Definition and Overview
Infertility nutrition follow-up refers to a visit to a nutritionist, dietitian, or another nutrition expert after the treatment plan has been initiated.
Infertility is a common reproductive problem that affects both men and women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 6% of married women between the ages of 15 and 44 are infertile. As the age increases, the likelihood of infertility also goes up.
Infertility is defined as a person’s inability to produce a child naturally after 12 months of unprotected sex. It may affect either or both of the couples. Pregnancy is a multi-step process that begins with the release of an egg cell from the ovaries, which should then be fertilized by the sperm cell. The fertilized egg then travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus, where it should implant or attach itself. Through multiple cell divisions, the fertilized egg becomes an embryo and then fetus in the later stages. It is considered infertility if any of the steps cannot be completed for any reason. Also, women who cannot carry the baby to term may have an infertility problem called impaired fecundity.
Fertility care requires various approaches, including nutrition. Health experts are now recognising nutrition and food as one of the basic and important foundations of fertility. Good or right nutrition:
- Promotes better reproductive health including the production of sex cells (egg and sperm)
- Helps manage or treat conditions that may prevent conception such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or erectile dysfunction
- Promotes ideal weight
- Decreases the signs of aging
- Reduces the risk of miscarriage
- Prepares the woman for a healthy pregnancy
- Increases the success of assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as in vitro fertilization
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
An infertility nutrition follow-up is performed on patients who have already gone through a consultation and have begun or completed their treatment. These treatments may include:
- Maintenance of an appropriate diet that is high in good fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals
- Reduction of excess weight through a specific diet and increased physical activity
- Increase the weight for those who are underweight
- Balancing of hormones through good nutrition
- Nutrition plan in conjunction with other therapies or interventions such as medication, stress management, and supplementation
- Nutrition counseling
A follow-up may also be performed to:
- Keep track of the patient’s progress and treatment outcome (e.g. Is he or she losing weight? Are hormone levels more stable?)
- Detect any potential problem arising from infertility or underlying conditions that are related to infertility
- Address other concerns associated with nutrition and fertility
How Does the Procedure Work?
Because the objective of infertility nutrition is to significantly improve the possibility of pregnancy, infertility nutrition is included in prenatal care for women.
The follow-up care is performed after an initial consultation and it normally runs for a few sessions. During the consultation, both the patient and the dietitian, nutritionist, or nutrition specialist is expected to have come up with an engagement plan, which includes nutrition-oriented interventions such as a special diet to reduce weight.
The series of follow-up sessions are also scheduled to help the patient prepare for the succeeding appointments. The first follow-up is expected to be the longest, lasting for around 45 minutes to an hour. This is especially true if the interval between the initial consultation and follow-up is more than a couple of months.
During the follow-up, the dietitian, nutritionist, or nutrition specialist will:
- Reassess the patient’s infertility profile based on her hormone levels and weight
- Review the previously prescribed treatment plan, its pre-set goals and compare actual outcomes
- Modify the treatment plan as needed
- Review the effects of the modifications in the next follow-up
- Counsel the patient on nutrition, ensuring that she stays on track and avoid factors that can worsen infertility and health
- Suggest other complementary therapies and make referrals to health care professionals that can provide them
Follow-up may last for a couple of weeks, months, and even years, depending on the patient’s response to the treatment, needs and preferences. In certain cases, it may be carried out after a successful pregnancy for couples who wish to conceive again.
Possible Risks and Complications
The biggest problem with follow-up is compliance. There is a high chance that the patient may not follow through with the schedules for a variety of reasons including the lack of time, mounting cost and tepid commitment. It is also possible that the duration of the treatment, which can be as long as a year, may discourage the patient from proceeding or completing the entire process. By this time, they may be become frustrated or decide not to conceive. Couples may also separate.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- www.cdc/gov/reproductivehealth/infertility
- March of Dimes -- www.marchofdimes.com/Pregnancy/trying_fertility.html