I am so excited to share that after a third round of IVF and a year later (and older), I recently DOUBLED my number of eggs from both our first and second cycles to 16! 15 were mature, most fertilized and some even went on to blastocyst. I am convinced that editing my lifestyle, eating habits and taking supplements played a large part in making me feel better and putting me in a better headspace, which ultimately produced overall better results.
For those that may be considering IUI, IVF or are even trying naturally, you may be wondering what supplements you can take to optimize your outcome. I've put together a cheat sheet for you. Please just remember that supplements are meant to be just that: “supplement” your diet. Eating clean and healthfully is the first best step.
Using the CCRM (Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine) “Female Fertility Cocktail” that I was thrilled to get my hands on, coupled with my own research, and discussing with my doctor and a certified nutritionist, here is where I landed to safely “supplement” my own diet.
The supplemental basics:
1. Probiotic - once a day first thing in the morning
2. Pre-Natal Multi-Vitamin - as directed each day
3. DHA (Omega 3 Fatty Acids) – 1,000mg once a day
4. Co-enzyme Q10 Ubiquinol (Kaneka QH) – 400mg twice a day in both AM and PM
5. Vitamin C – 500mg once a day
6. Vitamin D – Once a day and levels dependent on any deficiency (Mild: 1,000 – 2,000mg)
7. Vitamin E – 200iu once a day
The items in italics (Probiotic, Pre-Natal and Vitamin D) were not on the CCRM list that I received but are important supplements that my doctor and most recommend. I was so adamant about getting this right that I lugged a bag full of the physical bottles to show both my doctor and fertility nutritionist for their review and blessing.
The recommended amount of time to take supplements is 90 – 120 days prior to trying naturally during ovulation, or attempting an IUI or IVF cycle. This is based on recent studies that show that egg quality might be positively improved during this critical time frame when they could be most impacted by diet, supplements and environmental factors.
The full CCRM "Female Fertility Cocktail":
The Colorado Center of Reproductive Medicine known as the nation's leading fertility clinic recommends the below supplements to increase fertility. Many believe this list that updates as more research becomes available the holy grail of fertility supplements. I've included it here.
1. DHA (Omega 3 Fatty Acids) – 1,000mg once a day
2. Co-enzyme Q10 Ubiquinol – 400mg twice a day (Kaneka QH)
3. Vitamin C – 500mg once a day
4. Vitamin E – 200iu once a day
5. L’Arginine – 1,000 mg twice a day. (Might be detrimental to most but helpful to some poor IVF responders)
6. Pycnogenol – 100mg once a day. (Might be best for those with endometriosis)
7. Myo Inositol - 2 grams OR (3) 750mg tablets AM, and (2) 750mg tablets PM. (Based on research this may be best for those with PCOS)
8. Melatonin – 3mg only at bedtime at the beginning of an IVF cycle only and as necessary *Contra-indications: If you are taking thyroid medicine, avoid melatonin as it has been shown to increase T3 – T4 levels
** This is the CCRM list as of 11/2016, is meant to be coupled with a Prenatal, and is not a one-size fits all approach. Please consult with your physician or health care provider based on YOUR individual needs and especially with the supplements above numbered 5 - 8.**
So what’s the WIFM (what’s in it for me)?!
If you are interested in knowing details on each supplement, read on…
1. Probiotic - New research is looking at the possibility that a GI tract brimming with microbes helps to maintain a healthy weight. Plus probiotic bacteria helps fight bad bacteria found in your intestines, promotes good digestion, may also help with infections of the digestive tract, enhance immune function, and control IBD (inflammatory bowel disease.)* If you’re going through any sort of IVF journey, it can also help with the discomfort including cramping caused by the medicine and procedures. A daily probiotic may also be a great tool for anyone who does not eat enough probiotic-rich foods. Common sources are yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, sour pickles, tempeh, and miso soup. If you are going down the “I just need a supplement version,” my pick is Natren Healthy Trinity Probiotic. Make sure that they arrive cold if you buy them online and keep them refrigerated once at home to keep the cultures alive!
2. Prenatal Multi-Vitamin – There is very little difference between the brands available by prescription and non-prescription. There are high quality prenatal vitamins available without prescriptions. I take New Chapter Perfect Prenatal, made with organic veggies and herbs, and without any preservatives, additives or fillers which was very important to me. However, the Folate is a little on the low side at 600mg so if you don’t get the additional 200mg or so from your diet, you may want to consider a Folate supplement. Pure Encapsulations (400mg) is awesome. Note that prenatals that cause nausea or digestive issues might be resolved with a version containing chelated iron.
