A Launceston exercise physiologist is behind a new global project designed to help men and women who are struggling to conceive.
The IVF Project is a world-first online diet and exercise information source, which includes access to personalised programs and advice from experts.
The website was launched in Launceston last year, and immediately gained international attention.
“The IVF Project ultimately was designed to help men and women have babies, to increase their chance of conception and improve their success with any type of assisted reproductive treatments they might be undergoing, like IVF,” founder Dr Cecilia Kitic said.
“We were really interested in making sure people accessed evidence-based information, which is crucial, so that they were getting information that was relevant to their circumstances, with an individualised approach.
“And we wanted everyone in the world to have access that service, so we took some time to think about how we could deliver that and make it accessible and also embed all of the elements that we know underpin positive behaviour change.”
Dr Kitic went through a number of IVF cycles herself before falling pregnant.
“I’m very lucky to have a two-and-a-half year old who was the result of successful treatment.”
Along with Dr Kitic, as an exercise physiologist, there is a dietitian offering expert advice on nutrition for would-be parents.
Members receive prescriptions for each stage of IVF treatment and when someone joins up, their partner also receives access to individualised exercise prescription and dietary guidance.
“People out there know that exercise and nutrition can be beneficial, but I don’t think they have an understanding of the real impact it can have or the best way to be active and healthy to enhance fertility,” Dr Kitic said.
“There are many different causes of infertility. In some cases, it can be unexplained. It can be attributable to a number of male or female factors, or both. Often underpinning the causes of infertility are the processes of inflammation and oxidative stress.”
Dr Kitic also warned would-be parents that their lifestyle choices when trying to conceive and while pregnant affects the health of their child.
“Your lifestyle choices now will not only influence your eggs or sperm, but they can leave a legacy influencing the health of your offspring. The good news is that not only does exercise benefit conception by improving the health of our embryos, but exercise can improve the health of our offspring too.
“If you want to give your future child the best start in life, you need to look after your own health now. Preparing for conception by eating a healthy, balanced diet that optimises fertility, and getting the right amount and type of exercise, is a role for both mums and dads-to-be.
“Diet and lifestyle changes you make four months prior to conception can influence the success of conception and have a lasting impact on your future child. Want to conceive and make your future baby smarter and healthier? Exercise right and eat well.”
The next step for The IVF Project is to develop some closer relationships with clinics in Australia.
“It’s not often that a clinic will have the infrastructure around access to exercise physiology services and clinical dietitian services, so we wanted to bring our service into those clinics to make it accessible for their patients to receive expert advice to improve their chance of success.
“An important thing is the education element. For women with unexplained infertility, just participating in education and lifestyle modification can increase their chance of pregnancy by 100 per cent. For women with polycystic ovary syndrome, engaging in lifestyle interventions before fertility treatment can improve success by up to 300 per cent.”
Dr Kitic said the project was not designed from a commercial perspective.
“It’s designed to help men and women get access to the service and get the right advice. There is so much misinformation out there, so it is important that people access evidence-based services.”
She said traditional face-to-face advice would be upwards of $1500 for patients over a 12-month period, compared to The IVF Project membership at $250.