Did you know that what you eat leading up to and during an IVF cycle can impact its success? And spoiler alert: It has nothing to do with pineapple. Instead, here’s what research has to say about what to eat before, during and after IVF, as well as what foods to avoid.
What’s the best “diet” for IVF?
Before and during an IVF cycle, research points to the Mediterranean diet as your best bet. In a study that looked at non-obese women under 35, a greater adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet during IVF was associated with a significantly higher chance of achieving clinical pregnancy and live birth. Another study found that more embryos were obtained via IVF when the patient followed a Mediterranean diet.
So, what is the Mediterranean diet exactly? It’s a style of eating based on traditional cuisines from countries like Greece, Italy, and Spain—countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. The common foods include plenty of fresh fruit and veggies, whole grains, moderate amounts of fish, poultry, and eggs. The diet also features healthy plant-based fats like nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocado. Additionally, this “diet” doesn’t rely much on red meat and, other than some red wine, processed foods are extremely low.
Of course, each person has unique needs. For those with food sensitivities/allergies or hormonal conditions like PCOS, slight modifications of the Mediterranean diet might be necessary. In this case, work within the parameters of the diet where you can and substitute out as necessary.
What should I eat after an embryo transfer?
In the same way that a well-rounded fresh diet is critical as you prep for IVF, the same goes for after the embryo transfer. High-quality nutrients help to provide a welcoming environment for your developing blastocyst and (hopefully) eventual fetus. By now, eating this way has likely become part of your lifestyle, so continue experimenting with new, delicious ideas that keep you feeling healthy and inspired (if you need help with this, The IVF Formula from myMindBodyBaby provides day-by-day guidance).
You’ll want to try to avoid certain foods, too: like pre-IVF, keeping processed white/beige sugars and flours very low is important. This includes fast foods, candy, chips, energy drinks and pop. A 2018 study showed that the consumption of high-carbohydrate foods/drinks (A.K.A. sugar) is associated with lower fecundability (the ability to get pregnant on a given cycle).
Lastly, post-transfer, bump up the nitric oxide–rich foods, which are known for dilating blood vessels and allowing oxygen-rich blood to flow to reproductive organs. These include beets, pomegranate, and leafy greens. Research shows that the intake of beetroot starting on embryo transfer day may help improve embryo implantation during ICSI IVF cycles.
What supplements should I take during IVF?
Along with a healthy IVF diet, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting key nutrients in the right doses before and after your embryo transfer. Even the best diet is unlikely to cover all your needs—that’s where a daily prenatal vitamin comes in. Here's a handy list of the key supplements to support you and your embryo(s) during IVF:
You can find all of these nutrients—and more helpful ingredients!—delivered in easy-to-absorb forms in Bird&Be's The Essentials for Females. Each one plays a different role in supporting your transfer:
Folic Acid and Vitamin B12
Folic Acid and Vitamin B12 support implantation and fetal growth. Your body needs Vitamin B12 to make red blood cells, while Folic Acid is critical for the development of your baby’s earliest spinal cord and brain, helping to prevent what’s known as neural tube defects. This is when the earliest version of your baby’s spinal cord doesn’t close properly, which can prevent the fetus’ brain from developing.
Folic Acid has other roles too! It encourages new blood vessels to form in the uterus and is a necessary nutrient for cells to divide properly—which that embryo is doing on the daily! Aim for 1 mg of Folic Acid daily, and between 500 to 1,000 mcg of Vitamin B12 daily.
The endometrium is full of Vitamin D receptors, so it’s important to get enough of it to support implantation. The recommended daily dose is 1,000 IU, but if your blood levels are low or deficient (you’ll need to get a blood test), you may need more.
Vitamin E supplementation can help thicken the endometrial lining, prepping it for your embryo transfer, as shown by one recent study. Post-transfer you still need Vitamin E to help protect your blood vessels and keep them healthy for good blood flow to your uterus (and future placenta). Daily requirements for Vitamin E are 22 IU daily, but if you have a history of a thin uterine lining (something your fertility doctor would diagnose), you’ll want to aim for 400 IU until your transfer.
With each cell division, your embryo (and soon-to-be fetus) requires lots of Omega-3 to make their cell membranes. Pre-transfer, Omega-3s improve uterine blood flow. Post-transfer, your baby will need DHA for their brain and nervous system health. In one IVF study, those with higher blood levels of Omega-3s had a greater likelihood of a clinical pregnancy and birth. It’s recommended to get 300 mg of DHA both before transfer and during pregnancy, which you can find in all of Bird&Be’s doctor-backed prenatal formulas for people with eggs.
Do I need to change supplements after my embryo transfer?
Now that your embryo is snug in your uterus, it’s waiting time, but both your uterus and your embryo still need a lot of nutrients. That little embryo has to keep growing and developing, while your uterus sets up blood flow to supply that embryo as it becomes a fetus and placenta.
That means your Folic Acid and Vitamin B12 are still critical at this point and throughout your pregnancy. Other prenatal nutrients such as Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc are also required by those tiny little cells for hundreds of cellular processes to take place like immune function, energy production and making DNA.
If you were previously taking extra antioxidants, you can scale back. For example, if you were taking extra doses of CoQ10, like Bird&Be’s Extra Egg Health Boost (the large brown capsule that can be added to The Powers for Females), you can set that aside. Finish up your box of The Powers for Females and then switch to The Essentials for Females.
Are pineapples good for fertility?
You might've noticed that the pineapple is the unofficial symbol of the fertility community, and have maybe heard it packs tons of conception benefits. If you’re wondering whether pineapple actually improves implantation rates, there’s no research that has proven this yet. That said, it’s a nutrient-dense whole food and can only help not hurt your overall health.
Michelle Strong is a registered nutritionist and infertility warrior who founded mymindbodybaby.com to support others on their paths to pregnancy. In this guest post, she shares best IVF diet according to research. As a bonus, Bird&Be readers can also get 15% off any program on her site with promo code birdandbe.