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Ambreen and Calum 4
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In vitro fertilization (IVF)May 22, 2024

We’re certain our organic lifestyle contributed to our IVF success

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To what extent can the way we live and the food we eat influence our fertility? Ambreen and Calum were determined to find out – and this involved some fundamental changes.


“The NHS said my BMI was too high”

At 35, Ambreen had a successful career as a senior manager in the IT industry.

Her husband, Calum, ten years younger, was an officer in the Merchant Navy.

After two years of trying and failing to get pregnant, Ambreen and Calum were getting worried about their fertility; and Ambreen was at an age when that mattered.

After a series of checks through their GP, the only explanation offered was that this was ‘unexplained infertility’.

They hoped to qualify for NHS-funded fertility treatment but there was a stumbling block.

Ambreen and Calum 3

Ambreen explains, “They said my BMI wasn’t within the threshold that would allow us to be seen.”

“I was only just over the top threshold and was healthy in every other respect. It was hard to take.”

“We both wanted to lose weight and be fit and healthy, but the question was, were we willing to wait until my BMI had dropped below the magic number of 30?”

“At that point, we decided to go private,” she says,

“We had started to look online at private options and found TFP GCRM in Glasgow. I watched an introductory video and I had an instinctive feeling this was the place for us.”

“We then realised it was only a short drive from our home, so the perfect option.”

The couple had their first cycle of IVF at the end of 2018 and the first transfer the following January.

Unfortunately, it failed.

“We did start with a few successful embryos, but by transfer day only one was viable and its quality wasn’t great.”

“I knew in my head it wouldn’t work but I knew that this was only the first try,” says Ambreen.

What are the criteria for NHS-funded IVF?

The criteria depends on where you live, but most places require you to have been trying to get pregnant by regular unprotected sex for two years (heterosexual couples) or 6 rounds of artificial insemination (female couples). The person having IVF needs a BMI of 19 - 30, and both people must be non-smokers.

“We changed everything in our lives”

The couple decided to try again but not before they’d made some substantial changes.

Ambreen explains, “We aren’t smokers. We aren’t big drinkers.”

But that wasn’t enough.

“We looked at everything which could be classed as an endocrine (hormone) disruptor.”

“We had read that that these were chemical compounds which could interfere with the hormones in our blood streams – and these included the hormones which influenced fertility.”

Ambreen and Calum 2

What are endocrine disruptors?

Any chemical that can potentially disrupt hormones is classed as an endocrine disruptor. Researchers are currently studying whether low sperm quality and female fertility conditions could be linked to endocrine disruptors. More evidence is needed to understand which chemicals contribute, and whether the effects are related to exposure during development, or if lifetime exposure is important too.

So Ambreen and Calum made some fundamental changes to their lifestyle:

  • They swapped to a diet that was as organic as possible, always choosing organic meat, milk and vegetables

  • They threw out all their chemical-based household cleaning products and swapped them for traditional products such as vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and lemon juice

  • They replaced all their plastic Tupperware containers with glass storage containers and swapped plastic drinking bottles for glass or stainless-steel equivalents

  • As many anti-perspirant deodorants contain aluminium, the couple replaced these with metal-free equivalents, as well as shampoos and skin creams with natural ingredients

  • They banished all unnatural fragrances – such as those from air freshener plug-ins, sprays and candles – from their home, and now they only use naturally scented wax candles

  • They replaced non-stick saucepans and frying pans with steel or ceramic equivalents

  • They used the microwave as little as possible and only for a few seconds each time and never cook or wrap food in plastic

  • Ambreen routinely practiced meditation and regularly visited a reflexologist and reiki practitioner

  • Meanwhile, the couple exercised whenever they could

Ambreen notes with busy lives it was sometimes impossible to be entirely organic and chemical free and at times they had to compromise.

Likewise, Calum found it difficult to sustain his organic diet while on duty on a ship – but he made healthy choices whenever possible.

The couple both lost weight and felt trimmer and healthier than they had in a long time.

“My embryos were all grade A”

At the end of 2019, the couple had their second full IVF cycle.

This time, there were five viable embryos, with three making it to grade-A blastocyst.

“I was told it was unusual to have all embryos score so highly, given my age,” says Ambreen.

One embryo was frozen and two were transferred into Ambreen’s uterus, and two weeks later she was officially pregnant.

A baby boy, Magnus, was born in mid-2020.

Ambreen and Calum were still sticking to their super healthy regime.

They were making sure most of Magnus’s toys were BPA free (an industrial chemical used to make plastics since the 1950s) and they only used chemical-free nappies.

Just four months after Magnus’s birth, and to the surprise of the couple, Ambreen found she was pregnant again. Sadly, this was an unviable pregnancy.

This was followed by a failed transfer of the remaining frozen embryo from the previous cycle.

At this point, they started thinking about the future.

“My husband said, look, what we’ve achieved is amazing. It is more than we ever thought we’d have,” Ambreen remembers.

“But he left it up to me to decide – and I was ready to have a final try at a pregnancy so that Magnus would have a sibling.”

The third round of IVF took place mid-2023.

Once again, three high-quality embryos were created of which two were transferred. One became a baby boy, Seamus.

Ambreen says, “I was 43 when Seamus was born. To have this success in my forties really indicates that we had been heading down the right road with our lifestyle changes.”

“We share our experiences and ideas with others”

Today, with two young children and busy jobs, life is hectic for the couple.

Even so, they are open minded about whether to use the remaining embryos that are held in storage.

There’s still no definitive reason for their unexplained infertility.

Ambreen says, “It could have been my age or the fact that Calum was away so often that family planning became more challenging.”

The healthy lifestyle that the couple feel worked wonders for them is now so ingrained that it’s become a habit, even if exercise sometimes falls by the wayside due to the demands of small children.

Ambreen and Calum 1

Ambreen and Calum are always open about their experiences.

 

“We’re sure it was a combination of our lifestyle changes, our positive mindset and being open and honest with friends and family, which were all fundamental to our success, reflects Ambreen.

 

“Friends have made similar lifestyle changes to ours and been

successful, which is fantastic.

 

“It’s about sharing, and everyone’s experience is different.

Some people will make these changes and it won’t work – but we know we have been incredibly blessed.”

“We are certain that our healthy lifestyle contributed to our grade A embryos”

Lifestyle and IVF

The lifestyle choices shared in this story are the personal experience of Ambreen and Calum. We don’t advise that an organic lifestyle is needed for IVF, but we believe every success story deserves to be celebrated. Find out more about lifestyle advice that can help improve fertility.

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