Most people think about their lifestyle when they are going through fertility tests and treatment – there is so much information out there now about how diet and lifestyle can impact on fertility that it’s not surprising that people often feel a need to take measures to improve what they eat. It’s never a bad thing to eat healthily, but it’s also true that there’s little scientific evidence about so-called fertility “superfoods” or that supplements are going to make a real difference to the outcome of treatment.
At the start of a new year, many of us feel we want to use the opportunity to improve ourselves in some way and the idea of a detox to start the year is often very popular. However, doctors have issued a warning after one woman who did this last year became seriously ill as a result of taking herbal remedies and drinking too much water. She collapsed and suffered a seizure before being admitted to hospital.
Please don’t worry that eating your five a day and cutting back on alcohol is going to make you unwell – this was a full-on detox diet which is a very different thing. In fact, the British Dietetic Association told the BBC that the whole idea of detoxing is nonsense – so whilst eating well and cooking fresh wholesome food is always going to be good for you, this makes it clear that there is not only no need to follow extreme diets, it can also be very dangerous. You can read more about this here and here
If you are interested in nutrition and making sure you have the best possible diet for your fertility, you may want to join the Infertility Network UK online chat via Skype which will take place on Thursday 26th May at 8pm. This month’s guest speaker is Hayley Taylor, a Senior Fertility Nurse and Nutrition specialist.
Hayley’s talk will focus on nutrition but she will also discuss other things related to fertility for example stress management and lifestyle factors – looking at this from a holistic approach. Hayley will talk for approximately 30 minutes and the talk will be followed by a 15 minute question and answer session. If you would like to join this chat, all you need to do is email your Skype Username to firstname.lastname@example.org
I apologise in advance for the rant, but I have come across a few people recently promoting the idea that they can somehow change your mindset, freeing you up to think positively and get pregnant. Of course, we’ve all heard of the placebo effect, and yes we know that our minds do influence our health, but the idea that you can guarantee IVF success by visualising yourself being pregnant is just nonsense.
I suppose you could say it doesn’t do any harm, but actually I think it does. Not only are people often paying for the services of those who are apparently freeing their minds to make them more fertile, they are also accepting the idea that they will be personally responsible for the failure or success of their fertility treatment. So, if your treatment doesn’t work, it wasn’t down to possible problems with the eggs or sperm, it wasn’t because the embryos didn’t flourish or implant, it wasn’t anything to do with your age, your hormones or your medical condition – it’s your fault for not visualising yourself sufficiently pregnant.
I’m not against alternative treatments or mind-body sessions, and I think complementary therapies can be helpful to those going through fertility treatment but you should be very, very wary of anyone who makes extravagant claims about what they can do and particularly those who suggest that they can influence the outcome of your treatment. Of course, some people who go to them will be successful because 25% of IVF cycles result in a live birth, but many others won’t – and it makes me angry that anyone should suggest that this might be their own fault.
I don’t have any personal drum to beat when it comes to acupuncture and infertility – I know of many people feel has made all the difference to them, but equally I know of many others who are far from convinced – but I was fascinated by some new research being splashed over the Internet recently claiming that acupuncture was more successful than the commonly prescribed fertility drug clomifene citrate. I’ve just been looking at some of the reports, trying to sift what is apparently “new” research from a plethora of older papers cited to back up the evidence and the information relating to clomifene seems to come from this one paper published a year ago in the Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science.
Interestingly, the recent NICE fertility guideline suggested that in many cases where clomifene has traditionally been prescribed in the UK, it “does not increase the chances of a pregnancy of a live birth”. This refers to those who have unexplained infertility who have often been offered clomifene to “boost” their fertility. I’ve often come across women who are angry that their family doctor or fertility specialist won’t prescribe clomifene as they’re convinced that it will help them to get pregnant. It is important to understand that clomifene can only help in specific circumstances where women have problems with ovulation – and that in other circumstances doctors won’t prescribe it because it will do nothing to increase your chances of success.
Apparently the research published last year focused on women who had “ovulatory dysfunctional infertility” but given only this rather vague outline it’s impossible to know whether the results are as interesting as they may sound – it is actually far from uncommon for women with certain ovulation disorders to be resistant to clomifene and if they were included in this study, the results would hardly be surprising.