Whether you’re trying to get pregnant naturally or with IVF or IUI, supporting implantation is important, and often overlooked.
Let’s say a healthy egg meets a healthy sperm and manages to become a healthy little embryo, it travels down the fallopian tube, and then about 6-8 days after ovulation, it starts implanting in the uterus. The process of creating a strong implantation actually continues for weeks into the first trimester, and it’s the foundation for a healthy pregnancy.
Who cares if in IVF they harvest healthy embryos if, when they go to transfer them into the uterus, they don’t implant well and don’t turn into a healthy pregnancy, right? Problems with implantation can be a reason that IVF fails, and a reason why it might take a long time to conceive when trying naturally. So it’s important and often overlooked.
The key to supporting a healthy implantation is in the preparation. If you wait until the two week wait, after you’ve ovulated, it’s a little late. You want to focus on preparing your womb for a healthy implantation in advance.
Here are 6 things to consider and address in order to support implantation:
- The first step is assessing your period. Your period actually gives you a lot of feedback on the health of your uterine lining. We want a velvety, thick, plush uterine lining that’s full of oxygen and nutrients, and that’s easy for a little embryo to burrow into. You don’t want a uterine lining that’s too thin or too thick – so if you’re period is really light or short, OR if it’s really heavy or long, or if it’s really clotted or brown – your uterine lining might not be as hospitable as we’d like it to be. So the first step is paying attention to what your period is telling you, and working to optimize that. The next few suggestions will help you to do that.
The next thing to consider is your hormone balance:
- You want enough estrogen, but not too much – Estrogen is the hormone that thickens your uterine lining.
So if you have heavy periods, this can be a sign that you have estrogen dominance and need to support your detoxification pathways to help balance out and lower your estrogen. You’ll want to avoid xeno-estrogens like plastics and phthalates and parabens in your self-care products. These chemicals mimic estrogen in the body, and are actually far more estrogenic than the estrogen that your body naturally produces.
If you have light periods, this can be a sign that you are low in estrogen – you’ll want to avoid over-exercising, make sure you’re eating enough fat, and getting enough sleep.
We want to make sure you have the right amount of estrogen so that your uterine lining is adequately thick and plush, and not too thick.
- Adequate progesterone – progesterone is the hormone that maintains your uterine lining, and prevents it from shedding too soon. If you have spotting before your period comes, a short lutal phase, or low BBT temps, you may have low progesterone. Check out my video and post on progesterone.
- The next factor to consider is your Immune system – implantation is actually an incredibly sophisticated, pretty miraculous event. And it’s a highly immunological event, meaning it involves your immune system. You have foreign DNA (the embryo has half of your partner’s genes, after all) trying to implant in your body. Typically, your immune system would attack this foreign body. Think of an organ transplant, where doctors have to give strong immune-suppressants to make sure the host accepts the foreign organ. This is like that. But, in a successful implantation, the fetus communicates with the uterus to flip off a switch in our immune system to prevent us from attacking it, and to allow it to implant in our uterus. I think this communication is incredible.
On a side note, speaking of how incredible implantation is, did you know that the embryo and the uterus communicate together to decide on a good place for implantation, and the uterus actually contracts a little bit and gives the embryo a little hug to help it burrow in and implant well into the uterus? Like its first little hug, I just love the idea of that. So there’s sophisticated communication going on, especially with our immune system.
You don’t want your immune system to be over-active or over-vigilant. I especially worry about this with autoimmune patients, and it’s important to prime and prepare your immune system as best you can. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet, minimize gluten and wheat, and if you have any other food sensitivities, avoid those.
- Good circulation – We want healthy circulation and blood flow to the uterus to bring oxygen and nutrients to the endometrium - the lining of the uterus where the embryo will implant. They can actually measure this with a vaginal ultrasound, it’s called the Pulsatility Index, and acupuncture is proven to improve it. They can actually WATCH the increase in blood flow to the uterus via ultrasound. I love that this effect of acupuncture and acupressure is so well-proven. I give you an acupressure protocol to do, in the Becoming Mama program, that really helps with blood flow and circulation to the uterus.
So, things that can help with circulation are acupuncture, acupressure, exercise, good hydration, and keeping warm – wear socks and warm foot soaks are great.
- Supplements - We want your uterine lining to be at least 8mm, ideally 10-15mm, and trilaminar. If you’re getting IVF, they will measure and tell you how thick your uterine lining is. If you feel yours needs extra support, then consider supplementing with L arginine, Vitamin E, and fish oil (if you’re not already) – which are all shown in studies to support and thicken the uterine lining.
I hope you found this helpful. Again, I encourage you to do these things in advance, to give your body and womb time to be optimally prepared.
If you’d like more information, I walk you through the exact steps and meal plans and acupressure protocols and more in the Becoming Mama program, and I also offer one-on-one coaching.