Courtesy Monica Cox, FDN-P, Fertility Health Coaching
Before I went into my first round of IVF, I thought I was fit and healthy and we were just one of those couples who were diagnosed with unexplained infertility. So I gave no thought into the importance of egg and sperm health and had no clue to even think about taking steps into improving our overall embryo quality. We were doing IVF—surely that was going to make everything right? It couldn’t be further than the truth for us. When all was said and done, we were left thinking we couldn’t even make viable embryos, let alone a child. Was this the answer to our infertility? The doctors thought so. When discussing what we could do to improve our embryo quality, we were told “nothing”! In the letter we got a few weeks later it stated: “They are keen to consider a further attempt, but are aware that the overall chances of an ongoing pregnancy is lower than average given our findings during the cycle and they do appreciate that the treatment itself does provide a lot of information about the underlining quality of the eggs within the ovaries. There is nothing that we can do to further enhance the situation…” So that was it; there was nothing we could do.
I was hurt and ready to move on—not away from the hope of having a family, but from the conventional way doctors treat infertility. Considering that nothing was the doctor’s best solution, I came to the realization that I had to take control and do something about my health and my crummy embryos. But what do I do? Where do I go? I’VE TRIED IT ALL—well at least all the mainstream advice (You can read about that here and here). As I talked about in The Wonderful World of IVF, I luckily stumbled on a book called Is Your Body Baby-Friendly?: Unexplained Infertility, Miscarriage & IVF Failure Explained by Alan E. Beer, M.D. and we had a good friend give us a much need kick-up-the-ass about true health and nutrition. These both got me thinking out of the box and I started to learn about the necessary changes I needed to make to improve my health and the health of our embryos. (My husband made the same changes in his diet; remember it takes two to make an embryo!)
The quality of your embryos will have a great impact on your fertility journey, whether you are trying to conceive naturally or through IUI/IVF. The health of your embryos can have a big impact on whether or not implantation will occur, the viability of a pregnancy and don’t forget embryos are the beginning of your baby! Poor embryos quality is becoming one of the main causes of infertility, recurrent miscarriage and failed IVF cycles. And for the ever-growing population of couples who are dealing with low embryo quality, it isn’t until their first failed IVF that they even realize they have an issue, which is heartbreaking to say the least—I know, I’ve been through it. There are a few different factors that can affect the quality of your embryos that you have control over including environmental, diet and stress. Having a simple understanding of how to improve these factors, can save you time, money and increase your chances of a successful pregnancy.
Between our two IVFs we made radical changes in our diet and lifestyle. We took over a year to make these changes, but if you can’t wait that long take at least 90 fully committed days to increase egg and sperm health and quality. The outcome of embryo quality was dramatic and we had the science to prove it! I wish I knew then what I know now—it would have saved us time, money and a lot of heartache. Clean, healthy eating (making sure you find the right diet that works best with your body), the right supplementation and vitamins and minimizing exposure to toxins such as BPA and phthalates, are all important ways to improve the overall health and quality of your embryos.
Check out our Helpful Resources page for links to books, podcast, blog post and much more, on how to improving egg, sperm and eventually embryo quality, leading to a healthier and happier baby!
And because you’re here, the following is my best GENERAL advice to everyone looking to improve the health and quality of your embryos:
- Find out what’s going on. Seek out a functional medicine practitioner, FDNer or doctor who shares these core values and views! They should help, test and give you advice to find the root cause. The money you will have to pay is worth it! It will save you time and effort and hopefully for some of you, you won’t have to go down the path of drugs and invasive procedures!
- Find out what foods work and don’t work for you. The cheap (but long) route is an elimination diet or your functional medicine practitioner, FDNer or doctor can run food sensitive tests for you.
- Go organic (grass fed) and non-GMO with as much of your food as you can afford. This makes such a difference—not only to your body but to the environment.
- Make or buy grass fed animal (chicken, beef or lamb) bone broth and eat the organs—totally gross, but a MUST for optimal health.
- Go non-toxic within your home (cleaning, bath and beauty products). Toxins are all around us, some you just have no control over. But the ones you use in your house, you do! Just by limiting your toxic exposure at home, you can improve your health greatly.
- SLEEP—it’s got to be done. Find how many hours work for you and remember ever hour before midnight is worth two hours.
- Meditate daily, whether it’s five minutes or an hour—just do it—it will change your life and it’s FREE (the only thing that is, in this process). Think meditation is for hippies? Read 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works: A True Story.
- Be grateful in each and every moment and keep faith in your body! If you give it the right support, it will know what to do with itself.
- And last, but definitely not least: read, listen and study. Find out all you can about the different options of nutrition and lifestyle out there, ones you agree with and ones you don’t, they all have valid opinions. There is no one true way and you need to find your own path; listen to your body! Use science where possible and question and challenge everyone and everything. Fight for your health, fight for knowledge.
Monica is a little bit obsessed with real food and can be often seen cooking with a spoon full of ghee or putting bones into the slow cooker. Her new lifestyle evolved slowly during her long journey to create a beautiful child of her own. Tired of hearing the poor nutrition advice for women and men going through infertility, Monica founded Fertility Health Coaching to promote and help others understand the importance of clean eating.
She is a qualified Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner, which means she’s here to help identify and eliminate the underlying causes of your fertility health issues. You can connect with Monica at www.fertilityhealthcoaching.com, Instagram and Pinterest.