Fertility

What to eat (& avoid) during the 2WW – plus, decrease IVF bloating

Jen Walpole  |   29 Jun 2021


The two week-wait (2WW) is an exciting and anxious time, that can unintentionally be a distraction from all the lifestyle advice that you are told to follow for better IVF success rates. To try and make things a little simpler, and beat any IVF bloating, Fertility Help Hub have asked registered nutritional therapist Jen Walpole, to go over 2WW nutrition, from the basics to more specific tweaks.

Before you read

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Back to bloating, read on for fertility nutrition advice from Jen about what to eat and what not to eat, to maintain a suitable diet for increased IVF success, and symptom relief.

Words by Jen Walpole

Laying the Foundations

Hopefully, before you started trying to conceive (TTC), you switched up your diet to support your fertility and conception. As mentioned in our previous blog post, the Mediterranean diet is highlighted in numerous studies for its benefits to support fertility. During your two week-wait, you really want to continue to eat this way, with a few minor tweaks or considerations.

Consume a predominantly plant-based diet, with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, in order to obtain their antioxidant properties and vitamins that support energy production, growth, and cellular reproduction. A palm-sized portion of protein and thumb-sized portion of healthy fats should be included with each meal.

All those fresh fruits and vegetables will be a fantastic help for any IVF bloating, too. Just make sure they’re soft on your digestive system – think cooked veg and smoothies.

www.jenwalpole.com | @jenwalpolenutrition

Avoid Red Meat

Protein requirements do increase during pregnancy by 6g per day, which is the equivalent of one egg; so ensuring you consume enough protein during the two week-wait would be a good idea, especially since protein is essential for the growth and development of the embryo. In terms of what form of protein to consume, the Mediterranean diet advocates low consumption of meat and poultry and this still stands during the 2WW.

In fact, a study found that red meat consumption prior to IVF, had a negative influence on embryo development and the likelihood of pregnancy success rates. Alongside 1-2 portions of organic poultry per week, during the 2WW and when trying to conceive I would encourage adding in some nourishing organic bone broth, which contains all the key amino acids essential to support fertility.

Use bone broth as a base for risottos, soups and stews, keeping the menu gentle for any IVF bloating.

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Oily Fish

Whilst fish consumption is advocated on the Mediterranean diet, it is advisable to eat no more than one-to-two portions of oily fish per week during pregnancy and during the 2WW (due to exposure to mercury). Other fish to avoid include: large fish, such as tuna and swordfish (which are known to have higher levels of mercury).

Prenatal mercury exposure is associated with a mild reduction in child neurocognitive development. We know DHA is essential for a healthy pregnancy outcome, so it would be a good idea to ensure that this is in your fertility supplements during the TTC period and during your 2WW.

Related Article – How to Improve IVF Success – Fertility Nutritionist Dishes

Going Plant-Based

Aside from symptoms like IVF bloating, plant-based proteins such as legumes, nuts and seeds are positively correlated with pregnancy outcomes, and should therefore be your first choice when increasing protein intake during the 2WW.

For example, make some bean-based dips to snack on and sprinkle nuts and seeds on most meals. Add some chickpeas or other legumes to vegetable soups or salads to increase the protein content. Nut butter is a fantastic staple to add to breakfast options or to pair with oat cakes or a banana as snack options.

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Vitamins for Fertility

Don’t Supplement Vitamin A

Foods rich in Vitamin in the beta-carotene form would be good to increase during the 2WW, as they help to support fertilisation and implantation, as well as embryo development. Mostly orange in colour, foods include: sweet potato, squash, peppers, carrots, mango, papaya and apricots. It must be noted that supplementation of vitamin A is not recommended during pregnancy, so do keep this to food consumption only.

The Super-nutrient Choline

Choline is an often-overlooked nutrient when it comes to fertility. It is essential during pregnancy, so ensuring you consume adequate amounts would be a good idea. Eggs are the richest source, so incorporating 2-3 servings of eggs per week would help to increase this essential nutrient. Other sources include dark green leafy veg and legumes. 

