Do we need to ditch the things we love at a time when we need them the most?

As if being told that needing IVF wasn’t stressful enough, we are now reading that not only should we not have a glass of wine, drink caffeine, light a scented candle or use our regular skin care products, we should also avoid putting our sandwiches in Tupperware!

Is this all really necessary? Can we not maintain some sense of normality during this highly stressful period in our lives?

Stress can be a contributing factor towards infertility, so shouldn’t we weigh up the odds? Do we risk using these so called damaging products that we have used for years, but retain some sense of normality, calm and relaxation? Or do we strip ourselves of all that we love, potentially raising our stress levels in an attempt to avoid damaging toxins and risks to our fertility? We did our research and here’s what we found out.

Skin Care

When trying to get pregnant, you often hear people telling you to avoid cosmetics that contain parabens. Parabens are among the most commonly used preservatives in cosmetic products and have been used for decades. They are usually easy to identify by name, such as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or benzylparaben.

There are many scare stories that say parabens are linked to cancer, estrogen disruption and reduced sperm count, but studies are still being carried out and their full effect on human physiology is not fully understood. However, according to the FDA, (Federal Drug Administration), we are OK to continue using our favorite cosmetics that contain parabens:

“The FDA believes that at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens. “

However, despite this thumbs up from the FDA, many feel that although the individual product may contain safe levels of  chemicals, it is the cumulative impact of many products used over many years that could cause health issues.

So there is reason to be mindful, but no reason to have an all-consuming concern about these chemicals. If you want to play it safe though, we have listed below some paraben free companies. Perhaps consider just ditching the parabens during your IVF cycle itself.

Paraben-Free Brands

Candles

Whilst we can’t find any studies linked between candles and infertility, there are many that tell us lighting a gorgeous scented candle could cause health issues. Unfortunately, the majority of candles sold are cheap imports made from paraffin wax, a by-product of the petroleum industry. These have been shown to release an alarming range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), substances that can cause many health risks.

Researchers at South Carolina State University tested both petroleum-based paraffin wax candles and vegetable-based candles. Their 2009 report concluded that while the vegetable-based candles didn’t produce any potentially harmful pollutants, the paraffin candles released unwanted chemicals into the air.

However, experts at the British Lung Foundation say that occasional use of candles is unlikely to cause problems, but that it is sensible to light them only in well-ventilated rooms and for short periods of time.

So, to be clear, If you are a fan of these wonderful little pots of calm, and aren’t prepared to give them up, make sure you splash some cash and buy one of the more expensive natural varieties.

Caffeine

Although researchers haven’t been able to find a clear connection between moderate caffeine intake and fertility problems, it’s generally considered safe to consume 200 to 300 milligrams (mg) of caffeine daily while trying to conceive. That’s up to two 8-ounce cups of coffee. That’s it though! Any more and you could be inhibiting your chances of conception.

“If you drink more than five cups of coffee a day, you reduce your chances of achieving pregnancy during IVF treatment by 50%,” says researcher Ulrik Kesmodel, MD, PHD, a consultant gynaecologist at the Fertility Clinic of Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark.

Chocolate

Being told you can’t have something, in particular chocolate, just makes you want it even more. Just the thought of chocolate abstinence makes us want to rush out and buy a family size Dairy Milk!

The internet is full of conflicting advice, with some people saying that chocolate should be avoided because of it’s refined sugar and caffeine content and others encouraging you to eat it, claiming it can actually aid fertility. We suggest playing it safe and avoiding chocolate, but if you need a sugar fix while going through an IVF cycle, grab yourself some high quality dark chocolate. (70% cocoa content or higher).

French Fries

The key words here that spoil the fun are trans fats. According to the experts, yummy foods containing trans fats are off the menu when trying to get pregnant. Sadly, all the food some of us love, such as chips, Danish pastries, doughnuts and French fries, should be excluded from our diet.

Instead, as our own expert Mel Brown suggests, stick to a Mediterranean diet with foods high in omega 3 essential fats like nuts, seeds, fish and dark green leafy vegetables.

