Written By: Erin Zemba, Guest Blogger
New Year’s Resolutions are not something I usually set, since it can be so hard to stick to them. I don’t want to let myself down, so why set a goal I won’t achieve? Well, this year, 2018, is different! I have set a resolution to be as healthy as I can in preparation for IVF. I want a BMI under 30 before I start my first cycle.
So why is this year any different? This year, resolutions will be a lot easier to stick to because I will have more than myself to let down if I don’t stick to it. This year, there is much more at stake.
By far, 2017 was not my favorite year. Aside from normal challenges, like car repairs and settling into my career, I also had my second, third, and fourth unsuccessful pregnancies. The first had been at the end of 2016 — after nearly a decade of contraception, almost as soon as we stopped preventing pregnancy, we saw those wonderful two lines! We were scared but excited. Unfortunately, that first pregnancy turned out to be an ectopic. I was followed closely, and it resolved on its own. At the same time, we also found out I have a Unicornuate Uterus and only one connecting fallopian tube. Once I felt recovered, we began trying again in 2017. Soon after we were pregnant again, but the risk of another ectopic made us nervous. The second pregnancy mirrored the first, and with that we had our second loss.. The odds were increasingly against us. While pregnancy losses are incredibly common, multiple subsequent losses decrease the chances of a successful birth.
But hey, third time’s a charm, right? Nope. That time brought a biochemical pregnancy that briefly got our hopes up with a positive pregnancy test, but was over as swiftly as it started. Finally, to cap off 2017, I was pregnant for the fourth time in just thirteen short months. This one seemed right. My hCG was doubling. I had no pain, and for the first time, no spotting! But of course, with my history, my RE wanted an early ultrasound. We awaited it anxiously with cautious optimism, and at 6 weeks, there was nothing to see in my uterus.
Instead, a faint heartbeat flickered in my only fallopian tube. We were whisked away straight to surgery where my only tube and the pregnancy were removed. Although it was sudden, we had also, in a way, spent the year preparing ourselves. Each pregnancy loss had made us a little surer of what we were facing. In a way, it was a relief that it was no longer a suspicion. The surgery had made it concrete: as of November 2017, we can no longer get pregnant naturally. Fortunately, though, we still have a shot through IVF with the help of an awesome team of doctors, nurses, and scientists. So in our case, it’s going to take a village to make a baby.
Here is where my 2018 resolution comes in. By staying true to my resolution, I am on track to have a BMI under 30 by February, and the plan is to start my first IVF cycle as soon as I reach that goal. I am currently at a BMI of 31.5, so reaching 30 corresponds to losing eight pounds over the next two months. With hard work and devotion, I will achieve that goal. Why did I chose 30 as the magic number? It has a lot to do with what my physician has recommended. She explained how the chances of a successful IVF cycle increase with each point off of the BMI. Furthermore, there is extensive research on the success outcomes of IVF with a healthy weight. In fact, one 2015 study states that:
“Higher BMI is also associated with negative outcomes for patients undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). In a study of 233 IVF cycles, a BMI consistent with being overweight (BMI 25–29.9 kg/m2) or obese (BMI???30 kg/m2) was associated with a lower pregnancy rate (23 % and 22 %, respectively) compared with women of a BMI of 20–22.4 kg/m2 (pregnancy rate- 42 %). Similarly, a BMI of???25 kg/m2 has a lower rate of blastocyst formation compared to women with a BMI of <25 kg/m2 (54.9 versus 43.9 %, p?<?0.007).“
We are about to invest significantly into this new adventure of IVF — both financially and emotionally — and I want to do what I can to make the odds of success as high as they can be. We hope for the best possible outcomes and I want my resolution to set us up for success. That’s why this year’s resolution means so much more.
Here’s my plan to make sure I achieve my resolution and with the support of my physician and my family, I am on my way:
- My physician and I discussed changes to implement at one of my appointments. I am not using any specific diet plan. I plan to achieve this goal by eating healthy, controlling portion size, eliminating consumption of many processed foods, eliminating alcohol, and adding in moderate restorative exercise. I have been using My Fitness Pal to keep track of my calories. I love the feature at the end of the day where it tells me “if everyday were like today, in five weeks, you’d weigh ____.” It is very motivating and inspires my willpower.
- I’m getting moderate exercise through walking for 30 to 60 minutes daily, and our dog, Paisley, absolutely loves this! I am also doing yoga. I have found I really enjoy it and feel regenerated afterwards. I have become a fan of “Yoga with Adriene” which is free on YouTube and I recommend her videos. I have decided on walking and yoga since extreme exercise to the point of exhaustion is actually is associated with poorer IVF outcomes.
- Finally, we have all but eliminated alcohol consumption, since consuming fewer than four units of alcohol a week is also associated with better IVF outcomes.
So, there you have it. It’s one thing to know that these things are healthier for you, but it’s another thing altogether to hear it in the context of IVF. These small lifestyle changes can have an enormous impact on the likelihood of success with IVF, and that can be an incredible motivator. And the benefits are enough for me to schedule my IVF timeline around. All these healthy steps are an important part of reaching my overall fertility goal for 2018. To have a successful pregnancy is a pretty strong motivator!
Cheers (with sparkling water) to a healthy and happy 2018.