When trying for a baby, either naturally or with the assistance of fertility treatment, it is important to ensure that you are in the best of health as this will improve the chance of a successful outcome. There are several specific areas that should be addressed:
Lifestyle & exercise
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, with a balanced diet and appropriate amount of exercise, improves the chances of conceiving.
If a woman is within a normal weight range she is more likely to have a ‘normal’ response to medication. If a woman is overweight she may have an ‘abnormal’ response to the medication used to stimulate her ovaries and, as a result, may produce either too few or too many eggs. This reduces the chance of a pregnancy and increases the rate of complications in treatment. Ideally we like to treat women who have a BMI of between 19 and 25.
Each fertility centre will encourage overweight patients to lose weight prior to commencing treatment. Each unit has slightly different criteria for treatment and may decline to treat patients whose BMI is too high, deferring treatment until a target weight is achieved. There is an increased likelihood of overweight women developing complications such as:
Monitoring treatment is more challenging, as it is difficult to obtain a clear scan picture. This makes making egg collection potentially hazardous.
There are more likely to be difficulties during anaesthesia.
If a woman does become pregnant whilst overweight the chance of a miscarriage is higher. There can also be more complications in the pregnancy, particularly with high blood pressure and gestational diabetes.
Women who are underweight may also have problems with their response to medication and are at risk of complications in pregnancy.
Smoking has been shown to reduce the chances of conceiving naturally, increase the chance of miscarriage and to lower the success rates of IVF treatment. In men, smoking is known to affect the sperm quality and quantity so therefore increase male infertility. It is recommended that both of you cut down your smoking as much as possible, or preferably stop altogether before treatment.
Alcohol has an adverse effect on female fertility. It can cause hormone imbalances which cause disruptions to the menstrual cycle, and it increases the risk of early miscarriage. For men, excessive alcohol can depress sperm production and affect sperm motility. There may also be a reduction in testicular size, impotence and a decrease in libido. Sperm takes approximately 72 days to develop, so the effects of alcohol take a long time to reverse – it is not sufficient to stop alcohol consumption just as your treatment starts, but several months beforehand.
Cannabis and cocaine can severely affect sperm quality and the chance of fertilisation. All patients are advised not to take any recreational drugs.
Folic acid is a vitamin which has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of an abnormality of the brain and spinal cord (anencephaly and spina bifida) in an unborn baby. We recommend that every woman takes 400mcg of folic acid daily from the start of treatment up to the 12th week of pregnancy.
All women considering having a baby should ensure they are immune to Rubella (German measles) to avoid contracting the infection during early pregnancy. If Rubella is contracted in early pregnancy it can cause miscarriage, severe birth defects and stillbirth. Your Rubella status can be checked with a simple blood test. If you are not immune you will require a vaccination at least one month before starting treatment.