If the thought of giving up French fries just makes you want to go and eat them even more, then we suggest thinly slicing some sweet potatoes and oven cooking them, so that they kind of resemble what you’re craving for and they’re a much better substitute.

Alcohol

Studies have shown that alcohol use in men or women during an IVF cycle can have a negative effect on cycle outcomes, specifically failure of fertilization.

Current guidelines from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence suggest that women who are trying to become pregnant should be drinking no more than one or two units of alcohol once or twice per week and avoiding episodes of intoxication. Excessive alcohol for men is detrimental to semen quality too.

Most doctors say stay away from alcohol. However, others say the odd glass now and then won’t hurt. Talk to your doctor, look at the research and make up your own mind about what is right for you.

Read this study on the effects of alcohol.

Plastics

Believe it or not, it is not just the food we eat that can have an affect on our fertility; it is the way it is packaged that we have to watch out for too. Certain plastics and resin–based food can liners that contain the chemical BPA (Bisphonel A) are the problem. Water bottles, shop receipts, soup cans and plastic-packaged foods, along with many more products we encounter on a daily basis, all contain this chemical.

Although still being studied, the effect of plastics in everyday use on our fertility is causing alarm among the world’s fertility researchers. Until more is known about the phenomenon, many fertility specialists are urging their patients to avoid plastics as much as possible.

According to one major study by the American Society for Reproductive Health, Bisphenol A can, and does, inhibit the embryos ability to attach to the uterine lining. It can interfere with the development of uterine cells and the way they change in preparation for possible pregnancy. This can make it even more difficult for a woman to conceive.

As scary as this all sounds, try not to let this information panic you; it is impossible to avoid plastic, but try and keep your own BPA levels low by making a few small changes:

  • Ditch the plastic water bottles and drink water from glass bottles or filtered tap water or use BPA-free stainless steel or ceramic water bottles
  • Don’t heat food in plastics, put them in heat proof dishes first
  • Avoid plastic utensils, and cooking in Teflon (non-stick)
  • Avoid all canned foods unless cans denote that they have a BPA-free lining.
  • Steer clear of plastic storage containers. Use glass with plastic lids – Ikea do a good cheap range, or Pyrex, and Sistema make an excellent range of BpA free plastic boxes and pots

Sex

You might actually find that by the time you are at the IVF stage, sex has lost a little of its appeal. If this is the case, rest assured, you aren’t alone.  However, it’s good to know whether you can or can’t.

During the stimulation stage, your ovaries enlarge and you can feel quite uncomfortable. This is however the only stage of the IVF cycle, where all experts agree, that sex is recommended, as long as you use a form of barrier contraceptive, such as a condom.

In a small number of cases, IVF patients may produce too many follicles causing very high levels of estrogen resulting in ovarian hyper stimulation. If this occurs, women are advised to avoid intercourse because the ovaries are very enlarged and intercourse could lead to the rupture of a cyst on the enlarged ovaries. This is extremely rare but abstaining from sex can help to avoid these types of complications.

When it comes to sex after embryo transfer, there are several conflicting thoughts

Some experts suggest that the seminal plasma somehow prepares the endometrium by stimulating it to receive the embryos, and therefore encourage sex, some suggest sex the night before transfer and then abstinence, but other doctors advise that you should avoid sex after transfer for up to 2 weeks, specifically orgasms, as it may affect implantation.

So, the bottom line is that you can have as much sex as you like during stimulation (unless you are at risk of OHSS), but then perhaps hold off after embryo transfer for up to 2 weeks if you want to play it really safe.

Various studies have shown that anxiety, stress and depression reduce success in achieving pregnancy.

So, if you are getting stressed, trying not to stress about the dangers of your stress levels as you wade through your tupperware drawer, chucking everything out, as your new paraben free moisturizer irritates your skin, stop! Take a moment. You may be doing yourself more harm as your blood pressure rockets.

All the studies above suggest that you should be mindful of certain things that can affect your fertility, but there is no need to panic. Make small adjustments, eat well, do ask your doctor or nurse if you have any concerns and keep positive throughout the process.

 

Have you been through IVF? How did you manage your stress levels? What products or food did you avoid? We would love to hear from you. Email us on tj@ivfbabble.com

 

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