The question of drinking before and during fertility treatment tends to bring out strong opinions. It also comes up a lot with our Ovally customers: “Can I have at least a little Spanish wine during treatment?”. For the purpose of this post, we are going to focus on alcohol consumption before and during fertility treatment until conception only, and leave out any research on pregnancy and alcohol. As usual, check with your doctor on their guidance regarding alcohol intake during any fertility treatment. We’re summarizing the findings of high-quality research studies for you, but your doctor may have access to relevant, yet to be published findings.
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 :)!
“My friend suggested that I freeze my eggs in Europe because costs are much lower. After doing some research online, I felt overwhelmed by all of the unknown variables – is it safe, will anyone speak English, how long will I be there, where do I even start!? I was ready to give up on the whole idea and just empty my savings account to do the procedure in the US. Then I read about Ovally and reviewed their website. Shortly after, I had a phone call with a fertility coach, and then she took it from there! She matched me with the perfect clinic and even helped me plan my travel! My experience with Ovally was fantastic. They were in touch regularly before, during, and even after the process. Also, I could reach out to them asking even the smallest of questions, and would receive an almost immediate response.
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: