Of all the possibilities that could arise with IVF, implantation failure is probably the most disheartening. This refers to an IVF cycle that yields several lovely embryos, except these embryos keep failing to implant for one reason or another. A cycle that ends in implantation failure is frustrating because doctors cannot usually provide a concrete answer explaining why this happens. The good news is that there are things you can do to improve your chances of conceiving in the next cycle. Here are some of our time-tested suggestions.
Consider embryo testing
The health of an embryo is the secret behind a successful embryo implantation, and the most common reason behind implantation failure is a chromosomal abnormality in the delicate embryo. This is far more common than many women know. It is the body’s natural response to an embryonic abnormality and usually indicates a genetic failure serious enough to prevent the baby’s survival. The human body is extraordinary in its complexity, and spontaneous implantation failure is the body’s natural way to solve the problem, allowing for another try with the woman’s subsequent cycle. All well and good for natural fertilization, but when a couple spends thousands of dollars and goes through the all the associated difficulties of IVF, a better way to avoid this step is needed.
Most IVF clinics select embryos for transfer by looking at them under a microscope. Unfortunately, a physical examination does not allow the clinician to check if the embryos have an abnormality called aneuploidy. Aneuploidy is a condition where the embryo has an extra or missing chromosome. Aneuploidic embryos often lead to failed implantation or miscarriage.
An embryo test called pre-genetic implantation diagnosis (PGD) can help the clinician select the healthiest embryos for transfer by identifying the aneuploidic ones. On the third day after fertilization, a cell is removed from each embryo and then studied for chromosomal abnormalities. The normal embryos are then transferred to the uterus on the fifth day.
PGD offers a number of advantages to women nearing the age 40, when the aging ovaries are more likely to produce less viable eggs. The procedure allows the clinician to select the healthiest embryos, meaning they all have a higher chance of ending in a live birth. This means that fewer embryos can get transferred at each time, reducing the risk of twins and multiple pregnancies. Secondly, the babies that result from these embryos will also grow up healthy, free from genetic abnormalities. And finally, the embryos are transferred on the fifth day, which makes them more in sync with the uterine lining.
Since PGD is very labor-intensive, the cost of the procedure can be very expensive. In the United States, PGD can set you back up $2,000 to 4,000 all by itself. However, this technologically advanced option could save another far more expensive IVF cycle, and could be the little extra that results in a successful pregnancy and healthy birth.
Eat the right foods
Increasing you chances of conceiving doesn’t always have to involve expensive technology. Sometimes, doing something as simple as eating the right food brings you one step closer to having a baby. These foods can make the uterine lining more receptive to the embryos.
This tart tropical fruit is rich in an enzyme called bromelain, which dissolves proteins that may prevent implantation. There are no scientific studies to back this up yet, but it won’t hurt to snack on pineapple during your cycle. Divide an entire pineapple core into five parts, and eat one each day starting on the day of your transfer.
Walnuts are rich in a type of fat called omega-3 essential fatty acids, which increases the levels prostaglandins. Studies show that prostaglandins are needed for successful implantation.
Green leafy vegetables
Spinach, mustard greens, and cauliflower have high amounts of folate, a type of B vitamin that helps new cells survive. Start eating more of these veggies at the start of your cycle to improve the quality of your eggs.
Avoid the wrong foods
Just as certain foods make your uterine lining more receptive to embryos, so do some foods prevent implantation from taking place. Make sure to stay far away from these foods even during your pregnancy.
Now is a good time to stop drinking coffee, energy drinks, and other beverages with caffeine. New research published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reveals that pregnant women who take the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee daily are two times more likely to miscarry than women who do not take caffeine.
Alcohol is one of the causes of unexplained infertility, and drinking during your cycle may lower your chances of conceiving. Doctors in Harvard Medical School discovered that alcohol consumption lowers your chances of getting pregnant through IVF.
While fish is actually a better source of omega-3 fats than walnuts, they are also contaminated by ocean pollutants like methyl mercury. Aside from lowering your fertility, this toxin can cross the placenta and travel to the baby’s developing brain, wreaking havoc on its defenseless nervous system.
Not many women are comfortable with the idea of being a human pincushion, but acupuncture is actually a beneficial procedure to those going through IVF. Besides boosting overall fertility and protecting you from the severe side effects of the medication, acupuncture can pave the way to successful implantation. One study looked at a group of 225 women going through IVF; 116 were randomly assigned to receive acupuncture, while the rest had a phony procedure. Those in the first group received a treatment three days before and after the embryo transfer, and had an implantation rate per embryo of 14.2%. Women in the second group only had an implantation rate per embryo of 5.9%.
For best results, experts recommend starting your acupuncture treatment three months before your cycle begins. But if your next cycle is a matter of weeks or days away, you can still reap the benefits of this procedure. Ask your acupuncturist if he or she can accompany you on the day of the embryo transfer and give you a treatment before and after. Studies show that having a procedure after the transfer makes the uterine lining more receptive to the embryos.