September is PCOS Awareness Month, so we are launching a short series on this important topic. PCOS is the most common “endocrine” (i.e., affecting the glands that secrete hormones or other products directly into the blood) disorder among women. PCOS affects between 4-20% of women, depending on the study and the exact diagnostic criteria used. If you’re thinking that we don’t talk enough about something that affects so many women, we couldn’t agree more. So let’s dive in:
Today’s post in our series on lifestyle & fertility focuses on vitamins and supplements. Taking vitamins and supplements in preparation for fertility treatment is something that we can control and that’s easy to do. But what’s been shown to help fertility outcomes? What has been tested but shown no or inconclusive results? We’ll discuss folic acid, vitamin D, and antioxidants below – some of the results surprised us. As usual, ask your doctor prior to your treatment for their recommendations and guidance, as they may be aware of even more recent unpublished research.
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 :)!
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. ”