Improve Your Chances of IVF success

A common question women ask themselves when trying to conceive via assisted reproductive technology, such as IVF treatment, is “what can I do to improve or help this fertility cycle?” Learning your chances of IVF success ahead of time can help you make informed decisions about your fertility journey and achieve better outcome for your IVF treatment.

Medical aspect

The centre you choose to perform the IVF treatment can greatly affect your IVF success. The complex processes and fertilisation need to work just right too, hence the techniques and technology adopted by the centre is crucial.

Fertilization involves a chain of events from sperm activation, to penetration of the egg and combining of egg-sperm genetic material resulting in the formation of zygote. Two fertilization techniques used in assisted reproductive technology (ART treatment) are conventional IVF & Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI).

  • In conventional IVF fertilization technique, the sperms are mix together with the eggs, natural selection happen and egg usually will allow only single sperm to penetrate to complete the fertilization process in laboratory.
  • ICSI, on the other hand, bypass the natural selection of sperm by the egg. ICSI involve selection and injection of single spermatozoa into egg cytoplasm by an embryologist. ICSI was invented initially to help fertilization in couple with male infertility, these include oligozoospermia (low sperm count), azoosperma (no sperm found in ejaculate) with subsequent testicular biopsy sample, etc. However, with promising higher fertilization rate compare to conventional IVF, most of the IVF laboratory is now offering ICSI as the first choice of treatment in majority of IVF cycle, regardless of male fertility status.
  • To improve the chances of success, an IVF laboratory that could maintain above 70% ICSI fertilization rate is preferable. To utilise the retrieved egg from the IVF cycle to its maximum, with higher number of attempts, your chance of pregnancy is also higher.
  • Find out from your Fertility Specialist the fertilization rate of the centre before you proceed further. It is always better to get more embryos than less!

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After fertilization at the end of the fallopian tube, the embryo moves towards the uterine cavity where implantation takes place. As the embryo reaches the uterine cavity, blastocyst formation completes with subsequent implantation taking place at the endometrium of the uterine.

  • Reduce the risk of multiple pregnancy
    With blastocyst embryo transfer, we can transfer fewer embryos, thus, reducing the risks for multiple pregnancy while keeping overall pregnancy rates high.

Find out the type of embryo transfer performed in that centre before you proceed further. A blastocyst transfer is always better than cleavage stage embryo transfer!

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After fertilization at the end of the fallopian tube, the embryo moves towards the uterine cavity where implantation takes place. As the embryo reaches the uterine cavity, blastocyst formation completes with subsequent implantation taking place at the endometrium of the uterine.

  • Reduce the risk of multiple pregnancy
    With blastocyst embryo transfer, we can transfer fewer embryos, thus, reducing the risks for multiple pregnancy while keeping overall pregnancy rates high.

Find out the type of embryo transfer performed in that centre before you proceed further. A blastocyst transfer is always better than cleavage stage embryo transfer!

During an IVF procedure, embryos spend majority of their time within the confine of laboratory incubator. The function of incubator is to provide a stable and appropriate culture environment required for optimizing embryo development and clinical outcomes.

  • One patient one chamber
    The laboratory incubator is one of the most important pieces of equipment within the IVF laboratory, a benchtop incubator that could provide separate chambers for safe and secure handling of your embryo. This ensure undisturbed culture environment for optimum embryo growth. The concept of ‘one patient one chamber’ concept could help to avoid the possibility of embryo mix up.Find out about how the IVF laboratory culture your embryo from your Fertility Specialist.

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Emotional and psychology health

Infertility can be emotional taxing and stressful often leading to depression and anxiety. Further, the process of IVF is time-consuming, expensive and fraught with emotion. Understanding how stress could impact the success of IVF cycle would help you to manage your emotional health better.

Sperm does more than just contribute to genetic material in the embryo! Studies showed that sperm do associate with fertilization process and contribute to early embryonic development.

Stress, whether is emotional or physical, on the other hand reduces your sperm quality, affects fertilization potential and results in poor quality embryo for implantation. Some studies showed that stress could result in oligozoospermia condition, and reduce in mobility (sperm movement).

Avoid stress in any form before and during any fertility treatment to improve sperm quality and prepare the best for the use in fertility treatment especially IVF cycle.

One of the questions women constantly ask is what they can do to improve their egg quality. Unlike men, who produce their sperm daily throughout their life, women are born with all the eggs they are ever going to have for their lifetime.

The amount of eggs, are genetically determined and reduced over the years. However, the environment where the eggs reside could contribute to the quality of your growing eggs.

Stress management is crucial to ensure quality of your growing eggs especially during IVF cycle. Get sufficient rest and sleep, relax and avoid thinking whether or not you will succeed in this cycle.

Breathing technique, meditation and yoga might help you manage your anxiety prior to ovum pick-up (OPU) procedure. Arrive early for OPU. Do not rush to the hospital to avoid anxiety and breathlessness.

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It has been proven that increased stress is associated with a poor outcome after embryo transfer (ET) treatment due to negative effects of stress on utero-embryo interaction.

The more relax you feel, the more relaxed your uterus would be, which may have a positive effect on the embryo-uterus interaction.

