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implantation
Conception Nov 10, 2021
6 Minutes

Implantation: how can we help?!

The process from ovulation to fertilisation and ultimately a positive pregnancy test relies (of course) on the fertilised egg getting implanted in the endometrium (aka the uterus). The question is, are there things we can do to support implantation and give a helping hand?

We get together with Ro Huntriss (aka @fertility.dietitian.uk) to look at evidence-based ways where we can potentially increase our chances: 

Ten ways we can support the process of implantation: 

It takes just one sperm cell to penetrate the egg to start the process of development. Interestingly, implantation does not start straight away. In fact, following fertilisation it actually takes a few days for the embryo to travel down the fallopian tube into the uterus. Once it gets there we hope that it attaches to the endometrial lining. This is implantation. 

Reproductive microbiome: an emerging force behind conception and implantation

New research focuses on the role of the bacteria (plus fungi and even virus) within our reproductive tract. Unlike the gut (where diversity and balance seems to = health) when it comes to the reproductive microbiome we want heavy dominance from a type of bacterial known as Lactobacillus. In fact this research suggests we want it to be as high as 90% of our bacteria down below. Research has shown can have a number of benefits, including priming the endometrium for implantation as well as helping to maintain a successful full term pregnancy. One way it does this is by keeping unwanted bacteria out. Lactobacillus produce lactic acid which lowers the pH (more acidic) making it less desirable for unwanted bacteria. Targeted Probiotics (oral/vaginal) can help with this. Click here for much more.  Worth a chat with your doctor about. 

Insulin Sensitivity: how this can impact implantation: 

All about our hormones.

These days more and more of us (thanks to modern diets and lifestyles) have too much sugar. The trouble with this is that it can (over time) cause our cells stop reacting to the hormone insulin (which lets this sugar into our cells to be used as energy). This has a lot of consequences for health and the body. However, some research has shown that it can even impact our body’s ability to implant an embryo. 

Moderate exercise can help: 

Research shows that moderate activity and increasing insulin sensitivity ‘may be beneficial to implantation as it reduces the chances of what is known as hyper-insulinemia which impacts key molecules that appear to help adhesion during implantation’. Click here to read the study highlighting this

Once again, its about moderation, as on the flip side there is some research that suggests very vigorous activity can lower leptin levels. Leptin is a hormone that also appears to be important in regulating embryo implantation and endometrial receptivity. Click here for more. 

What type of exercise? Think things like resistance training, pilates, yoga, swimming. Equally a brisk walk in nature also works. Whatever you enjoy to get moving. 

All about blood flow…. 

One of the other benefits to getting moving is getting the blow flowing to the right areas. It sounds simple, but the reality is if we are not getting enough nutrient rich blood flow to our reproductive organs implantation, endometrial thickness and conception can be trickier. Take high levels of stress as an example. This can put the body into fight or flight mode. The hormones that we produce as a result (this Cortisol for example) diverts blood flow and energy to the limbs and the brain and away from ‘non-core’ organs like the reproductive. The body is essentially being primed for attack here. 

Ways to boost blood flow to the reproductive tract and endometrium:  

Moderate exercise of course is one easy way to get blood flowing. It has also been shown to help our mood and reduce stress. Click here for more advice from our resident pre and postnatal specialist Natalie Ferris for how to work-out for fertility. 

Meditation: How five minutes can change your stress response and increase blood flow to your reproductive organs: 

There has been more and more research around the power of meditation. It’s not always easy to do, however, what we know is that even 5-10 minutes a day can make a meaningful difference to our stress (and hormone) levels. Remember we don’t want the body in survival mode when it comes to optimising fertility. Click here for more on the science behind this.

Arguably even more importantly is the ‘how to’. Ironically, when you’re stressed, trying to not be stressed can often make it worse! Resident expert psychotherapist Emmy Brunner talks about how we can make meditation realistic and enjoyable. Click here. 

Beetroot (nitric oxide) for blood flow and implantation:

According to Ro, Beetroot is worth a look. Why? Because it contains nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels to increase the volume of oxygenated blood that can reach muscles and organs. This can directly improve nutrient-rich blood flow to the uterus, potentially supporting implantation of an embryo. Click here for more. 

Hot and Cold to get blood flowing: 

Alternating hot and cold can have a real effect promoting blood flow as in simple terms it promotes vasodilation and vasoconstriction. This is a simple technique (hot water bottle vs cold compress) once again to promote blood flow advocated by doctors at Cultivate Fertility. Click here to read more from them as well as the ‘how to’. 

Supplements for implantation: 

There are a number to consider that we can get from food or from a supplement (of course always chat to your doctor or nutritionist first particularly if you’re on any medication).

Vitamin E as a boost to endometrial thickness: 

Ro identifies a small trial of Vitamin E supplementation (400 IU over 12 weeks). This trial showed an increase in endometrium thickness by an average of 1.1mm. This is of course an average and there was variation, however it is linked to the gene expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (hence a potential boost to thickness). Vitamin E is found in some prenatal supplements, and can be found in wheat germ oil, many nuts, seeds and vegetable oils, leafy greens and pumpkin.

Omega 3’s (DHA and EPA): an anti-inflammatory all about egg quality: 

We are huge fans of this fatty acid for everything from egg quality to neurodevelopment in children click here for much more. When it comes to implantation, Ro, highlights that it can also play a role. Omega 3’s are known to be anti-inflammatory but have also been linked to egg quality. Of course implantation of an embryo (and a successful pregnancy) is much more likely if the egg is healthy and genetically normal. The strongest evidence of benefit is by eating omega 3s through oily fish, taking an omega 3 supplement derived from DHA and EPA. Plant based sources of omega 3 fatty acids include flaxseed, hemp and walnuts. Flaxseeds (ALA) contain a variety of micronutrients, and fibre for additional benefit. Click here for other evidence-based ways to support egg quality. 

Selenium: for egg and embryo quality (helps sperm health) and thickening the endometrium:

According to Ro; Selenium is an antioxidant that supports implantation by thickening the endometrium. It protects egg (and sperm) against oxidation and DNA damage. Once again, this helps to improve fertility outcomes and likelihood of conception. Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium, although concentrations vary depending on where they were grown. Just as a heads up – is possible to consume too much selenium from Brazil nuts. 1-3 nuts are sufficient to meet the recommended daily allowance for selenium.

Back to managing blood sugar: Wholegrain: important for successful conception and beyond: 

Whole grain intake is associated with overall positive health outcomes (read more here from Ro) including reduced inflammation and improved blood glucose regulation. Reducing inflammation may help support fertility, and for women with PCOS, improving blood glucose management can be part of managing PCOS and fertility outcomes. In terms of implantation support, a 28g daily increase in whole grains consumption has been associated with an increase in endometrial lining thickness. For women trying to get pregnant through IVF, successful conception rates were 18% higher on high grain (52.4g/day) than low grain (21.4g/d) diet. 

Bottom line?

As always it comes down to supporting the body with anti-inflammatory properties, supporting egg quality and endometrial thickness as best we can. The good news is there are lots of small positive ways we can give this a helping hand. For more from Ro – click here to check out her instagram. 

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This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.

 

 

 

 

 

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