We’re surrounded by positive messages about exercising, yet there are surprisingly few quality studies that have looked at a potential link between exercise and fertility. We know that female athletes often have irregularities with their cycles, and that high levels of exercise seem to be associated with longer menstrual cycles. Research on fertility patients has been inconclusive – one study showed that moderate exercise was correlated with a lower likelihood of having a baby, another showed the opposite.
Relatively clear answers and quality research can be hard to come by in fertility research. However, when it comes to how food relates to fertility outcomes, there are some decent data! The short answer is: Avoid fast food, and instead embrace fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, whole grains, and foods high in omega 3, such as nuts. This goes not just for women undergoing fertility treatment, but also those hoping to conceive naturally. This “Mediterranean diet” has also been linked to higher sperm count and sperm quality in men. And yes, the literature actually refers to it as a “Mediterranean diet” – we swear we didn’t make it up because Ovally‘s partner clinics are in Spain :)!
Undergoing any kind of fertility treatment is a sensitive and very personal matter. Unfortunately, many still associate fertility treatments with stigma, which we are hoping to help decrease. That’s why we’re delighted to share Gillian’s Instagram story about freezing her eggs with Ovally. We’re grateful to her for her openness and honesty in sharing her story publicly.
Gillian says about using Ovally: “I had been considering egg freezing for years, but was daunted by the cost. Ovally made that feasible for me, but the experience was so much more valuable than I expected. Having a resource other than my doctor that I could go to for all my questions (including travel planning!) made an intimidating process so much more pleasant. Compared to friends who did this in the US, I felt like I got substantially better care both physically and psychologically. ”
“Can I have caffeine before and during my treatment?” is a great question we’ve gotten from our egg freezing and IVF Ovally customers. As is so often the case, the research on this question isn’t as clean and clear-cut as we’d like: It’s hard to separate out variables besides caffeine that can affect fertility outcomes, and many studies rely on retrospective self-reports of consumption, which can be unreliable. However, high-quality studies looking at a relationship between caffeine consumption and the ability to conceive during IVF treatment suggest that 1-2 cups of coffee per day don’t significantly affect the ability to conceive. Surprisingly, however, 1-2 cups of coffee a day (or the equivalent level of caffeine in another drink) have been found to double the risk of miscarriage during pregnancy.
Every year, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) publishes statistics on reproductive health, including a small section on patient diagnoses underlying infertility. These diagnoses are based on data from ~260k IVF cycles that were done at 463 fertility clinics in the US (most recently in 2016). Next to “diminished ovarian reserve” (31% of diagnoses), the most common diagnosis women receive has to do with “ovulatory dysfunction”. We at Ovally set out to unpack what that means:
We’ve been getting a lot of questions about fertility tests and other predictors of fertility from our customers who’re preparing for their fertility treatment with Ovally. For the purpose of this post, we’re going to focus on women’s fertility and what is available to test it, though keep in mind that it’s only half the story. The one predictor of fertility that probably comes to mind for most of us is age. We could write a whole post about the controversies of age-related fertility decline but will focus on hormone levels and fertility tests here. Suffice it to say that some frequently cited data on age-related fertility decline are very old and come with all kinds of confounds, but there is well established evidence that pregnancy success rates for women needing treatment for fertility issues decrease significantly with age, while rates of miscarriage and chromosomal abnormalities increase. A few studies comparing natural conception rates of women in their 30s and 40s have also shown that conception rates decrease and time to conception increases with age.
We hear this concern frequently from our Ovally customers – and given the cost of each egg freezing or IVF cycle, it’s certainly warranted. While we recommend you talk to your doctor about this question, we wanted to share some data points on the topic that you can use going into your conversations: