Ugh, How Do I Suddenly Have a Polyp?!
We work with patients who go through a LOT to get to the point in their fertility journey known as the embryo transfer phase. Getting through the many phases of in vitro fertilization (IVF) — ovarian hyper stimulation, extraction, fertilization and pre-genetic screening of embryos — is a major accomplishment for many of our patients, especially those with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) which can make the process even more challenging.
It’s not until after all those phases of IVF that the focus shifts to the uterus in preparation for the embryo transfer. Given all the hard work involved in producing a viable embryo(s), doctors want to make sure the uterus is as healthy as possible before the transfer. Some clinics will perform a saline-infused sonohystogram or a hysteroscopy, or both, to get a detailed view of the uterus. This is when a polyp or fibroid, if present, is identified.
Patients spend so much time, energy, money, and emotional labor to get to this point, it can be extremely disheartening to learn that a polyp has been discovered. Most often, doctors recommend that the polyp be surgically removed, via a surgical procedure known as polypectomy. This not only delays the much-anticipated embryo transfer, but any surgery in the uterine cavity poses a risk of the development of scar tissue, which may decrease blood flow to the uterus and the ability to get pregnant.
Acupuncture, Chinese herbs and dietary therapy can help prevent polyps
The good news is, there are things we can do to help prevent polyps in the first place. Diet, acupuncture, herbal supplements, and mindful movement techniques like yoga and qigong are all helpful in preventing polyps. Of these modalities, diet and acupuncture are widely accepted by most fertility doctors, and therefore we encourage patients to continue these therapies while taking medications for an active IVF or frozen embryo transfer (FET) cycle.
Because our approach is rooted in Chinese medical dietary therapy, we encourage all women to incorporate a ‘blood vitalizing’ diet during an IVF cycle and 1-2 months before an FET to achieve optimal uterine health and hopefully minimal detours along the way.
We also recommend eating foods that strengthen the body’s ability to regulate and manage high levels of estrodiol from developing follicles during IVF, and exogenous estradiol given for uterine proliferation for FET. We are affirmed in our dietary approach by studies like this one from Tufts University School of Medicine that show that diets high in plant-based fiber can help rid the body of the excess estrogens, which can feed the growth of polyps and fibroids.
We strive to keep our nutritional advice manageable, understandable, and educational while not being overly restrictive. Diet can be a wonderful outlet and offers some control for the patient during a time when a lot of things feel out of control.
Through it all, we help patients recognize the many roles they can play in supporting their bodies, minds, and souls during fertility treatment. We also realize it is all sometimes too much, so we help our patients to prioritize and to remember–something is always better than nothing, so implement what’s doable and leave the rest!