The common question has often arisen as to what dietary restriction to follow during IVF. I can only speak for myself, as I am no doctor, health guru or nutritionist, and share my own experiences.
I tend to eat a healthy diet, or so I’d like to think. No really, I stopped eating junk and processed food a few years back. It was pretty amazing to see what big change that actually was for my body. I started feeling more energized, it seemed like all my digestion problems have disappeared, and my skin even cleared up. Fast food is convenient and affordable, and those places usually stay open very late if not 24/7, but I honestly rather invest a little bit more money and time in good food than all that junk, even though McDonald’s cheeseburgers and fries were once a tiny weakness of mine!
Now I understand that many will argue about this and mention that they might not have all the money to be purchasing organic food or grass-fed meat, and I get that. But from my experience you don’t need to spend a ton of money on a healthy nutrition, and sometimes you don’t even need to purchase organic produce etc., as long as the quality is good.
Living in Hawaii is tough when it comes to that as the grocery prices are off the roof! I used to grow my own veggies and herbs but kind of lost my touch for it after both of my pregnancy losses. Maybe one day I will start back up on that. Until then, I will continue to try to be shop savvy. Purchasing produce from your local farmers is definitely an affordable, healthy option. Or looking through your local ads for special deals, even though I must admit that I’m a little lazy to do so at times. But, point is, try to be pesticide aware. I did find an article mentioning which foods to buy organic as the pesticide residue would still be too high in them. It is called the Dirty Dozen List:
Strawberries, Apples, Nectarines, Peaches, Celery, Grapes, Cherries, Spinach, Tomatoes, Sweet bell peppers, Cherry tomatoes, Cucumbers, Hot peppers, Kale/collard greens.
Whatever residue is left on the product is what you consume and expose your body to.
To me it’s all about a balanced diet. I noticed that many foods I used to eat also triggered my migraines or made my PMS worse (like deep-fried food), and so I’ve always been a little more aware of what I consume. But we all get busy and sometimes it’s just convenient to devour something quick and easy. Given the fact that your diet can affect many parts of your fertility including your uterine lining, which is important for implantation, as well as your egg quality (sperm quality in men), I made sure I cut out things that might be unhealthy or contribute to poor reproductive health before starting with stims.
So here is a general breakdown of what my diet looked like:
Prenatal Vitamins. I started about 3 months prior to stims. I am taking the gummy version. I’m not a pill person and going through IVF there is already enough pills I’m taking.
Fruits and veggies. I ate a lot of them, especially the ones that contain lots of folic acid like: Dark leafy greens, Broccoli, Avocado, Brussels Sprouts, Beets, Oranges, Grapes, Strawberries, Bananas, Nuts (not peanuts though!), Chia and Flax seeds.
Carbs and Protein. I do eat carbs but since starting IVF I have significantly eaten less and more protein instead. I drink (2) protein shakes daily that contain at least 25mg of protein. Great thing about protein shakes is you can make delicious and nutritious smoothies out of it, or even smoothie bowls. If you are a rice eater like me you can opt for Quinoa instead, or an extra portion of veggies; even though I must admit, I never fully cut out rice either.
Legumes. Low to none.
Soy and Corn Products. None.
Dairy. Moderate. I’m not a dairy fan anyway and pretty much use almond milk rather than milk for everything. Whatever dairy I consumed though, I made sure it was full fat as low-fat supposedly has a bad effect on IVF.
Healthy Fats. It is important to add healthy fats to your diet. I personally only cook with olive or coconut oil. You can also get healthy fats from some of the foods I listed above, like nuts, seeds, avocado, and deep water fish as long as it’s not too high in mercury. I kind of laid off the fish for a while though. I guess I was just too traumatized from my food poisoning right before egg retrieval. I couldn’t even do the fish oil capsules.
Hydration. Stay as hydrated as you can. Drink plenty of water and anything that has electrolytes in it. And don’t wait until you feel super thirsty which means you are dehydrated already. I drank Coconut water, fruit infused water, and Gatorade, even though Gatorade is definitely the sugary option. It tastes better to me when watered down a bit. Let me tell you though, this was also a challenge for me as I’m not a person who drinks or desires a lot of fluids. But, I was so thirsty during stimulation. I was chugging fluids nonstop. And you know what, I still felt crappy. So good thing that I started hydrating prior stims already or I would have probably felt even worse.
Refined Sugar. I cut it out. No candy and no chocolate, or anything containing refined sugar – even those lovely office pastries!
