Top 5 Resources to Improve Your Chances of IVF Success

To support you on your fertility journey, I have gathered my Top 5 resources to improve your chances of IVF success. When you are preparing for an IVF cycle, it can sometimes feel like your body is a bit out of your control. You want your time, energy and investment to result in a healthy pregnancy, but it seems like most of the decisions are in the doctor’s hands. However, there are still things you can do to improve the odds.

This is the time to invest in your well-being and prepare your body to be a vessel for new life. If simple things like having acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer can increase IVF pregnancy rates from 26% to 42% (as was indicated in one study), imagine how much a combination of eating well, stretching and mentally preparing for IVF could make a difference! The clients I have worked with who have done some or all of these thing have had the best results. These 5 things help improve your response to the medications, build a healthy endometrial lining and increase your receptivity to the developing embryo.

1. Optimize your diet and supplements – You can eat your way to better fertility! I love the clear, concise and research-based program Chris Kresser has put together in The Healthy Baby Code. 
And book an appointment to see a Naturopathic Doctor to make sure the supplements you are taking are right for you. Check in with Dr. Rachel Stewart of Dr. Jenny Ma at Living Wellness Centre

2. Move, stretch, massage and open – Getting exercise helps to move your energy around so it doesn’t get stuck, which is prone to happening with the tension of the early morning clinic visits and pressure of the cycle.
In Surrey, see Elena or Salveen at Origin’s Health for osteopathic manual practice in the first half of your cycle. 
Spend 30 minutes a day doing a yoga for fertility DVD.

3. Give your feelings some space – It’s common to feel a little sensitive during this process! The people around you will likely have well intentioned advice about staying positive, which can backfire and set you up for feeling guilty for all of the anxieties and negative feelings you may be having.
Reserve some time to get all of these feelings out of your system. If you hold them in, even unconsciously, they can block up your system and leave you feeling drained and crabby. Blogging or journalling are a couple of great ways to keep it flowing. Or tell your story in writing with Firefly.

4. See it happening – Visualize each step as it is happening, your healthy eggs growing in the follicles, nourished by ample blood flow and wonderful nutrition. Your lining thickening with rich blood, becoming lush and receptive. The moment you share the positive result with your loved ones. Download a free relaxation meditation or buy the fertility meditation series from Circle and Bloom and listen to it when you are feeling overwhelmed and alone.

5. Get some Acupuncture – Acupuncture has been extensively studied for the beneficial effects is has in supporting IVF. Studies show acupuncture before and after embryo transfer can increase the success rate of in vitro fertilization (IVF) to 42%, compared with 26% in the control group. Women who had acupuncture often report feeling less anxious, more relaxed and at peace during their IVF cycle. Optimal care for IVF clients includes at least 8 acupuncture sessions before your egg retrieval. Contact Raeghan Siemens to book your sessions.

By Tanya Smith

It Is Stressful Trying to Reduce Your Stress

If you are trying to get pregnant, everyone will tell don’t stress out about it and it will happen. Maybe that is true, but it is a real challenge NOT to stress out. Everything is a reminder of what you are trying to achieve, the pregnant bellies walking down the street, charting your basal body temperatures, timing intercourse,PMS, and then the arrival of your period. The stress is real and sometimes unavoidable, but its how we process our stress that will make the difference.

Meditation is a great way to minimize stress, but lets face it, most of are not very good at it. I challenge my clients to find 5 minutes per day, usually before bed to find  some stillness. Now you can meditate during this time, or stare at a flickering candle, listen to music or watch the clock until your 5 minutes are up. But in just 5 minutes a day, you can reset your fight or flight response, reduce your stress hormones, and feel like you take on the world again.

Other things that will help with stress:

  • Practice yoga 1-2 times per week
  • Write down 3 things that you are grateful for everyday in a gratitude journal
  • Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 8 counts, and exhale for 8 counts
  • Hang out in nature
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Regulate your Hormones Naturally

I have recently seen quite a few clients who have recently come off the birth control pill and are finding that their menstrual cycles are very irregular with many hormone flucuations. For some women it can take up to a year for their cycle to find its natural rhythm.  Whether trying to conceive or just wanting to feel healthy I suggest to cycle evening primrose oil , fish oils and seeds to regulate your hormones naturally.

