Foods for Implantation
Whether you're trying to conceive naturally or with Assisted Reproductive Technologies such as IVF or insemination, implantation is a crucial point in the conception process. Implantation happens when a developed embryo (at that point it's called a blastocyst) adheres to the wall of the uterus, usually 7-10 days after ovulation.
While implantation can happen all on its own without any support, many women who have had trouble conceiving want to do whatever they can to optimize their chances of getting pregnant. In fact, I get asked from my patients all the time, "what else can I do to encourage implantation?"
Of course moderate exercise, plenty of sleep, and stress management can help, but many of my patients who are trying to conceive already do that - so what else? Diet is another big factor that can effect conception. Let's take a look at all the foods that can help your little blastocyst lay down some roots.
Not a food per se, but anyone trying to conceive should be taking a prenatal vitamin. Not only do you need more of certain vitamins early on in pregnancy, even before you know you're pregnant, but a prenatal vitamin also improves follicle development, egg quality, and boosts nutrients in the uterine lining.
I usually recommend Mega Foods Baby and Me or Garden of Life Raw Prenatal.
It's believed pineapple is beneficial to implantation because of it's high levels of an anti-oxidizing enzyme called bromelain. While there's no concrete data that consuming pineapple improves implantation rates, I don't see much of a downside to incorporating a little pineapple in your diet.
I recommend you buy a whole organic pineapple, peel it, and slice it into 4 equal portions. Do not remove the core of the pineapple, the core contains the highest concentration of bromelain. Consume each of the portions of pineapple over the course of the implantation window, which is 7, 8, 9, and 10 days after implantation. You can blend it if you prefer a smoothie.
If you're undergoing IVF then time your implantation window based on how many days your embryos have grown, usually 3 days with fresh embryo transfers and 5-6 days with frozen embryo transfers. After your transfer, once the embryo(s) are 7 days, that's when the implantation window starts.
If you can't eat pineapple because of an allergy or because it's too acidic, that's okay. You can take a bromelain supplement or just focus on other anti-inflammatory foods.
Inflammation can cause a slew of problems all over the body, but it is particularly harmful for those trying to get pregnant because it can cause the body to attack and reject sperm, exacerbate the effects of hormonal imbalance, and make the uterus an inhospitable place for an embryo to develop.
There is no one magic compound that will make inflammation go away like *poof*, because different antioxidants have different effects on different parts of the body. For example, some are fat soluble and some are water soluble, some heal joints, while some effect the nervous system, while others protect DNA.
It's best to get a variety of anti-inflammatory foods and avoid pro-inflammatory foods as much as possible. In the most general terms, an anti-inflammatory diet includes eating lots of fresh and minimally processed vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, as well as some quality animals products, while avoiding processed foods, especially those with preservatives, simple carbohydrates, or refined oils.
Want to learn more? Read my article: Anti-inflammatory Foods - what they are & why to eat them.
In Chinese medicine the reproductive system is nourished by our Kidney Jing, which is roughly translated as "essence" or "vitality." Our Kidney Jing feeds our eggs as they develop before ovulation, as well as a growing embryo/fetus during and after implantation.
If Jing is deficient patients often experience sub-fertility, infertility and/or miscarriage.
I recommend Jing nourishing foods to all of my patients who are trying to conceive, but the implantation window is a particularly important time to feed that Kidney Jing, and bone broth is a potent Jing tonic.
Other Jing tonic foods
Bone broth isn't the only way to nourish Kidney Jing, you can enjoy any combination of the following:
Roasted bone marrow or meats cooked on the bone - stews, braised and slow cooked meats
All nuts and seeds - particularly walnuts and black sesame seeds
My Kidney Jing Tonic herbal tincture - a combination of He Shou Wu, Shatavari, Eleuthero and Goji Berries, all Chinese herbs that nourish Kidney Jing
Fish eggs, roe, or caviar
Seaweeds and algaes - including micro-algaes, such as spirulina or chlorella
Oysters - it's recommended they're cooked before consumption if you could be pregnant
Organ meats - such as liver, heart, or kidney (pâté anyone?)
Blood tonic foods
Besides Kidney Jing, a developing embryo also requires sufficient healthy blood supply to the uterus and uterine lining, so eating blood nourishing foods is also helpful for supporting that wildly replicating ball of cells.
Especially if you are prone to anemia, lightheadedness, scanty menstrual periods, or bruising easily, it's recommended you incorporate blood tonic foods such as:
Small amounts of grassfed beef, bison, and/or lamb
Small amounts of dark meat chicken
Cooked dark leafy greens - including kale, cabbage, chard, collards, broccoli, bok choy
Dark berries - blackberries, raspberries, mulberries, goji berries, even grapes
Seaweeds and algaes - including micro-algaes, such as spirulina or chlorella
Gelatin and/or collagen - I like Great Lakes Grassfed Gelatin
Blackberry or raspberry leaf tea
My Blood Booster herbal tincture
Avoid high glycemic foods or skipping meals
Your endocrine system, which is responsible for hormonal balance in your body, is also linked into your metabolism. High or low blood sugar can negatively effect how hormones flow in the body, how inflammation is regulated, and how successfully an embryo implants and/or develops in the body.
For hormonal balance, reduced inflammation, and minimal stress on the body, it's recommended to eat regular meals made up of whole, minimally processed foods and avoid high glycemic foods (sugar, sweets, simple carbohydrates, and refined grains) to keep blood sugar levels stable.
Make sure you eat breakfast (it's extremely important!) and include some sort of protein - eggs, yogurt, or even oatmeal is sufficient for most women. Keep snacks on hand in case you get hungry throughout the day, something like nuts or seeds work well. Don't keep meals or go long periods without eating anything. Avoid sweets and simple carbohydrates, swap out with fruit if you're craving something sweet.
Got diet down and looking for additional tips to improve implantation?
Some physical activity, but avoiding really intense or high impact exercise is recommended during implantation. Depending on what sort of workout you're used to this could mean walking, cardio at the gym, swimming, or a yoga class.
Avoid stress and keep calm as much as possible. I'm well aware this can be a mental trap that causes additional stress and anxiety when you're not zen AF, then you stress about stressing, and that's just no good for anyone. Do your best, no body's perfect. Implement meditation if you can, get to bed early, avoid high-stress people or situations if possible.
If you've been trying to conceive for a while now and you're just not sure what else to do, consider adding acupuncture into your routine. Even for those who cannot come in for regular treatment, timing acupuncture during key phases of the cycle (implantation window being one of them) can have a dramatic effect on pregnancy rates.
If you live in LA, schedule an appointment and we'll get to the bottom of things.