June 19, 2024

Preparing your body for egg retrievals (IVF or egg freezing)

So you've decided to embark on your fertility journey! Be it for IVF or egg freezing, a significant step of the fertility journey is egg retrieval. You’ll want to read on to find out what you can do to prepare your body for this important process!

But first: what is egg retrieval? 

Egg retrieval is a necessary step of the fertility journey, regardless of whether you’re undergoing IVF or egg freezing. Fertility specialists retrieve eggs from the follicles within your ovaries in a minor surgical procedure, using ultrasound technology. The average number of eggs that can be collected per cycle can vary widely from person to person, and also depends on multiple factors including age and medical history. 

Most eggs are not capable of creating a healthy pregnancy. Therefore, it is ideal to have as many healthy eggs available as possible for retrieval to increase the odds that eggs will fertilize, develop into embryos and ultimately implant in the uterus.

To aid in egg development/maturation within the ovaries, fertility specialists typically prescribe ovarian stimulation medicine over the course of 8 to 14 days prior to egg retrieval. This typically comes in the form of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) injections, which help to develop the ovarian follicles that house the microscopic eggs.

Beyond the medication, there are steps that you can take to better prepare your body for egg development. It takes a total of 80-90 days for an egg to fully mature and ovulate, which also is when eggs are retrieved. So 2 months before you start medication injections, the eggs are starting to activate and develop. What you do during this period can help support and improve egg quality, as well as keep your body healthy as you move forward on your fertility journey. 

With that in mind, let’s go through some steps you can take to prepare for egg retrieval!

1. Fertility-friendly diet

Eating well can provide you with the necessary nutrients to potentially improve egg quality. But what exactly is a fertility-friendly diet? To start with, consider eating more fruits and vegetables and less foods that are high in trans fats or processed sugars. Also, consider increasing the amount of lean protein in your diet: this includes foods such as chicken, fish, legumes and tofu. 

Fertility supplements can also help make sure your body has enough nutrients for proper egg development and ovarian function. Examples of such supplements include folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Do check with your fertility specialist about the right diet and supplements for you.

2. Avoid smoking and heavy drinking

There is significant evidence that smoking reduces your ovarian reserve, which means fewer eggs available for retrieval. As such, it is strongly recommended to avoid smoking all together, but especially during the 90 days prior to egg retrieval. Heavy drinking may also impair ovarian function - we recommend keeping your alcohol intake minimal during these 90 days as well. 

3. Avoid endocrine disruptors

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may have a negative impact on egg quality. Unfortunately, they are commonly found in our environment. These include:

  • Formaldehyde: can be found in nail polish
  • BPA (Bisphenol A): can be found in food-packaging materials, receipts, and event tickets
  • Parabens, triclosan, and benzophenone: can be found in cosmetics, moisturizers, and soaps
  • Phthalates: can be found in personal care products, fragrance, and many plastic and vinyl products

Because of their widespread usage, it is vital to check that the products you use are free of the above chemicals, especially when it comes to make-up, personal care products and plastic packaging.  

4. Exercise in moderation

If you have a regular exercise routine, keep it up! In addition to aiding overall health and keeping stress levels in check, research has found that moderate, low-impact movement for five hours a week can optimize fertility outcomes. 

However, heavy or strenuous exercise may prevent ovulation, so don’t overly strain your body! This is especially true during the egg stimulation process - when the ovarian stimulation medicine is administered, the follicles in your ovaries will grow and cause your ovaries to enlarge, and you do not want to subject your body to a high amount of physical stress during this period. As always, check with your fertility specialist if you have concerns about your exercise routine. 

5. Make mental health a priority

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and it’s important to take steps to reduce stress and stay positive throughout your fertility journey. Consider meditation, guided relaxation techniques or light yoga to maintain your mental health.  Support from trusted family members and friends can also be particularly helpful during this period. Do check with your fertility clinic as well about fertility support groups - these groups are available both online and offline for you to learn from others and share your experiences. 

This advice may constitute simple or significant changes to your lifestyle, but keep in mind that these changes can improve your egg quality and increase success at egg retrieval. The fertility journey can be a long road - put yourself on the right track with your best foot forward!

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