Getting Match Fit for IVFby Ellie Thompson
I’m not altogether sure if Jamie is going to agree to a frozen embryo cycle, (yes, ahem – still working on that one, easy does it, slowly, slowly catchy monkey, etc. etc.) but IF he does agree, at whatever point that is, I need to be good to go, as I am not getting any younger.
For now, I’ve got to treat this situation as GAME ON. It might seem a bit like buying a wedding dress before meeting the man (aka hugely jumping the gun) but at my time of life, preparation is everything.
The clock is now ticking.
Meh, I might be knocking on 40, but I’ve heard 40 is the new 30. Amirightguys? So all I’ve got to do is get myself match fit ahead of time and hope for the best.
I’m starting from scratch again in terms of getting my body up to speed. I need to get on the folic acid for a start. From memory, it’s advisable to be on folic acid for at least three months before you try to conceive. So important.
I’ve been following Naturedoc Lucinda Miller who recommends taking a multi-nutrient that contains a natural folate as it breaks down and is absorbed better in the body in its natural form. Yep, it’s more expensive than your average bottle of folic acid, and why? Because folic acid is man-made and synthetic, whereas folate isn’t. So it’s a ‘no’ to the folic acid, and a ‘yes’ to the natural folate.
My weight is fine, but I need to work on my diet in terms of packing in more of the good stuff. I’m terrible at preparing food and eating everything my body needs each day. Who has that kind of time?! As Andy Day says, ‘I’ll make time’… and that I shall.
Gut health is important for building the right balance of female hormones, so another reason for more fruit, veg as well as incorporating the right sorts of fibre for errr… you know… “smoother exits”… (blushes)…
Since Billy, I’ve been having really heavy periods, and the result of some recent blood tests tell me my ferritin level is on the low side, at 14. The range is 10 – 200, so yeah, it’s pretty low.
The GP has advised me to get my ferritin level up to at least 50 before starting a cycle. Naturedoc’s Lucinda to the rescue again, advising 2 x capsules of Ferrolactin a day for 3-6 months. I also need to look at incorporating plenty of vitamin C and rich plant-based foods into my diet for this reason too.
All in all, it seems as though there’s a lot of work to be done here. I feel like I’ve just had a major service and need a bit of fixing before I can even attempt to pass an MOT – or in this case, a FET.
Looking back, there were a few things I did during both of our two IVF cycles that I’ll need to repeat:
I cut down on alcohol (being 100% honest, I definitely didn’t cut it out, I was still enjoying a few glasses of wine right up until we started our stim injections both cycles), I cut out a lot of sugar, and I upped my vegetable intake. Broccoli and beetroot: that’s what Dr Tang my acupuncturist advised. “Just eat loads of that.” He said. So I did.
I found Zita West’s Eat Yourself Pregnant recipe book really useful and we used it A LOT during our first cycle. There are some really tasty recipes in there if you’re looking for some inspiration.
Jamie in particular can vouch for Zita’s fertility pizza. I remember he stuffed himself full, having littered his pizza with more figs than was advised in the recipe (note to self, ALWAYS follow to the recipe!) and the next day he turned to me and said, ‘Well, the fertility pizza definitely worked, I’m so bloated I’m pregnant!’ and he dashed off to the toilet, where he remained for several days giving birth. I’m joking of course – about the last bit, anyway. He resurfaced within the hour at least.
I’m sure if you’re reading this, you’re probably already familiar with Zita West and it’s definitely worth investing in her vitamins if you’re TTC or looking at starting an IVF cycle.
Acupuncture was one of the things I did during and after both of our cycles with the aforementioned legend, Dr Tiejun Tang. Dr Tang is based in Harley Street, and yes, I highly recommend this dude if you’re TTC or about to embark on IVF if you’re lucky enough to be based in the area. But as for me, I’m down in Surrey now, and wondering if acupuncture is something I’ll be able to do this time from a logistics and a time perspective.
The big questions are - can I do this without Dr Tang? Has acupuncture been the difference between a positive and a negative result for us?
I’ve read blood flow to the uterus is mega important when you’re looking to transfer an embryo, so you’ve got to keep your womb warm. A warm womb apparently maintains progesterone at satisfactory levels to not only help metabolic activity but to allow your uterus to secrete sufficient nutrients, creating a nurturing environment for your embryo.
How does one keep their womb warm and improve blood flow to the uterus? I hear you cry. Hello, acupuncture. Again!
Oh, and crucially, you keep your womb warm by keeping your feet warm. Yep, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the temperature of your feet has long since been related to the temperature of your womb. Time to invest in some winter cashmere… or borrow some of Jamie’s rugby socks. (The latter is probably more likely, I’m sure my womb won’t be able to smell them.)
Avoid high impact exercise
And interestingly, what kept cropping up when I did my research for this piece was the avoidance of high impact exercise.
It seems that you have to be really careful with excise in general during fertility treatment. A conclusion of a study  from 2006 says “regular exercise before in vitro fertilization may negatively affect outcomes, especially in women who exercised 4 or more hours per week for 1-9 years and those who participated in cardiovascular exercise.”
Low-impact exercise it is. I’ll keep on truckin’ with my Pilates class with Becca from BH Pilates. Becca is a women’s health physiotherapist as well as Pilates teacher and she does loads of online stuff these days if you’re interested.
It’s also a time to be as stress-free as you possibly can. CALM app downloaded, and Meira Shore’s hypnotherapy mp3s to hand, I’m armed and ready to go.
My cousin who had been through two successful cycles of IVF at the time we were about to embark on our first back in 2016 gave me this simple, but important advice:
“Just be sensible.” And she was right.
Take everything on board, and give it your best shot, but don’t get stressed with faddy diets and rituals around the tallest tree in the churchyard after midnight. It’s all about keeping things in perspective and doing what you can.
Although saying that, my best friend was trying to conceive for years, and after she touched the legendary African fertility statues at Ripley’s Believe it Or Not, she fell pregnant that exact cycle… so it just goes to show you just never know!
So what’s next for me? At least four months of putting the above plan in place I guess…
Finding a solution to my acupuncture conundrum, eating well, taking the right supplements, doing the right sorts of exercise, and keeping my feet and my womb warm throughout the winter months that follow. Urgh, I might even invest in some Uggs.
And as for the husband? Argh… I’m still working on that one… I’ll keep you posted.
Handy links for you:
-  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17012457/
- Zita West Eat Yourself Pregnant https://amzn.to/348WwCe
- Zita West https://www.zitawest.com/shop/
- Naturedoc https://www.naturedoc.co.uk/
- Dr Tiejun Tang https://www.facebook.com/harleystreetchineseacupuncture/
- Becca Hull BH Pilates https://www.facebook.com/bhpilates.co.uk/
- Meira Shore http://meirashore.com/