Embryo transfer is one of the stages of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment that will hopefully lead to pregnancy. IVF is a form of assisted reproductive technology used to treat infertility and allow hopeful parents to conceive a child. It is made up of multiple stages, with embryo transfer coming up after the retrieved eggs and sperm are combined for fertilisation to create embryos.
What happens during embryo transfer?
After the eggs and sperm are combined for fertilisation to occur, your doctor may recommend pre-implantation genetic testing. This screening is done to eliminate embryos that may carry certain genetic diseases or the wrong number of chromosomes that lead to genetic conditions like Downs syndrome. This screening is essentially done to help in ensuring the healthiest embryos are implanted in the uterus. the doctor may choose one or more of the best embryos that have been pre-screened for embryo transfer.
During embryo transfer, the woman is administered a mild sedative for comfort. The doctor then inserts a catheter through the vagina and cervix, into the uterus. This is used to release the selected embryos into the uterus. It can take anywhere between six to 10 days for an embryo to successfully implant into the lining of the uterus. It is after this period that the woman will return to the doctor to have a blood test that will confirm if she is pregnant.
The woman is typically advised to avoid any rigorous activity during this waiting period, but can usually return to a normal routine. However, given that those that undergo IVF typically face fertility problems, it is not uncommon for them to want to advise on what they can do to help improve their chances of success. This can include what to eat after an embryo transfer.
What to eat after an embryo transfer?
Generally, adhering to a diet that is good for a pregnant woman can be beneficial when hoping to boost your chances of successful implantation. Not only will it help with implantation, but it will also form a strong foundation for your pregnancy. A suitably portion-controlled balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and lean meat is recommended. Here are some of the nutrients you should seek out.
This is an essential nutrient that is vital for the healthy development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. It also contributes to the formation of DNA and red blood cells. A deficiency here can increase the risk of birth defects such as congenital heart conditions.
It is advisable to start taking folic acid supplements as prescribed by your doctor, even before trying to get pregnant. The normally prescribed amount is 400 micrograms a day. You can also boost your intake of foods that are rich in folic acid, including eggs, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, avocados, beans, and legumes.
Zinc helps in the balancing of hormonal levels and cell division. It also contributes towards the thickening of the endometrium that is needed to nourish the embryo once implanted.
The daily recommend intake for zinc is 15 micrograms a day. Some foods that are a rich source of this mineral include dairy products, meat, seafood, nuts, lentils, and potatoes.
Iron helps in the synthesis of haemoglobin. Many women suffer from iron deficiency due to blood loss experienced during menstruation. Iron supplements may be prescribed by IVF specialists early on during treatment as a deficiency can result in poor egg health. If the iron levels remain low even during embryo transfer and pregnancy, it can lead to the baby being born too early or too small.
Some foods that are a good rich source of iron include pumpkin seeds, nuts, beetroot, spinach, liver, red meat, oysters, and beans. Vegans and vegetarians are more prone to low iron levels and may need to take iron supplements to correct this deficiency.
Proteins are the building blocks of life and play an important role in growth, tissue repair and reproductive function. We require 1-2 micrograms per kilogram of body weight. The body does not store protein reserves, thus you will need to make proteins a regular part of your diet.
Some protein-rich foods include dairy, eggs, red meat, fish, chicken, tofu, beans, legumes, sprouts and nuts. Remember that with red meat and eggs moderation is key. It is also important to avoid fish that may be contaminated with mercury.
Conception and pregnancy consume a lot of energy. Fats are the body’s way of storing energy and must be replenished. Focus on foods that are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. They have the best impact on fertility, embryo quality and development. Avoid trans fats that have been found to increase the risk of gestational diabetes.
Foods that are a source of healthy unsaturated fats include fatty fish, nuts, tofu, avocados, whole eggs, chia seeds, and olives.
Foods to avoid during embryo transfer
As mentioned above, you should stick to healthy fats and avoid saturated and polyunsaturated fats. These can be found in processed meats and sugary snacks like cakes which should be avoided. Fish is a good source of healthy nutrients like zinc, calcium, potassium and proteins. However, some fish has high levels of mercury which can be toxic.
Also, avoid consuming foods that are rich in simple carbohydrates and sugars. These will affect your insulin sensitivity and increase the risk of diabetes and interfere with hormonal balance. For this, avoid sugary foods and drinks and foods made with white flour.
Keep in mind that besides getting the necessary nutrients, it is also crucial that the mother-to-be is also comfortable and satisfied with her meals. A huge deviation from her normal diet at this stage may cause stress that is not good for implantation. If your diet needs improvement, consider making suitable changes long before you even start IVF treatment. This will better condition your body for the task of carrying a pregnancy without having to introduce drastic dietary changes when you least need the stress.
Also, ensure that you consult with your IVF specialist before taking any supplements. Blood tests are a part of IVF treatment and will be used to determine if you have any nutritional deficiencies that may require making adjustments to your diet and taking supplements.