Oil Cycling
The rotation plan can be done according to either the menstrual cycle (if it is fairly regular) or phases of the moon (if the menstrual cycle is absent or too irregular)
* From days 1-14 of the menstrual cycle (or from new moon to full moon)
1-2 Tablespoon(s) per day of ground flax/ pumpkin seeds/ or Chia Seeds
Essential Fatty Acids – EPA/DHA 2,000 – 3,000 mg EPA/DHA (1,500 each)
(Flax and pumpkin seeds support the ESTROGEN dominant time of your cycle and balancing the omega 3 pathway.)
* From days 15 – 28 of the menstrual cycle (or from full moon to new moon)
1-2 Tablespoon(s) per day of ground sesame or sunflower seeds.
Evening Primrose Oil ( GLA) 500 mg
(GLA (rich in Omega 6s that contains linoleic acid) converts in the body ultimately to prostaglandins, hormone-like molecules that help regulate Inflammation and blood pressure as well as heart, gastrointestinal, and kidney functions
Sesame and sunflower seeds support the PROGESTERONE peaks of your cycle and balancing the omega 6 pathway.)

High FSH

FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) is a hormone released by the pituitary gland which stimulates the growth of follicles and has a role in the maturation of oocytes. The measurement of FSH levels in the blood is one of the most widely used tests to assess a woman’s ovarian function and is typically taken on day 2 or 3 of a woman’s menstrual cycle. If a woman’s FSH levels are above what is expected for her age, then she is considered to have “High FSH”.

Given FSH’s role in maturing eggs, you might think that high FSH is a good thing. This, however, is not the case. High FSH, also known as elevated FSH, indicates low ovarian reserve and significantly lower pregnancy chances with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).

In general, under 6 is excellent, 6-9 is good, 9-10 fair, 10-13 diminished reserve, 13+ very hard to stimulate.

Although FSH can vary cycle to cycle, when working with a fertility clinic they go by your highest number.

There is limited treatments for women diagnosed with high FSH, however, DHEA supplement taken for at least 6 weeks and acupuncture has been shown to reduce FSH.

Preconception Planning

It is a very exciting to begin thinking that you are ready to start your family. Bringing awareness to your health, mind and spirit will give your baby the best start to life. Preconception planning can help you and your partner understand how to boost your chances of a healthy pregnancy.

  • Stop taking birth control 3 -6 months prior to you starting to try to concieve. Sometimes it takes awhile for your cycle to become regular after stop your birth control.
  • Do a detox
  • Start keeping track of your cycle. Note how many days it is from day 1 of your period to your next period. ( Note: day 1 is the first day of full bleeding).
  • Pay attention to when you may be ovulating. Signs of ovulation are cervical mucus that is like egg whites, an increase in libido, and  brief pain around your ovary.
  • Take your prenatal vitamin and essential fatty acids ( EFA)  3 months prior to you starting to try to conceive.
  • Establish an exercise routine

Remember that becoming pregnant may take some time, 50% of couple become pregnant within the first 6 months of trying to conceive, while 85% become pregnant with in the first year.


Not Getting Pregnant – When to ask for help

Most couples conceive with in 6 months – 1 year from trying, however, this can feel like an eternity. If you have been trying to conceive for a while, and are thinking you may need advice, support and help, the following steps are what I recommend to my clients.

After 3 months of trying to conceive:

Try to keep track of the length of your menstrual cycles. Charting Basal Body Temps (BBTs) for several months, as well using home Ovulation Predictor Kits and recording the results.

It also a good time to optimize your health and fertility with supportive care, such as acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, naturopathy, and chiropractics.

At 6 months, visit your family doctor and request the following blood tests:


  • FSH (on day 3 of your cycle)
  • LH
  • Estradiol ( on day 3 of your cycle)
  • Progesterone ( on day 21 or 7 days post ovulation)
  • Prolactin
  • Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), Free T3, Free Thyroxine (T4)
  • Total Testosterone, Free Testosterone
  • Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) ( There is a cost to this test)

After 6 months, ask for a referral  from your family doctor to a fertility centre to further investigate your fertility issues.

