Your body carries the baby, but his sperm also plays a role in your IVF odds. Apart from limiting his stress and watching his weight, your partner can also take a multivitamin and an antioxidant supplement to boost the health of his sperm.
(See also: Is IVF in Singapore More Affordable Now?)
More Than Just the Physical
It goes without saying that preparing your body before starting any kind of reproductive treatment is necessary for optimal results. However it’s still important to maintain a healthy mind and lifestyle while you are going through an IVF cycle.
Try not to give in to myths and hear-say. After the embryo transfer stage, for instance, there is no need to confine yourself to the bed. It’s a myth that bed rest after embryo transfers helps. You’re better off relaxing and staying upright, Dr Seng assures us.
A better options would be to enjoy a nice meal (hold off the alcohol and coffee), followed by a relaxing stroll. “Don’t do strenuous exercise. No heavy lifting or jumping either, and no hot baths. Those embryos want you active, calm and dry,” he advises.
Mind-Body Support for IVF Success
Mental and emotional preparation are just as crucial. Fertility treatments and IVF in particular are complex medical procedures that affect couples, especially the woman, physically and mentally. When available, fertility counsellers and coaches can provide valuable support for the couple throughout the treatment journey.
If you need advice, or even just a listening ear, Dr Roland Chieng, Medical Director of Virtus Fertility Centre Singapore, suggests speaking to an expert. “Relationship support and various strategies to cope with the different physical and emotional elements of the medical journey should be provided as well,” he says.
With physical, mental, and emotional aspects all balanced and attended to, your chances of conception through IVF will definitely be better. All the best!
(See also: A New Centre for Fertility in Singapore)