Going For IVF? Here Are 6 Foods To Avoid During An IVF Cycle


By Dr Fessy Louis

In IVF treatment, ovaries are stimulated to produce multiple eggs with the help of medications. Medicines are given to prevent ovulation, and when eggs are mature before ovulation, we retrieve them from outside the body and fuse them with the sperm. The success of IVF depends on various factors such as ovarian reserve, sperm quality, endometrial receptivity, mental stress, and more.

An important factor affecting female health during IVF treatment is dietary status. During an IVF cycle, patients should focus on eating healthy and balanced meals. Patients should not make any major or significant changes during this time, like going gluten-free if they weren’t already. In a study from the USA, women with the highest adherence to a “fertility diet” (higher consumption of monounsaturated rather than trans fats, vegetable rather than animal protein sources, low carbohydrates, high-fat dairy, multivitamins, and iron from plants and supplements) had a lower risk of infertility compared to women with the lowest adherence.

Some studies found that greater adherence to the Mediterranean Diet is associated with a higher pregnancy rate in IVF without improving fertilization rate and embryo yield. The Mediterranean Diet refers to the diet style of European countries on the Mediterranean coast, such as Greece, France, Spain, and Italy. It is described as a diet comprising a substantial intake of cereals, legumes, fruits, nuts, vegetables, fish, and olive oil, while having a limited consumption of dairy products, meat, poultry, and saturated fats, and a moderate but regular intake of alcohol. Reactive oxygen species are known as an important cause of female infertility, and abundant antioxidants from the Mediterranean Diet pattern may alleviate oxidative damage to fertility.

The Preconception Mediterranean Diet was found to increase folate concentrations in the blood and raise vitamin B6 levels in both blood and follicular fluid. Folate and vitamin B6 are believed to have the potential to enhance ovarian response and improve oocyte quality.

Both males and females planning to undergo IVF treatment should do regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight. They should quit smoking, alcohol intake, excessive coffee intake, and other kinds of recreational drugs. A normal sleep pattern is also important. A 2013 study found that the pregnancy rate for those who sleep 7 to 8 hours each night was significantly higher than those who slept for shorter or longer durations. Melatonin, a hormone responsible for regulating both sleep and reproduction, reaches its peak around 9 p.m. This makes 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. the ideal time to fall asleep.

Foods To Avoid During IVF Cycles

  • Cheese: Eating cheese during fertility treatment is not good, particularly, you should avoid mould-ripened cheese like Camembert cheese and Brie.
  • Coffee: Typically, it is safe to consume up to 2 cups of coffee per day, containing less than 200 mcg of caffeine.
  • Alcohol: It can increase your risk of pregnancy complications like miscarriage and impairment of the fetus. Limit its intake or avoid it completely.
  • Refined sugar: It can trigger your blood sugar levels.
  • Aquatic organisms: Aquatic foods or seafood contain higher levels of mercury, and consuming excessive amounts of mercury can elevate the risk of birth defects in your baby.
  • Raw eggs: Raw eggs harbour salmonella, a bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

Certain chemicals, whether natural or human-made, have the potential to mimic, block, or disrupt the body’s hormones. These are known as Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Endocrine disruptors can be found in numerous everyday items, such as certain cosmetics, food and beverage packaging, toys, carpeting, and pesticides. During IVF treatment, one should avoid contacting EDCs as they can interfere with hormone levels and functions in the body.

Some of the important examples of EDCs include:

  • Bisphenol A (BPA) – is used in manufacturing, food packaging, toys, and other applications. Some canned foods and beverages may contain BPA resins in their lining.
  • Dioxins are a byproduct of herbicide production, and paper bleaching, and can be released into the air from waste burning and wildfires.
  • Perchlorate – used as an industrial chemical to make rockets, explosives, and fireworks.
  • Phthalates, a diverse group of compounds, are utilized as liquid plasticizers. They can be found in various products, including certain food packaging, cosmetics, fragrances, children’s toys, and medical device tubing. Cosmetics that might contain phthalates encompass nail polish, hair spray, aftershave lotion, cleanser, and shampoo.
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) from furniture foam and carpet.

Phthalates, a type of chemicals commonly present in fragrances, have the potential to disrupt hormones. Patients should choose fragrance-free creams, cleaning products, and laundry detergents. Patients should avoid nail polish, hair spray, aftershave lotion, cleanser, and shampoo.

To create a healthier indoor environment, opt for safer methods to freshen the air, such as opening windows, using fans, and regularly emptying smelly trash cans and litter boxes, instead of relying on room fresheners, etc. They can also turn to natural odour-busters like fresh flowers in the room, citrus peels in the garbage disposal, or an open box of baking soda in the fridge.

Couples should do dusting and vacuum more often and reduce their plastic use. Swap plastic food storage containers with glass or stainless steel and never microwave them in plastics. Swap out plastic baggies for reusable lunch bags and replace plastic cling wrap with beeswax-coated cloth. While canned foods can simplify meal prep, it’s important to note that the cans are likely lined with BPA to prevent corrosion. Couples should use organic food as much as they can afford.

Food significantly impacts how our bodies perform and could make a difference in the chances of becoming pregnant even after an embryo transfer in IVF.

The author is Professor and HOD, Dept. Reproductive Medicine and Surgery, Amrita Hospital, Kochi.

[Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs, and views expressed by the various authors and forum participants on this website are personal and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs, and views of ABP News Network Pvt Ltd.]

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