Related Article – Choline – The Critical Nutrient Missing In Your Fertility Supplements

Maintaining Balanced Blood-Sugar Levels

Something else to consider during the 2WW is ensuring your blood sugar levels remain balanced. Animal studies highlight that excess sugar intake affects early embryo development, which may explain lower implantation rates in patients with diabetes; particularly those with poor blood glucose control.

Higher maternal glucose levels were associated with altered foetal growth patterns in a recent study. Preconception blood sugar balance is key to improve embryo quality, so it’s no surprise that this must continue during the two-week wait. The best way to keep blood sugar levels balanced is by combining protein and a little healthy fat with each meal (including snacks). Avoiding foods which contain refined sugar is important, but so is avoiding natural foods that have a high sugar content: such as dates, very sweet fruit (e.g. pineapple and watermelon) and natural sweeteners, such as coconut sugar or fruit syrups.

Coffee and Caffeine

Hydration is key. 2L (approx. 8 glasses) of water should be consumed daily and the 2WW is no exception. Dehydration is linked to negative pregnancy outcomes, so don’t forego the liquids during this time. 

In addition, keep caffeine to a minimum, with no more than one cup of coffee (200mg) per day. If you prefer to err on the side of caution, going for a Swiss water decaf coffee would be a nice option.

Related Article – Nutrition and Fertility – Finding New Ways to Think about Nutrition with myMindBodyBaby

Medicinal Herbs

Herbs are extremely powerful with medicinal properties, so don’t overlook checking if these are suitable during your 2WW, and whether any may help with that uncomfortable IVF bloating.

Some herbs should be avoided, including liquorice, ashwagandha (there is no evidence to support its safety), St. John’s Wort, CBD and aloe vera. Generally, most herbs are safe at culinary levels, but not in high dosages, such as those taken in capsule form or regular tea consumption.

Related Article – Conception Help – How to Treat PCOS Naturally with Nutrition

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Foods to Avoid

When pregnant, there are a few foods to avoid, due to their bacteria risk, including certain cheeses, raw fish and some meats. During the 2WW it would therefore be prudent to be mindful of some of these foods. For example, mould ripened cheese with a white coating such as Brie, Camembert and chèvre, soft blue cheeses such as Danish blue, Gorgonzola and Roquefort, as well as any unpasteurised cheeses, such as goat’s cheese.

All hard cheeses are fine to consume during the 2WW, and soft pasteurised cheeses including mozzarella, feta, paneer and halloumi. In relation to meat, it would be a good idea to avoid raw or undercooked meat, liver, pâté, game meats and cold cured meats including pepperoni and chorizo. Eggs should be cooked thoroughly, and raw egg should be avoided, including that found in mousses and mayonnaise. In addition to high mercury containing fish, it is advised that raw fish should be avoided including shellfish, such as oysters.

During pregnancy, it is advised to thoroughly wash vegetables, salad and fruit but this is a good practice to get in the habit of before the 2WW ideally. Rinsing these foods and peeling where possible is advised. In addition, rice carries some risk of arsenic exposure, so it’s best to keep this to low consumption of perhaps no more than 1-2 times per week.

Related Article – The Biggest Fertility Nutrition Myths Debunked

IVF bloating in the 2WW – my top tips

Finally, if you are on your two week-wait following IVF treatment, you may find yourself bloated or constipated, as a result of the hormones taken during IVF cycles. Whilst there is not much that can be done to reduce this since the medication must be continued into the pregnancy, there are a few things to be mindful of to help reduce your IVF bloating during the two week wait.

Encourage regular bowel movements (at least once per day) by ensuring you eat enough fibre from an array of vegetables, fruits and wholegrains and drink enough fluids (2L of water per day). Avoid processed foods and refined carbohydrates (particularly sugar), which can have the opposite effect of fibre, causing constipation and that characteristic IVF bloating.

Smoothies are a great way to pack in the vegetables and fruit to keep you regular and reduce IVF bloating. Adding in some gut friendly chia and flax seeds would be fantastic. Avoid drinking smoothies too quickly and especially very cold smoothies, to help aid digestion. Using fresh rather than frozen vegetables and fruits would be ideal.

Hopefully this fertility blog has helped guide you in the right direction when it comes to what to eat and avoid during the 2WW and to reduce IVF bloating.

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