Search icon


15th Jan 2015

MEET our resident Natural Fertility Specialist Jessica Bourke: Natural preparation for IVF

Welcome to the first in a series of natural fertility articles

Jessica Bourke

With almost a decade of experience in the field, Jessica Bourke has gained a reputation for helping women conceive where everything else has failed. 

Her individualised service is founded on an in-depth knowledge of all aspects of male and female fertility. Based on scientific research, she uses a combination of acupuncture and nutritional protocols alongside functional lab testing to ensure her clients have the greatest chance of welcoming a healthy baby into the world.

Natural preparation for IVF, where to begin?

Start now

There’s no time like the present and it always pays to prepare. If possible, start to make diet and lifestyle changes at least 3 – 4 months prior to your IVF cycle. It takes approximately that long for the sperm to develop, and roughly the same amount of time for the immature egg follicles to mature in preparation for ovulation, or in this case egg retrieval.

Don’t make assumptions

Doctors are human beings too and are prone to overlooking things, just like the rest of us. It’s vital you don’t presume every aspect of your case has been examined closely. After all, it’s your body that is about to undergo a medical procedure, so it’s important every scenario is explored and every variable accounted for.

Never be afraid to ask questions and persist until you receive a satisfactory answer. If you are being treated as a nuisance for asking probing questions, then you should consider booking into a different fertility clinic. IVF doesn’t come cheap so it’s better to be vigilant now, so you don’t regret anything later.

Key questions to ask your consultant

1. Have you performed not only a semen analysis, but also a DNA fragmentation test to check the genetic quality of my partner’s sperm?
A DNA frag result above 20% will significantly reduce the odds of success with IVF while a result above 30% will mean there is a minimal chance of success).

2. Are you certain the medication you are giving me will not make my ovaries hyper stimulate?
Ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome or OHSS can result where even a standard dose of fertility medication leads to an unusually high follicle yield of 20 or more. This is not good news as the chances that any of those eggs will be good quality is minimal. It is better to under-stimulate and have to repeat a cycle than it is to hyper stimulate.

3. Have you properly assessed and ruled out the impact of any secondary health conditions on our chances of success?
Cardiovascular or immune issues, nutrient deficiencies, sub-clinical infections, anatomical problems, hormonal imbalance, genetic markers, diet and lifestyle could potentially impact an IVF cycle.

The devil is in the detail

You know those migraines that have been bothering you for the last few years? Mention them. They could be an indication of impeded blood flow, which may affect the chances of successful implantation after the transfer. If you had an auto-immune condition before or a history of anaemia or your period has become much shorter than it used to be, mention that too.

It is amazing how small details can carry such huge significance when it comes to successful IVF treatment. Obesity, diabetes, smoking and excess alcohol are the obvious health issues to report, but it’s the symptoms you might not think to mention that could end up being most instrumental in your success.

Nutrition is key

You really ‘are what you eat’. Our diet and lifestyle influence how our DNA is expressed, which is very important when you think of the tiny developing sperm cells and maturing egg follicles. A whole food diet, high in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds and lean protein with minimal sugar, alcohol and processed foods is a good starting point, opting for organic, if possible.

If you feel you are struggling to improve your diet and don’t feel like you see sufficient improvements in your health, then it would be worth consulting with a nutritional therapist who specialises in fertility. A protocol, specific to your needs and health symptoms will be far more effective than a generic diet plan and could give you the ‘edge’ that you need to succeed with your IVF treatment.

For more, visit

NEXT WEEK: Jessica will be investigating natural alternatives to antibiotics while pregnant.