by Ivy Eff
You’ve been through a lot. If you’re considering IVF — either for the first time or a subsequent round — you’ve been through some anguish. Whatever fertility treatments you’ve tried haven’t worked yet, and you sometimes wonder if anything ever will.
I know. Because I’ve been there myself.
There are a lot of people who’ll tell you that your age, your diminished ovarian reserve, your PCOS, your endometriosis, etc, etc mean it may just not work out for you. That maybe you should adopt or use donor eggs or find a surrogate.
I’ve heard it too. And, sure, those are always options for down the road.
But I’m not giving up on you yet. Because there are so many (SO MANY!!) things you can do to help boost your fertility, from supplements and diet to acupuncture and yoga — even hypnosis or visualization. The truth is, there is still a ton about fertility that much of medical science doesn’t even understand yet. They are all still exploring themselves.
So while doctors may have some answers, even they will admit that they don’t have them all.
That’s why, as someone who so desperately wants a baby that you’ve already put yourself through a lot — and you’re still ready to sign up for more — it’s definitely worth exploring whatever else could help your fertility.
On this site, I’m trying to compile as much research as I can about everything that could possibly help nudge your next IVF toward success.
So sit back and explore the site. And check back as more is always being added. Because if this site helps even one woman struggling with fertility to have a baby, it will be well worth it.
Especially if that baby is yours.
by Ivy Eff
Suggested: If taking Coenzyme Q10 , 800-1000mg/day is recommended. If taking Ubiquinol , 300-600mg/day is recommended. (With both forms, if egg quality is poor, take a little more.)
Be sure to take it with some fat or with a meal to enhance absorption. Take it for at least 3 months prior to conception, preferably 6 months. Stop taking either form after embryo transfer or positive pregnancy test (not because of any recognized danger but simply as a precaution).
Caution: If you take CoQ10 or Ubiquinol late at night, it could keep you awake, much like a strong cup of coffee. Also, taking too much CoQ10 overall can lower your blood pressure, so it’s not a good idea to take it if you’re on certain medications. Check with your doctor.
Coenzyme Q10 and Ubiquinol are essentially the same thing. The only difference is that ubiquinol is a purer, more absorbable form of CoQ10, which is why you need to take less of it. Since both are expensive, ubiquinol may be more economical, but it can be harder to find.
As you might have guessed, the name ubiquinol comes from the word “ubiquitous”, meaning everywhere. That’s because it’s a substance used by every cell in your body. Yet levels of Ubiquinol start to drop drastically around age 30 (or with certain drugs, like statins). So supplementation can start to play an important role at that point. And, as it turns out, the ovary one of the best sites for absorption.
Coenzyme Q10 / Ubiquinol is a form of enzyme that your body makes that helps produce the main fuel for mitochondria (the “engine” of each of your cells). In the case of egg cells, mitochondria is their only source of energy. As we age, our mitochondria slow down — essentially running out of gas. Imagining the enormous changes a fertilized egg must go through to become a healthy embryo, it’s no surprise that egg cells have 200 times more mitochondria than other cells and that they require tremendous energy.
As follicles get recruited (as many as 5 months before they’re actually ovulated), the mitochondrial DNA increases from 6000 copies to 200,000 copies. In the course of this, they are vulnerable to mutations and deletions which can result in chromosomally abnormal (aneuploid) eggs/embryos. Chromosomal abnormalities can cause failed implantation, chemical pregnancies, miscarriage, and babies with conditions like Down Syndrome. This is all much more likely when the “engine” of the egg cells are old and/or low on energy.
Before now, Western medicine has always firmly believed that the aging of eggs was irreversible. But according to a recent study involving CoQ10 and aging mice (equivalent to women in their 40s), it may actually be possible to improve egg quality and reverse some age-related infertility. In the study, the aging mice given CoQ10 got nearly double the number of ovulated eggs and consequently had litters nearly twice the size as the control group. What’s more, 100% of the mice given CoQ10 got pregnant compared to only 70% of the control.
Another study involving cow embryos found CoQ10 supplementation produced a higher rate of embryo cleavage, blastocyst formation rate, hatching rate, expanding blastocysts and larger size of inner cell mass.
A major breakthrough that these studies prove is that egg health is not purely about the number of years your eggs have existed. Indeed, your nutritional status is a key factor as well. And Coenzyme Q10 or Ubiquinol could make a big difference.
by Ivy Eff
Suggested dosage: 800-1000 mcg/day. Take in combination with vitamin B12.
