IVF is often a rewarding journey, but it is also a physically and emotionally taxing experience. For many people, uncertainty can be one of the most difficult aspects of the process.
Many factors shape each person’s experience of IVF. You have more control over some than others. Preparation includes both taking steps to increase your chance of success while also learning what challenges to anticipate and how to navigate them. Here’s more on what to expect.
It’s important to know upfront that the IVF journey can be longer than hoped or expected and multiple cycles are common. Of those who eventually conceive through the process, it takes an average of 2.7 cycles to become pregnant.
However, certain health and lifestyle factors can influence the likelihood of a successful cycle, and it is definitely worth doing everything you can to be at your healthiest when you begin treatment. Use the following suggestions below as a starting point — note that they also apply to physical preparation for an egg freezing cycle.
Maintain a healthy weight
Research has found that weight can factor into the outcome of fertility treatment. Being underweight or overweight can both impact your body’s response to IVF medications. Having a healthy weight as you start your cycle may increase your chance of success.
Keep in mind that there are many factors in a person’s overall health, and being at a healthy weight looks different for everyone. Your provider is an important resource and can advise you on whether your weight may impact your fertility.
Eat nutritious foods
A well-balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight and feel your best throughout your IVF journey. In general, load up on fruits and veggies, lean proteins like fish and poultry, and whole grains. Opt for healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, and seeds as much as possible. It’s recommended to limit your intake of red meat, sugar, and processed foods.
Most health experts advise against any significant changes to your diet before or during an IVF cycle.
Consider taking prenatal vitamins
Taking prenatal vitamins may improve the quality of your eggs — which is important for a successful embryo transfer during IVF — and prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy.
Prenatal vitamins that include folic acid, coenzyme, iron, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids like DHA are typically most beneficial, but check with your provider about the best option for your needs.
Some evidence suggests that healthy vitamin D levels can impact your IVF experience. Ask your provider if you would benefit from a vitamin D supplement.
Avoid unhealthy habits and lower your caffeine intake
You’re likely already aware of the dangers of smoking during pregnancy, but the reasons to avoid the habit while preparing for IVF go beyond the obvious.
While research on the link between IVF and smoking is ongoing, there’s strong evidence that smoking leads to lower success rates. More specifically, it can decrease the thickness of the endometrium, the layer of tissue lining the uterus. This can lower the chance of successful embryo implantation.
Research has also found a link between alcohol consumption during IVF and live birth rates.
Don’t be afraid to ask your provider for support if you are attempting to give up smoking or drinking in preparation for fertility treatment.
Experts haven’t yet determined specifically how caffeine impacts fertility, but several studies have found a link. It is recommended to limit your daily caffeine intake to 200 mg — approximately two 8-oz cups of coffee — during preconception and the first trimester of a pregnancy.
Get enough rest
Not only will staying well rested improve your mental and emotional well-being during IVF, some studies have found a correlation between sleep quality and IVF success.
Of course, getting enough rest can be easier said than done: 1 in 3 U.S. adults report that they sleep less than the recommended minimum of seven hours per night. To improve the quality and duration of your sleep, try the following strategies:
Maintain a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including weekends.
Avoid use of electronic devices close to your bedtime.
Get plenty of natural light and stay physically active during the day, but avoid exercising close to bedtime.
Avoid eating or drinking close to bedtime, particularly caffeine, alcohol, and high-sugar or high-fat foods.
Keep your bedroom dark and quiet and maintain a comfortable temperature.
Stay physically active
Staying physically active is part of maintaining good health as you prepare for the IVF journey. Check with your doctor about your individual needs, but 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week is generally a good target to aim for.
High-impact cardiovascular exercise isn’t recommended during IVF, but low-impact exercise is typically safe. However, some clinics advise against exercising altogether during an IVF cycle. Your care team can provide individualized recommendations.
Remember that your partner’s health matters, too
If you are a woman attempting to conceive with a male partner, remember that, while you are the one undergoing the process of IVF, your partner’s health can also affect the outcome of treatment.
There are many factors in sperm quality, including sleep, exposure to chemicals and toxins, and lifestyle habits like smoking and alcohol consumption.
Steps that a male partner should take before IVF include limiting alcohol intake, quitting smoking or using other harmful substances, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a nutritious, balanced diet.
Review current medications with your doctor and make treatment adjustments if necessary
Some over-the-counter and prescription medications can impact your body’s response to fertility medications and the outcome of treatment. Make sure your doctor is informed of all medications and supplements you take. If any aren’t recommended to take during an IVF cycle, discuss how to safely taper off of them and whether to switch to an alternative medication.
Emotional and mental preparation
Fertility treatment is a highly personal experience, and the process — including how stressful it is — looks different for each person. One thing that’s universal, however, is that information and support make the journey more manageable.
Planning and research
IVF is a significant financial investment, and the cost of treatment is a common source of stress. It isn’t always possible to predict the course of treatment, or how much it will cost, since there are so many variables, but doing preliminary research and mapping out your personal goals can help you prepare.
If you have health insurance, look into the details of your plan as a starting point. Coverage of fertility treatment varies significantly from one plan to another.
If your insurance plan covers IVF medications, that coverage may fall under the medical portion of your plan rather than the pharmacy one. We encourage you to contact your insurance carrier for an in-depth explanation of your fertility benefits. Additionally, some clinics have an insurance department, which can be another resource as you do your research.
As you prepare for the financial aspects of IVF, it is helpful to determine how many cycles you are willing or able to try. Keep in mind that there are many financial resources that can help you manage or lower the cost of IVF.
Educating yourself about the process
Beyond the emotionally taxing nature of fertility treatment, IVF can cause anxiety purely as an unfamiliar medical treatment. Take time to discuss the process with your clinical team. Some phases can cause additional stress, like the egg retrieval and embryo transfer. Knowing what to anticipate will likely help.
You should also prepare to make certain decisions, including how many embryos to transfer and what you will do with unused eggs or embryos. For some individuals and couples, the IVF process involves donor sperm or eggs. Discuss your options with your care team and give yourself time to determine what the right choice is for you.
Additionally, familiarize yourself with common side effects and make a plan for treating them. Injections can be particularly stressful to navigate, so take time reviewing the techniques. As an Alto customer, you’ll have personalized videos for each injectable medication in your protocol in the app.
Reducing stress and building a support system
Be mindful of your emotional and mental well-being throughout your fertility journey and make a plan for reducing stress. Don’t hesitate to lean on your friends and family for support — especially those who have gone through the IVF journey themselves — but remember, too, that sharing your decision to pursue IVF is a personal choice.
A pharmacy partner for your fertility journey
Fertility treatment can be a challenging journey, but Alto is with you every step of the way. We offer same-day hand delivery of your medications and fertility resources like personalized injection guide videos and access to fertility-trained pharmacists.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.