During IVF (in vitro fertilization) it seems many woman may not be changing their lifestyles to give themselves the best possible chances of success.
A study by Harvard University has suggested that there could be a lack of advice offered to women to moderate or avoid activities such as smoking, drinking, exercise and taking certain supplements.
The study published in Fertility and Sterility surveyed 106 women, 18 to 44 years of age, who underwent an IVF cycle using their own eggs at a large private academic IVF practice in Boston, USA between June 2009 and March 2010.
Before treatment, the women completed a baseline lifestyle and health habits history asking about exercise, smoking, alcohol, sleep, caffeine, herbs, acupuncture, and fruit and vegetable consumption over the previous 5 years. They then completed daily surveys during the treatment cycle.
In the month before their IVF cycle, 92% of the women exercised, 3% smoked, 73% drank alcohol, 76% drank caffeinated beverages, and 14% took herbs.
During IVF, 100% exercised, 2% smoked, 50% drank alcohol, 77% drank caffeine, and 12% took herbs.
However the authors could not fully associate the chances of a positive pregnancy to whether recommendations were followed.
The authors were surprised with the results that they found and recommended that “lifestyle behaviour counselling should be considered for patients” during IVF.
Until further research can be done on a larger group of women, the authors suggest that “physicians and nurses who work with infertility patients might consider asking about lifestyle habits as part of their IVF orientation and make specific recommendations about behaviour modification in an effort to achieve the highest pregnancy rates possible.”
The Boston fertility treatment centre also voiced their surprise at use of herbal supplements during IVF, suggesting that they do not recommend this. “Although the IVF practice encourages patients to seek acupuncture treatments, acupuncturists are forbidden by contract to discuss herbal use with patients, indicating that women who used herbs must have sought them outside the practice…. The practice strongly discourages the use of herbs because of their possible negative effects on pregnancy rates”.
Many assisted fertility centres discourage the use of herbal supplements purely through a lack of knowledge and understanding without any real foundations for their concern.
Herbal supplements should always be prescribed by a qualified health care practitioner with experience in assisted fertility support.
Although the Boston fertility centre counselled in writing to stop alcohol consumption completely, almost half still continued to consume an average of 1 or 2 drinks a week.
The authors note that their results also show that “many patients are in fact working to improve their lifestyle habits.” and patients showed “significant improvements” at the time of IVF treatment compared with the previous 5 years and even in the month before treatment. “Thus it may not be patient motivation that is lacking, but instead directed personal communication.”
Further information on Would You Make Lifestyle Changes During IVF?
Lifestyle behaviors in women undergoing in vitro fertilization: a prospective study – Fertility and Sterility
Women don’t always follow medical advice during IVF – Modern Medicine
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