Protect your space, arrive early for the embryo transfer so that you will not rush your body and mind for the procedure. Do not arrange any appointment right after embryo transfer procedure, it is important to have sufficient rest with less activity after embryo transfer. Give yourself a break and relax.

The waiting period depends on the treatment protocol, while some are 2 weeks or more, some allow pregnancy confirmation (biochemically) as early as 10 days after embryo transfer. Find out from your Fertility Specialist on the waiting period to avoid unnecessary stress which may eventually affect the implantation rate.

Stay positive throughout this waiting period by being yourself, relax and leave behind all the thought of energy, time and money that you have spent throughout your journey of IVF.

Nutritional and lifestyle habits

The ultimate goal is a healthy pregnancy, and this depends upon good quality eggs and sperm. There is increasing evidence to show that diet and lifestyle can directly impact on your fertility health not only for conception but also for your baby’s development.

There is no diet that can guarantee pregnancy. However, it totally makes sense to eat healthy while trying to conceive.

If you are underweight, overweight or obese, you are at a greater risk of infertility. In women, excessive weight can lead to imbalanced hormone levels which may subsequently, leads to impaired egg (ovum) development. On the other end, being too thin can affect the release of eggs. This happens among females who are underweight where their hormone may be imbalanced due to lower amount of fat cells in the body.
A healthy weight in men is equally important to improve fertility. Studies have shown men with higher BMI (Body Mass Index) have a lower sperm count and overall poor semen quality.
Eating a healthy and balance diet is crucial for both of you when preparing to conceive. There is no ‘superfood’ or ‘bad food’ in this diet but basically is to practice healthy eating according to the healthy eating guidelines.

Eat foods from each of the five food groups:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Proteins (chicken, oily fish and dried bean)
  • Grains (bread, cereals, rice, pasta etc)
  • Dairy foods which contain calcium (milk, cheese and yogurt)

Use the healthy eating plate as a guide to create healthy and balance meal.  Ensure half of your plate is loaded with vegetables, ¼ of your plate with cereal/grains such as brown rice and remainder ¼ plate (about one palm size) with protein sources such as fish, meat, poultry, tofu. A serving of fruit (e.g. one orange/apple or 1 piece of papaya/pineapple/honey dew) is just nice as dessert for the meal.

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Both men and women should ensure to obtain a balanced meal with carbohydrate, protein and fat to achieve macronutrient needs. For vegetarians, milk, tofu, cheese, tempeh and eggs are excellent protein sources. Give yourself a variety of food, do not be overly restrictive but go easy on added sugars and high fat foods which would contribute empty calories. Excessive intake of these foods will lead to excessive weight gain and this is not desirable to prepare the body for pregnancy. A moderate fat consumption of less than 30% kcal total fat in the diet is recommended in order to avoid excessive energy intake which may then lead to weight gain. Go for food prepared with low fat cooking methods such as steam, grill, bake, soup. Try to choose the dishes using minimal oil and fat or coconut milk. Limit high fat food and hidden fat food such as deep fried and battered fried food (e.g. banana fritters, curry puff, traditional kuih, pastries, cakes etc.)

Though there is no particular food to guarantee pregnancy, there are certain nutrients that could prime the body to prevent any nutrient deficiencies.

  • Iron
    If you are of child bearing age, you would need about 20-29g of iron per day. Iron deficiency or anemia could be an issue for pregnant mothers, therefore it is vital to take iron-rich foods to prevent any deficiencies prior to pregnancy. Iron helps in the formation of DNA. There are 2 types of iron in food one is heme iron and another, non-heme iron. Heme iron is derived from haemoglobin and therefore found in animal food including meat, fish and poultry. Non-heme iron can be found in plant foods such as soy bean curd, chickpea or even fortified cereals. It is advisable to consume a vitamin C food source such as orange juice together with a non-heme iron food. Vitamin C will help in boosting the iron absorption.
  • Zinc
    As an adult, you would need 4.9mg – 6.7 mg of zinc per day. Zinc is an essential trace element and has been found to help in sperm quality. High zinc foods are mostly protein sources such as meat and seafood. You can get zinc from food sources such as oyster, beef, lamb, poultry, and organ meat.
  • Vitamin B-Complex
    Vitamin B-complex consists of 8 types of B-vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12) which helps your body to utilize energy from the food you eat. They are important for the formation of red blood cell. Folic acid, one of the important component in the group of B-vitamins, is essential for a healthy pregnancy. Folic acid does not improve IVF outcome. However, this nutrient has been proven for the prevention of neural tube defects in your child. Make sure you include folate-rich foods such as legumes and green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach, ladies fingers and lentils).
  • Vitamin D
    Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with infertility, adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes. Ensure that you include adequate vitamin D supplementation and sensible sunlight exposure to reach optimal Vitamin D status before any fertility treatment as it has been proven that sufficient level of vitamin D could significantly improve your chance of clinical pregnancy following IVF.
If you have difficulty conceiving or going though in vitro fertilization, keep your caffeine intake less than 200mg per day.
Smoking has a very serious impact on your reproductive health. For men it reduces the sperm count and affects the quality of the sperm, having a big impact on conception.
For women smokers, the effect ages the eggs and affects the womb lining, reducing the chances of pregnancy and the increasing the risk of miscarriage.
Ideally both partners should avoid alcohol completely. Alcohol in excessive amounts affects sperm quality.