ULTRASOUND EXAM(S): On the day of LH surge are used to assess the thickness of the endometrium (lining of the uterus), monitor follicle development and assess the condition of the uterus and ovaries. If the lining is thin, it indicates a hormonal problem. Fibroid tumors can often be detected via ultrasound, as well as abnormalities of the shape of the uterus and ovarian cysts. In some cases, endometriosis can also be detected. Many doctors order a second ultrasound two or three days after the first. This second ultrasound confirms that the follicle actually did release and can rule out lutenized unruptured follicle (LUF) syndrome—a situation in which eggs ripen but do not release from the follicle.

HYSTEROSALPINOGRAM (HSG): This test is used to examine a woman’s uterus and fallopian tubes. It is essentially an x-ray procedure in which a radio-opaque dye is injected through the cervix into the uterus and fallopian tubes. This “dye” appears white on the x-ray, and allows the radiologist and your doctor to see if there are any abnormalities, such as an unusually shaped uterus, tumors, scar tissue or blockages in the fallopian tubes. If you are trying to get pregnant in the same cycle as an HSG, make sure to schedule the test PRIOR to ovulation so that there is no danger of “flushing out” a released egg or developing embryo.

HYSTEROSCOPY: If a uterine abnormality is suspected after the HSG, your doctor may opt for this procedure, performed with a thin telescope mounted with a fiber optic light, called a hysteroscope. The hysteroscope is inserted through the cervix into the uterus and enables the doctor to see any uterine abnormalities or growths. “Photos” are taken for future reference. This procedure is usually performed in the early half of a woman’s cycle so that the build-up of the endometrium does not obscure the doctor’s view. However, if the doctor is planning to do an endometrial biopsy at the same time, it is done near the end of the cycle.

LAPAROSCOPY: A narrow fiber optic telescope is inserted through a woman’s abdomen to look at the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries and to discern endometriosis or pelvic adhesions, and is the best diagnostic tool for evaluating the ovaries. This test us usually done two or three days before menstruation is expected, and only after an HCG beta blood test ensures the woman is not pregnant.

ENDOMETRIAL BIOPSY:This procedure involves a scraping a small amount of tissue from the endometrium shortly before menstruation is due— between 11 and 13 days from LH surge. It should ONLY be performed after an HCG blood test shows the woman is not pregnant. This test is used to determine if a woman has a luteal phase defect, a hormonal imbalance which prevents a woman from sustaining a pregnancy because not enough progesterone is produced.

SEMEN ANALYSIS: You’ll be asked to provide a semen sample, usually by masturbating and ejaculating into a specimen jar. Your doctor will examine your sperm under a microscope for count, shape, appearance, and movement

What you can do to optimize your fertility

  1. Reduce Stress – Chronic stress shuts down all non essential systems and directly affects the hormones that regulate fertility. Spend time in nature, surround yourself with people you love, meditate, exercise, write in a gratitude journal daily and breathe.
  2. Sleep – Aim for 8 hours of sleep every night.
  3. Drink Water – Water helps deliver hormones throughout the body, improves cervical mucous, and detoxifies your body.
  4. Diet – Strive for a whole food diet, rich in healthy fats, nutrient dense vegetables and fruit, and slow carbs. Limit processed foods and foods high in sugar.
  5. BMI– A healthy weight is one of the most important factors when addressing infertility. Your Body Mass Index ( BMI) should be between 20 – 25.
  6. Exercise – Exercise is important to reduce stress and maintain a healthy weight. Do 30 minutes of cardio daily, weight training 2 times per week, and yoga at least once a week.
  7. Supplements
  8. Things to Avoid – Smoking, higher levels of alcohol consumption (>2 drinks per day), recreational drugs, and use of most commercially available vaginal lubricants should be dis- couraged for couples trying to conceive.
  9. Timing of Intercourse – Frequent intercourse (every 1 to 2 days) yields the high- est pregnancy rates, but results achieved with less fre- quent intercourse (two to three times per week) are nearly equivalent. For women having regular menstrual cycles, frequent intercourse beginning soon after cessation of menses can help to maximize conception.