The names folic acid and folate are often used interchangeably. However, it’s important to note that folate is the more active form of folic acid, a B vitamin critical for many pregnancy and pre-prepregnancy functions. Not only does it cut the risk of neural tube defects in early pregnancy, it also plays a large part in fertilization and protecting the eggs from chromosomal defects. Chromosomal defects are often the cause of early miscarriage and are frequently found in the eggs of women over 40.
One study found that the higher the folic acid/folate levels in the follicular fluid of women supplemented with folic acid, the lower the level of homocysteine. High homocysteine is associated with lower rates of fertilization. Higher folic acid/folate levels also increased the diameter the developing egg follicle. Large follicles are associated with healthier eggs.
In another study (of PCOS patients), a similar correlation was found. The higher the vitamin B12 and folic acid/folate found in the follicular fluid, the lower the homocysteine levels.
In yet another study, the relationship between folate and homocysteine was found to affect the risk of Down Syndrome. Referencing multiple studies, it states that an impaired folate/homocysteine metabolism can result in nondisjunction of choromosome 21 (the chromosome responsible for Down Syndrome.) While this study cites that other factors may also contribute to Downs Syndrome, the study does confirm that deficiency in cellular folate results in chromosome breakage, defective chromosome recombination and aneuploidy. In other words, for women who are over 40, concerned with egg quality, or those who’ve had early miscarriage (often caused by aneuploidy / chromosomal defects), ensuring a proper level of folate is crucial.
Your body may not actually be able to absorb folic acid.
In order to use folic acid, your body must first turn it into folate. However, for at least 50% — and possibly as much as 80% — of the population who have the MRTHF gene defect, the ability to convert folic acid is often severely reduced. In such cases, taking folic acid can actually create more problems than it solves by clogging up the system with a substance the body cannot metabolize.
The solution is relatively simple, however. Just choose a supplement that contains folate instead of folic acid. There is no need to convert it as it is already in the most easily absorbed form, ready for the body to use.
It’s important to take folate/folic acid in combination with vitamin B12.
Folate and vitamin B12 work much better together and tend to affect many of the same functions.
by Ivy Eff
Recommended dosage: 400-1000 mcg twice a day. Take in combination with folic acid or (preferably) folate
In one study, a group of women who had had multiple miscarriages and no full term pregnancies were supplemented with Vitamin B12. Two months later, they were allowed to try to get pregnant. A significant number of these women then went on to become pregnant and carry to term.
The conclusion of another study was that “Vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the causes of recurrent pregnancy loss.
Yet another study (unrelated to fertility but about B12 in general) found that 39% of Americans may suffer from “low normal” levels of Vitamin B12. That is, the level falls below 258 pmol/L. Even though this level is considered to be well above the deficiency level (148 p,ol./L.), even at a low normal level, people often show symptoms of deficiency, like confusion or problems with balance. It could be extrapolated that if other deficiency symptoms show up a “low normal” levels, fertility could be affected, too.
Get checked specifically for your B12 level.
Some doctors make assumptions regarding B12 levels based on elevated levels of homocysteine and methylmalonic acid instead of testing the actual B12 level. But half of all women with low B12 actually have normal levels of homocysteine and methylmalonic acid. So request that your doctor test you. Keep in mind, too, however, that high levels of folic acid can hide a B12 deficiency.
Vitamin B12 is difficult to get solely from your diet.
It is notoriously hard to absorb Vitamin B12. First, it is only available from animal products. Second, it is very tightly bound to the animal products so it requires a lot of acid to break it off and make it usable. However, some people have naturally lower stomach acid. For others, their stomach acid levels reduce as they get older. Without high levels of stomach acid, your body may be unable to separate and use the Vitamin B12 found in your foods.
Your body may also be unable to use some supplements of B12.
Even with supplementation, many people have difficulty obtaining Vitamin B12. That’s because B12 usually found in the form of cyanocobalamin. Unfortunately, in order for the body to use cyanocobalamin, certain enzymes in the body need to convert it first. But common defects in enzymes — as well as dietary deficiencies, or abnormal tissues — can make you unable to convert and use that form of B12 at all. In that case, no matter how much B12 you think you are supplementing with, if it’s in the wrong form for you, your body may still be quite starved of it.
Another form of B12 is known as methylcobalimin. This form DOES NOT need to be converted first, so it is ready to be used by the body immediately. For those with the common MTHFR gene defect (which may be as many as 50% of the population and across multiple ethnicities), high levels of homocysteine, or neurological problems, this form can be especially effective.
