Fertility Book Review: The IVF Diet

The IVF Diet
By Zita West
2016 edition
Pages 250

What is the book about? 

The IVF Diet is a hybrid between an IVF information book and a nutrition/recipe book.  The first third of the book is all about IVF: Chapter 1 talks through fertility and the process of IVF, Chapter 2 discusses what lifestyle factors can improve or hinder your chances of success, maintaining a positive lifestyle and reducing stress.  IVF is stressful, oh so stressful.  Panicking about how many eggs you will harvest, how many embryos will keep developing, the tortuous two week wait and that's not to mention one of the most stressful parts, being on the seemingly never ending waiting list for IVF to begin.  Advice from a pro on positive mindset and reducing stress is so desperately needed.

The second two thirds of the book are all about nutrition, healthy eating and recipes.  The discussion ranges from what to eat to improve egg and sperm health, nourishing your digestive system to balancing your blood sugar, reducing pesky inflammation and considering your acid-alkaline balance.  The book contains a two week cleanse that readers can undertake prior to IVF to get their bods (or should that be 'health) in to tip top condition.  The final section of the book takes the reader through an ideal diet during an IVF cycle, with the last 6 chapters focusing on what to eat (including recipes) during each stage of IVF.

The Author

Zita West is a Midwife, fertility and IVF expert who is frequently wheeled out in the media as the fertility expert and IVF provider to the rich and famous.  She takes ordinary clients too, like you or me.  Zita set up her IVF clinic over 2 decades ago and the clinic focuses on a holistic approach to fertility to improve chances of success.  And it must work as the success rates are superb.  The natural whole body approach adopted at her clinic considers alternative therapies such as nutrition, acupuncture and hypnotherapy, all the things that before infertility hit you may have turned up your nose at but now embrace as an essential part of life.  Everything is worth a try, right?  

Book review of The IVF Diet by Zita West

Who is this book for?

Anyone wanting to know what more they can do to provide a helping hand to science and improve their chances of a successful IVF attempt.  Admittedly, the lottery of IVF success also depends (some may save quite heavily) on the quality of your clinic, your drugs protocol, your underlying medical conditions and reason for IVF and, very distressingly, your age.  But there remains much that can be done to play the best hand with the cards that you are dealt and this book will help that to be achieved.  Those who are interested in lifestyle changes and nutrition are likely to love the approach in this book.  If you are going through IVF at a different, less holistic IVF clinic (like me - I didn't attend the Zita West clinic for my IVF, as I am not rich or famous, especially after my quest for fertility and a baby bled my finances dry) then adopting the approach provided in the book can bring that more holistic element in to any IVF cycle.

What are the recipes like? Are they 'worthy' dishes my other half will mock?

You'll be pleased to hear that the 60 recipes contained within The IVF Diet use 'normal' ingredients.  Apart from the occasional appearance of kefir in a dish or a surprise cameo role for chaga powder (never heard of you before, chaga) there will be little need to google ingredients or visit a health food store.  Instead, everything should be available from a well stocked supermarket.  

The recipes are delicious and mostly crowd pleasers.  You can't go wrong with chilli sweet potato chips with avocado ranch dip (good for egg collection apparently), chocolate bean brownies (nibbles to aid embryo transfer, or just eat the whole tray to take your mind off your prolonged and very indecent exposure under the 100 watt spotlight with the consultant's face just inches from your muff), or fig, pear and pistachio muffins (to comfort you during the two week wait).

If you are like me, a 'picketarian' my brother calls me because I am just so picky with my food, then you will still find plenty of recipes to make from this book.  There are numerous gluten and diary free recipes to choose from for any PCOSers who find they thrive without these two delicious devils.  There are also recipes that are good for managing blood sugar or if you are on a detox, concerned about autoimmune conditions or trying to improve egg or sperm health.  A comprehensive, if slightly confusing, food key is provided at the top of each recipe.

Are there any drawbacks to this book?

Book review of The IVF Diet by Zita West

The recipes do not have any accompanying pictures.  You can take this either way - 1) as a drawback as you cannot tell what end product you are aiming for, or 2) as a positive because when your dish turns out looking like an inedible brown splodge on a plate, there is nothing contrary to indicate this wasn't how the dish was supposed look.  I personally like an aspirational photo of how the meal should look, even if I fall woefully short, which I often do.  If you are seeking a recipe book that is specifically designed to boost fertility, then Zita West has also produced the cook book Eat Yourself Pregnant.  This cookbook contains colour photos and plenty of healthy recipes.  If you are less interested in the IVF process or the reasoning behind the benefits of certain nutrients (i.e. just give me the recipe, I don't care WHY it works) then Eat Yourself Pregnant may be a more appropriate option for you to consider. 

How long did it take me to read?

I whizzed through this book during bath reading sessions over the space of one week.  It is easy to read without containing too much heavy or technical detail and is genuinely informative and interesting.  

Although I made a large number of the recipes, I definitely did not complete a full set of all 60.  Something for the reader to aspire to...

Conclusion

I am often asked what changes I made prior to IVF and what more can be done to improve chances of success.  If those same questions are playing on your mind, then this is the book for you.  The changes I made prior to my IVF came from the advice in this book, which is more comprehensive then my random ramblings and written by an IVF expert of 20 years.  For those wanting to be as healthy, calm and positive as possible heading into IVF, I thoroughly recommend this book.