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The path to pregnancy is different for everyone, and for some IVF (In Vito Fertilisation) is the route they have to follow. IVF can be a long process and be both physically and emotionally demanding. Understanding the process and making small changes to your lifestyle will make the process that little bit easier. Zita West, Fertility, provides an extract from her book ‘IVF Diet Book – IVF & Lifestyle’ looking at 8 areas of your lifestyle you may want to think about changing if you’re about to or are currently going through IVF.

Extract from the IVF Diet Book – IVF and Lifestyle

I try to ensure that every couple I see understands that collectively and individually they have lifestyle “habits”. The term “habits” is important because it helps cement the fact that lifestyle patterns are hard to break. So often, in their pursuit of IVF success, a couple will decide that everything in their lives must change in the instant they realise they’re to embark upon IVF. They set to work with wonderful intentions, aiming for a “perfect” lifestyle within a week or maybe two.

Soon, though, they find the new, unfamiliar patterns of behaviour hard work. They might feel that they fall “off the wagon” in some respect or another, and berate themselves (or each other) if they don’t reach their new goals quickly. I like to take a longer-term approach.

Changing lifestyle is about consistency and sustainability, not instant perfection. Habits are habits – and new habits need to form over the old ones slowly, methodically and firmly in order for them to be long-lasting. IVF treatment is itself a long-lasting process, so the changes you make to the way you live your lives have to be sustainable. Don’t rush. Take your time to embed your changes so that they become natural – even habitual – themselves. Cold turkey isn’t the way. Give yourselves at least three months to effect change.

As a couple work through the following eight lifestyle areas (we look at them all individually or in combination in more detail over the remainder of the chapter) and think about how each of you can take specific, positive steps towards improvement. Make your goals measurable and achievable. Try to be neither vague nor over-optimistic – identify specific actions you can take, little by little, step by step.

8 lifestyle areas to look at when if you’re thinking of IVF 

1. Your relationships

We’ll go into the nature of relationships and the importance of making sure you have good communication and support for each other, and in your wider social circle in the following pages. Use the tips on those pages to try to ensure you embark on your IVF journey with a strong foundation beneath you.

2. Your energy bank

So many couples are told that IVF is stressful, exhausting and depleting. Preparing yourself for its demands, and identifying strategies to manage the process can help on every level – mentally, physically and emotionally.

Before your treatment programme begins, you need to store up energy, so that you minimise the likelihood of running on empty. All the steps you take to improve relaxation in your life, as well as improving your work–life balance, your nutrition and your activity levels will help to build up your energy bank.

3. Your work–life balance

Related to your levels of stress and relaxation, assessing your work-life balance is an essential part of managing your lifestyle. We live in a 24/7 world, with emails and phone calls in the palm of our hands. The boundaries between home and work are increasingly blurred. Few jobs are so vital that they can’t be put down for an evening or a weekend.

Learn to “close the door” to your office both physically and metaphorically. Switch off your email alerts on your phone when you finish working for the day. Even better, turn off your phone altogether. As soon as you start to make this a habit, you’ll realise that there’s nothing that can’t wait until the morning.

4. Your levels of stress and relaxation

If you’re stressed, your body goes into survival mode – shutting down non-essential processes, such as reproduction, and concentrating on the body systems that keep you alive. Nutrient absorption is hampered, hormones become imbalanced and overall your body is in a state of high alert. You’ll need to take positive, specific steps to reduce stress and improve relaxation in your life.

5. Your mindset

Are you an optimist (always believing things will work out for the best) or a pessimist (imagining the worst)? Does your optimism need a bit of a reality check to manage your expectations (a positive attitude is a good thing, but not if it is delusional)? How can you bring   more hope into your life if you’re a pessimist? 

6. Your emotional health and your moods

Think about how well you manage your emotions and how moody you are. What makes you feel positive and buoyed up? What saps your mood and brings you down? If you are the woman, are your moods and emotions cyclical? Perhaps related to your menstrual cycle? (Going on the IVF diet will help to regulate your hormone levels and should even out symptoms of PMS, including mood swings.)

How can you schedule your life to do more of the things that make you feel positive and fewer of the things that bring you down? How can you ensure you support each other in your quest for more stable mood and emotions? 

7. Your nutrition

Not only will you need to make specific nutritional gains in your diet, which is the subject of the remaining parts of this book, you’ll also need to ensure you avoid anything that could deplete your body of vital nutrients. Smoking, drinking alcohol, recreational drugs and over-exercising are all nutrient thieves. Avoid them entirely (including over-exercising, although of course exercise in moderation is good for you) throughout your treatment – and beyond if you can.

Once the habit is broken, don’t reinstate it! Furthermore, your nutrition is fundamental to maintaining a healthy weight – and a healthy weight is in turn fundamental to IVF success.

8. Your activity levels

Lethargy is the enemy of wellness. Although it’s important to relax, it’s also important to exercise at appropriate levels.