Though it may feel like the result of in vitro fertilization (IVF) is out of your control, there’s actually a lot you can do to increase its effectiveness and the probability of a happy outcome.

If You Have 3-6+ Months To Prepare:

Taking three to six months to prepare your body for IVF is ideal. The reason for that is because it takes three months or more for a follicle to mature. The quality of your egg is therefore a direct representation of the fertile environment in your body during the previous few months.

In the same way the soil of a garden needs to be fertilized and prepared to grow better quality plants, so does your body in order to grow and birth a healthy baby. To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” At the end of your fertility journey, when you hold your beautiful, healthy baby in your arms, you will be glad you took the time to create a more fertile environment in your body and the best quality egg.

If you have three to six months or more to prepare for IVF, seek out an acupuncturist who specializes in women’s fertility and is board certified to prescribe Chinese herbal formulas. In addition, I recommend implementing all of the tips described below.

If You Have 1-2 Months To Prepare:

Quit smoking and drinking.

The American Journal of Epidemiology reports nicotine is ten times more concentrated in the uterine fluid than the rest of your body. Nicotine also ages the ovaries and makes eggs resistant to fertilization. In addition, any alcohol consumed during an IVF cycle reduces its chance of success by 50%.

For these reasons, it’s important to find other de-stressing rituals besides smoking and drinking such as foot baths, baths, yoga, journaling, meditation, acupuncture, massage, hypnotherapy, or therapy. To get to the root cause of your habits and create lasting change, consider asking yourself these questions and journaling about the answers: What is it that a drink or a cigarette gives me? Is it me-time, fun, de-stressing, a ritual? What other healthy activities can I do to fulfill those needs and desires? Is there anything in particular that I’m escaping? Do the people in my life support me in living a healthy lifestyle?

Take your vitamins.

Fertility enhancing vitamins are all lacking in the usual Western diet. Our cells are made up of what nutrients are (or aren’t) available. The largest cells in a woman’s body are her eggs. By taking a high quality prenatal supplement, you are directly affecting the quality of your eggs and improving the fertile environment of your body. Since we know it takes three to six months for a follicle to mature, ideally you want to start supplementing three to six months before you try to conceive, but one to two months before is still beneficial.

Eat fertility enhancing foods.

Foods which are themselves gametes or which nourish gametes or offspring in nature are considered to contain reproductive essence or “Jing,”  according to Chinese medicine, and are highly fertility enhancing.

These foods include royal jelly, eggs, fish roe, caviar, seeds, nuts, and pollen. Other fertility boosting foods include seaweed, algae, bone marrow, oysters, artichokes, raw milk, nettles, oats, flax seeds, goji berries, and sprouts. Whole grains contain fertilized germ cells and nutrition to sustain a new plant, therefore always eat whole grains. When in doubt, eat fresh, seasonal, hormone-free, organic whole foods.

If You Have 2 Weeks To Prepare:

Improve sleep.

The quality and quantity of sleep influences sex hormones, sperm production, and ovulation. It is therefore crucial to make sure you and your partner are getting enough good quality sleep, especially leading up to an IVF cycle.

Try these tips to improve your sleep: Stick to a routine and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday. Don’t use your bedroom as a work environment, and keep entertainment electronics out of the room such as TV, phone or tablet. Eliminate alcohol and caffeine, which can both interfere with healthy sleep cycles. Exercise outdoors, which helps align the body and brain with natural biorhythms. Wind down before bed by stretching, having tea, or journaling.

Reduce stress.

The process of IVF can be stressful, to say the least. Research indicates that lower levels of measurable physiological stress indicate higher IVF success. Additionally, standard psychometric tests indicate that feeling relaxed favors conception.

Try this to reduce stress: Slow down your lifestyle pace. Time yourself to see how long it takes to complete common tasks and then see if your expectations of what you plan to achieve in a day, or in a week, match up with how long it actually takes you to do things. Most of the time this will mean removing items from your schedule and to-do list. And don’t forget your belly breathing (below)!

If You Have 1 Day To Prepare:

Breathing exercise.

Breathing deep into your belly instantly eliminates stress hormones from your body faster than any drug, and you can do it anytime, anywhere. For example, during a doctor visit, ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval or embryo transfer.

Here’s how it works: You have two branches of your nervous system, voluntary and involuntary. The involuntary nervous system controls things that are involuntary, such as digestion, wound healing, hair growing, etc., and is further divided into your parasympathetic (rest and relaxation) and sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous systems.

While we may think we have no control over our body’s involuntary actions, and consequently our fight or flight or stress response, there’s a loophole—our breathing! Our breathing happens involuntarily and we can control it.

Breathing deep into your belly instantly flips the switch from your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) to your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and relax). Now your body knows it’s safe to conceive!

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