Alcohol. I stopped drinking it. Although I must admit, the cut down already happened automatically when I started my walk with Christ. Pretty amazing the things the Holy Spirit does when you let Him, if you ask me!
Caffeine. I stopped drinking it. About two months prior egg retrieval I completely stopped with the caffeine. Let me tell you, the struggle was real! Like, how do I even function without my coffee in the morning?! But I wanted to be on the safe side, as caffeine is known to restrict blood flow, and that’s definitely what your uterus needs! And I found out that just a warm beverage like tea is a great substitute for me. When drinking tea, be aware of the ones high in caffeine though. I opted for non-caffeine, herbal teas.
Keep in mind though, that a healthy nutrition should also be part of your male partner as it also affects the sperm quality, quantity, and motility. As I mentioned before, my husband had low numbers but he improved them from the last analysis to egg retrieval/fertilization by adding dietary supplements (Fish Oil, Multi Vitamin, Maca, Ashwagandha, and Vitamin C), and cutting out alcohol as well. We were amazed by what difference this all can make!
After my egg retrieval I was instructed to eat a high protein and low to no carb diet, and to drink electrolytes and eat salty foods to prevent OHSS. I’m glad this was already part of my diet so not really a big deal to me or hard to change. But, how is it that I craved Spaghetti and meatballs right then when I couldn’t have it?
With life being so busy I tend to skip a meal here and there. Probably not the best thing to do but I’m sure we have all been there. For me in particular it is breakfast I tend to skip. But good news though, there are lots of ways to prepare yourself and your food so you won’t have to stress about that part.
Oatmeal. A great way to prepare for the week is to cook a whole pot of steel-cut oats and fill it in little containers (like mason jars) to refrigerate. You can add some fruit toppings, nuts, almond butter etc. Try out which variations you like best. I like the oatmeal muffin variation as well. Quick and easy to make, and freezable.
Eggs. A simple snack which you can prep in bulk but I guess eat in moderation. You can boil them or you can make little egg muffins out of it. Great thing about those is, you can also freeze them.
Smoothies. These are also easily prepared. Chop up all your ingredients and freeze them in portions. When you’re ready to use them, pull them out the fridge, add water or (almond) milk, and your protein powder.
Quinoa. One of my favorites. There is so many variations you can make. Breakfast quinoa the savory way or you can even have it the sweet way (no sugar though). I do want to add though, that I also read conflicting things about Quinoa as it is a grain. Some say yay and some say nay.
Chia Pudding. Easy, overnight, and delicious. A tablespoon of chia seeds, some almond milk or a little greek yogurt, fruits, and whatever else your heart desires. Put the container in the fridge and all will be ready to consume in the morning.
Salads. Salads are easily prepared and if you store them in an airtight container they can last for up to 5 days. I like to prepare mine in (again) mason jars. Dressing goes all the way on the bottom, then the veggies or fruits that are most nonabsorbent, and leafy stuff the last.
Leftovers. Leftovers from the previous night (if you cook like me) is a great way to make sure you have something to munch on especially when you are at work and would have to go out to buy lunch. It also saves money.
Meat. Cook it, grill it, bake it, you name it. Personally, we like to barbecue a good variety of meat during the weekend out of which we can make several variations of lunches or even dinners for the week.
There is many more options. These are the ones that were just most convenient for me.
So how to prepare for FET?
Well, I’m honestly not too sure. This will be my first transfer as the fresh one after retrieval was cancelled. I guess I will be continuing with my diet regimen. I heard that nutritious soups and stews along with warm drinks are really great. So I guess I will eat more of those. I also read that cutting out cold foods and raw veggies prior to FET should help as these are draining your body of warmth. Not sure how true this is though.
And the thing about the pineapple core. There is a lot of conflicting information out there, and most of it is not proven and just superstition. Some say that the core, which contains an enzyme called Bromelain, is supposed to be good for the thickening of the uterine lining and implantation but others might say that eating (too much of) this might actually cause uterine contractions and cause early miscarriage. So I’m not sure if I will make this part of my diet. I have also seen many women eat Brazil nuts as they contain Bromelain as well. But in all honesty, those nuts taste rather disgusting to me! I always pick them out of the big Costco nut mix. Gross, just gross! Lol
If you have any suggestions or ideas as to what could be another great contributing factor to FET success, feel free to share. I would appreciate them very much 🙂