Blog > News > Getting ready for IVF with the right supplements and nutrition - Part 1
May 17, 2021
Getting ready for IVF with the right supplements and nutrition - Part 1
Methylfolate and Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
- How and why I prepped for IVF round 2 and the difference it made -
Anyone out there who has read a little about our first IVF experience and the sad outcome will know that in spite of our grief, we were fully prepared for a second round of treatment. That word, “prepare” is quite a loaded one, certainly for me and no doubt for many of you. As much as I wanted to “get back in the saddle” sooner rather than later, I needed to give myself time to prepare on all counts – physically, emotionally, medically and nutritionally.
I started the supplements in January, within days of that terrible phone call. I wanted to give myself a “run-in period,” to give my body the time it needed to make the most of what was being put into it. Difficult as it was to restart the supplements, it did help me move forward and look ahead. When I felt physically strong enough, low-moderate exercise was thrown into the mix. Having not drunk anything alcoholic for months, and being a lightweight, giving it up entirely felt quite natural. Having been asthmatic since childhood, I think it’s fair to say that smoking wasn’t really an issue for me.
Each person will have different nutritional and supplement requirements depending on their medical history. As easy as it is to blindly shell out a fortune on every box of supplements going in the hope that it will give you that longed for baby, it’s important to remember that supplements are just one piece of the incredibly complex fertility puzzle. Granted, a very important piece, but just one. There simply is no guarantee that a single supplement or even a combination will be the gamechanger that brings your baby into the world. But the right ones, in combination with the right treatment protocols for you, can certainly help. When choosing the right supplements for you, your consultant’s guidance is invaluable. They will be able to look at you and your case holistically and, taking your history into account, make appropriate recommendations.
There is a wealth of supplements out there, many of which are important for our daily health, and some that are particularly important in the context of family planning and IVF. Here’s the first of what Dr. Venkat recommended in my case, and why. You may be recommended some of these yourself, or already taking them:
I have to take methylfolate because I can’t metabolise folic acid. Why?
Folic acid is the synthetic form of a naturally occurring vitamin, folate, also called vitamin B9. Most of us already know that folic acid is vital before and during pregnancy, but we sometimes forget that it’s important for our daily health.
For example, folate helps the body make healthy new red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. Folate deficiency can cause a type of anaemia called folate deficiency anaemia. It’s also important for the synthesis and repair of DNA and other genetic material, and for cells to divide normally. Folate deficiency during pregnancy can lead to neural tube defects in a growing baby, such as spina bifida.
1. But what happens if you take folic acid just as you’re advised, but it can’t “do what it needs to”? The body converts dietary folic acid (also in those pre-natal vitamins) to l-methylfolate (the active form) through a series of enzymatic processes. The final stage of activation is done with an enzyme called methyltetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). Aside from giving your body’s cells enough active (or bioavailable) folate to perform all of the important functions I mentioned earlier, this activation process is also linked to other biochemical processes in cells that control oxidative stress, which can cause damage to DNA. Oxidative stress has been identified as a key cause of poor egg quality.1
2. It’s thought that about 40–60% of people have mutations in the gene for the MTHFR enzyme, which impair its ability to activate folic acid and turn it into folate.2 There is also some evidence that women with endometriosis are more likely to have an MTHFR mutation. For example, a study of women with endometriosis who had at least one failed round of ART (assisted reproductive technologies, of which IVF is one) found that 60% of the patients had an MTHFR mutation.3
In the context of my long-standing history of endometriosis, miscarriage and difficulty conceiving afterwards, Dr. Venkat advised me to have the MTHFR test done during IVF round 1. I wasn’t entirely surprised when it came back positive. On the basis of this, she advised me to switch from folic acid to methylfolate. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I noticed a subtle change in my general health. I wasn’t quite so tired all the time. Part of me does wonder whether my not having enough active folate before egg collection and FET in round 1 meant that general egg quality and my own health weren’t as good as they could have been. So I kept on going with the folate ahead of round 2.
Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Doesn’t it feel like not a single skincare or supplement advert on TV goes by that doesn’t mention CoQ10? It goes by a lot of names, including CoQ, CoQ10, ubiquinone, ubiquinone-Q10, ubidecarenone, or vitamin Q10. It’s a naturally occurring substance in the body, that’s also present in many of the foods that we eat, such as whole grains, nuts and oily fish. CoQ10 is essential for the health of virtually all human tissues and organs. Why? Its major function is as an antioxidant, preventing the formation of free radicals in the body that could cause damage to proteins, lipids and DNA. The body’s levels of CoQ10 decline naturally with age and deficiency has been associated with conditions including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. In the context of fertility treatment, it’s important to preserve and if possible improve egg and sperm quality, by reducing the chances of free-radical damage to the precious DNA that they carry, which can in turn, have a knock-on effect on the chances of successful implantation of a healthy embryo and beyond.4
Find out about the additional supplements that were recommended in my case in my next post.
References: 1. Menezo YJR, et al. Oxidative stress and alterations in DNA methylation: two sides of the same coin in reproduction. Reproductive BioMedicine Online 2016; 33:668–683; 2. Greenberg JA and Bell S. Multivitamin Supplementation During Pregnancy: Emphasis on Folic Acid and l-Methylfolate. Rev Obstet Gynecol 2011; 4(3-4):126–127; 3. Clement A, et al. Endometriosis pathogenesis: role played by the oxidative stress due to MTHFR mutations. Fert Ster 2018; 110(4, Suppl):E394–E395; 4. Hernández-Camacho JD, et al. Coenzyme Q10 supplementation in aging and disease. Front Physiol 2018; 9:44.