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With IVF, Do You Follow Fertility Doctor's Orders?

Many patients undergoing an in vitro fertilization cycle don't follow their fertility doctor's orders, according to a new study by researcher Alice Domar at Boston IVF. The study was published in Fertility and Sterility.

Domar, the executive director of the Domar Center for Mind and Body Health at the Boston fertility clinic, found that women were not doing what fertility doctors recommended, such as reducing or eliminating exercise. Fertility doctors also typically tell patients to stop smoking, drinking and taking herbal supplements.

"I was surprised by the results since I had assumed that patients undergoing something as emotionally, physically and financially draining as IVF would want to follow their physician's recommendations to the letter," Domar says. It might well be that women feel that they need to change so much in their lives because of infertility that they can't give up every vice. Or they feel that the medications they are taking can compensate for anything which lifestyle habits might do. Whatever the reason, we need to figure out a better way to educate and support our patients so they maximize their chances of conceiving a healthy baby."

The researchers investigated 118 women going through an IVF cycle at Boston IVF between June 2009 and March 2010. They asked them to take a daily survey while going through the cycle, which typically lasts 28 days. The researchers had several surprising observations about what patients are doing during assisted reproductive technology (ART) cycles. Of the women who completed the daily surveys, during the month before their IVF cycle:

  • 92 percent exercised
  • 3 percent smoked
  • 73 percent drank alcohol
  • 76 percent drank caffeinated beverages
  • 14 percent took herbs

During the IVF cycle:

  • 100 percent exercised
  • 2 percent smoked
  • 49 percent drank alcohol
  • 77 percent drank caffeine
  • 12 percent took herbs

Somar and the authors wrote: "Despite physician recommendation against it, some ART patients took herbs while cycling. Patients continue to exercise regularly and drink caffeine daily, and almost half continued to drink alcohol. Lifestyle behavior counseling should be considered for patients pursuing ART."


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