By Ivy Eff
The body’s PH doesn’t usually get much attention from doctors or the media, but it’s well worth exploring if you’ve been having trouble trying to conceive.
Chances are you’re too acidic. As you probably know, PH runs from 0 (acid) to 14 (alkaline), with 7 as the point of perfect PH balance. The body tries extremely hard to stay at its optimal level between 7 and 7.4, which is slightly alkaline. Unfortunately, almost everything we eat in the standard American (or Western) diet is acid-forming — from meat and dairy to sugar and starch, and processed foods of all kinds. This excess acidity is a major contributing factor in virtually all health problems that develop over time. That’s because chronic excess acidity dramatically affects essentially every cell of your body.
Acidity even interferes with hormones. What few people realize is acidity can also have a dramatically negative impact on your hormones. Excess acidity can mean, for example, that for your estrogen to do its job, you need twice the amount you would in a more balanced PH environment. So if your body is only producing the normal amount it was designed to, yet your acidic PH is interfering with it, the effects you need it to have on your fertility are likely to fall very short.
The good news is, it’s easy to fix. Just by changing what you eat, you can substantially improve your entire endocrine system — and very quickly.
Here’s a list of alkaline and acid foods. Note that one of the most alkaline foods on the list is wheat grass, which has long been known to enhance fertility. In light of the issue of PH, it makes a lot of sense. I have always attributed the wheat grass pills I took to helping me get pregnant with my daughter. I took about seven pills twice a day.
And here’s the brand of PH testing strips I personally use. You don’t have to use testing strips but whenever I’m making big changes to my diet, it helps if I have a way to mark the progress, especially at the beginning.
by Ivy Eff
A lot of people have heard that there is a connection between low stomach acid and miscarriage.
On the surface, that may not make a lot of sense since the stomach and the uterus don’t directly interact. However, a closer look reveals three possible connections.
1. Low stomach acid could mean low thyroid. Low stomach acid is a symptom of underactive thyroid — also known as hypothyroid. And it’s been well established that proper thyroid levels are very important in getting and staying pregnant simply because the hormones produced by the thyroid gland interact with reproductive hormones in various ways.
You can have low thyroid levels despite a “normal thyroid” diagnosis. The tests doctors use to establish whether you have low thyroid are based on a certain cutoff number. If you’re below that level, then you are diagnosed as hypothyroid. However, even if you’re only barely above the cutoff, you’ll be diagnosed as having normal thyroid. It doesn’t make a lot of sense since you still have low thyroid and hence, you could still have plenty of hypothyroid symptoms.
2. Low stomach acid also means lack of nutrition. There’s another way that low stomach acid could possibly lead to miscarriage. Since stomach acid helps you absorb the nutrients in your food, a lack of stomach acid could lead to a lack of nutrients — even if you’re eating well. With reduced absorption, you could find yourself with low levels of iron, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and other key nutrients for pregnancy.
Acid reflux, heartburn and indigestion are signs of LOW stomach acid. It seems like the opposite would be true, but it’s not. All of these conditions are basically the same thing — they result when undigested food sits in the stomach too long. It hasn’t been efficiently broken down, so it can’t be moved into the intestines. So it sits there and causes a burning sensation in the esophagus. Ironically, most people are treated for this with drugs that reduce the stomach acid even further. Or we go out and buy antacids ourselves. Really what we need is MORE acid to break down the food and get it moving through our system. Many people highly recommend using one tablespoon of Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar in a glass of water for this.* It has long been known to bring rapid relief.
Lactose and gluten intolerance are also signs of low stomach acid. If you are already aware that you suffer from one or both of these conditions, it might be a sign that you are low in stomach acid. Simply by increasing the acid in your stomach, you may find that you digest these foods a lot better. Again, a one tablespoon of Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar on a daily basis can make a significant difference.*
3. Low stomach acid could mean high candida. Anecdotally, it’s been said there is a connection between candida and infertility. Candida is essentially an overgrowth of yeast all throughout the body. This parasitic fungus leaches nutrients and causes tissue damage. Whether there is any connection between candida and miscarriage is unknown. But killing off candida overgrowth (a popular product is Candida Clear) has been said to help some people boost their fertility.
* Do NOT drink Apple Cider Vinegar undiluted in water or juice. By itself, it can burn your throat. Also, if you have high potassium, you may want to purchase betains, an over the counter hydrocholic acid instead. Do not do either if you have peptic ulcers. Work on healing those first instead.