3. DHA (Omega 3 Fatty Acids) –Omega-3s are important for immune functioning, brain health and inflammatory response. EFA (Essential Fatty Acids) may reduce inflammation throughout the body (a possible cause of PCOS and other types of infertility) and promotes overall health. The best source is whole fish oil. My pick is Nordic Naturals or New Chapter Whole Mega.
4. Co-enzyme Q10 Ubiquinol - Ubiquinol not only works as an antioxidant but is crucial in the body’s production of energy. It is the very fuel that makes your heart beat. With age, our bodies progressively produce less CoQ10 and struggle to convert it into Ubiquinol, which is the usable form of CoQ10.* Fertility speaking, Ubiquinol may also improve egg quality and improve chromosomal division during fertilization. Ubiquinol is the concentrated version of Ubiquone, and there are no known safety risks for either. There are plenty to choose from but I like Doctor’s Best Ubiquinol with Kaneka QH.
5. Vitamin C – Highly effective antioxidant that plays a role in egg health by helping to combat free radicals. I am a fan of Garden of Life, Vitamin Code, Raw Vitamin C.
6. Vitamin D - Assists in maintaining a healthy immune system. Vitamin D2 is the form from eating foods rich in it, and vitamin D3 is synthesized in the skin from sun exposure. (Fun fact, since the body makes D3, it’s actually considered a hormone and not a vitamin.)* A simple blood test can determine any deficiency. I take Pure encapsulations Vitamin D.
7. Vitamin E – Antioxidant that fights against free-radicals and cell membrane damage. (May be especially helpful in reducing free radical damage in ovarian follicles.) My pick is Blue Bonnet Vitamin E 200iu.
9. L’Arginine – Please consult with your doctor before taking to make sure it’s right for you. Recent research indicates that for most this could potentially reduce egg quality as opposed to improve it. CCRM promotes this to a specific group of people that fit within a specific framework that could actually benefit from this amino acid which helps with cell division, immune function and release of hormone.
10. Pycnogenol - Please consult with your doctor before taking to make sure it’s right for you. A patented extract from pine bark, which is not naturally occurring in the body, and may help stimulate the immune system and increase blood flow. Since it’s not naturally found in the body and good-quality clinical studies have not been able to confirm that it improves egg quality or even that it is safe made this one not worth the risk in my book. However, there are studies that show that Pycnogenol might be helpful for patients with endometriosis.
8. Myo Inositol – Please consult with your doctor before taking to make sure it’s right for you. Might be best for women with PCOS. Vitamin B component of cell membrane helpful in restoring ovulation and improving egg quality in women with PCOS or insulin resistance. It may also reduce the miscarriage risk associated with insulin resistance. Note that studies have shown that Myo Inositol may be unfavorable to non-PCOS patients by possibly reducing the number of mature eggs and embryos.
9. Melatonin – This helps calm the head chatter and promotes shut-eye. During IVF, it’s clearly a better alternative to an Ambien. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that helps to regulate circadian rhythm. Again, based on your needs, this one is best to discuss with your doctor. Pure encapsulations makes a nice version.
And for those of you wondering about DHEA… It’s a steroidal hormone that turns into testosterone and estrogen which seems to be quite controversial and fertility doctors either are or aren’t a fan. DHEA is produced naturally, peaks at age 20 and diminishes thereafter; it is thought to help with ovarian function. The synthetic version may have side effects though. Side effects may include acne, hair loss, stomach upset, and high blood pressure. Some women can have changes in menstrual cycle, facial hair growth, and a deeper voice after taking DHEA. So that was enough for me to say no thanks. My doctor also shared that he’s not really a fan based on more recent studies. Even if your doctor recommends it, always remember that you have a choice.
Speaking of doctors, please know that I am not one. I have taken a genuine interest in nutrition and wellness and use my recent education/certification by The Nutrition School by Keri Glassman, my own research (not from Internet chat forums), and validation from doctors and nutritionists that I have worked with. My hope is that you will use this as a guide to help you see the options available and determine your own course of action with your own doctor or certified health professional.
The last word.
Remember to stop taking all supplements outside of your Prenatal (with extra Folate if necessary,) Probiotic and Vitamin D once you start stimming (stimulating with medicine). I didn’t get that memo until my third IVF and AMAZING doctor #5. I guess that three really is a charm…
*Credit: The Nutrition School by Keri Glassman. I found this program to be so beneficial that I became an affiliate, which means that if you sign up for TNS after clicking on that link, Fertilust may get some funds. Thanks.