In vitro fertilization is a process by which the egg and sperm of infertile couples are manually combined in a laboratory setting. If manual fertilization is successful, the embryos, usually about four, are placed inside the uterus for further development. Currently, the success rate is about 30 to 35 percent for women under 35 and drops to 6 to 10 percent for women over 40. There are indications that certain nutritional choices may benefit the IVF process but good nutrition does not necessarily guarantee an increased chance of success.
Caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol consumption are contraindicated for couples undergoing IVF. A study by Johns Hopkins University of over 1900 women demonstrated that drinking coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks results in delayed conception rates. Studies by the University of California indicate that reduced fertility rates, increase in the risk of miscarriage and not achieving a live birth were significantly associated with men and women who consumed even low levels of caffeine or alcohol while undergoing IVF.
Vitamins and Minerals
Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily and taking a quality multi-vitamin are recommended while undergoing IVF. Foods containing vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, enrich the fluid surrounding the eggs, while the magnesium found in vegetables is necessary for egg production. Vitamins C and A also help the body repair and heal after eggs are harvested and implanted during IVF. Pumpkin seeds and nuts are good sources of selenium and zinc. Zinc is essential for hormone production in both men and women. In fact, more zinc is found in semen than any other place in the male body. Selenium may also improve sperm count and motility.
Dehydration can affect the normal functioning of the body. Furthermore, water is essential for semen volume and the fluid nourishing the eggs. In certain cases of IVF, Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome can occur and drinking enough water, even up to 3 to 4 liters daily, has been reported to prevent or aid this condition. MayoClinic.com recommends drinking 8 to 9 cups of water daily for optimum health benefits.
Yams and Fertility
A large body of anecdotal literature supports the consumption of yams or application of yam cream to increase fertility. A study conducted by a student at Yale Medical School found that the litters of mice doubled after they were supplemented with yams. There is also anecdotal evidence that the high incidence of twins among the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria is correlated with their high yam consumption. Yams contain phytoestrogens, which may cause multiple eggs to be released during ovulaton; however, the National Institutes of Health states that there is currently insufficient evidence to substantiate these claims. Nevertheless, yams are high in B vitamins, fiber and vitamin C and can be eaten as part of a healthy diet.