There’s a lot of mixed information when it comes to exercise during and after IVF cycles. Here’s what science says on IVF and Exercise.
If you’ve ever undergone in vitro fertilization (IVF), you’re readily aware of how crazy that time can be. The combination of excitement, anticipation, and worry can easily throw you into hyperdrive when it comes to paying attention to the smallest details of your overall health and wellbeing.
While we’ve already talked a bit about how to prepare yourself for this time mentally, we’d like to take a minute to discuss the best ways to care for yourself physically at this time. Before, during, and even after IVF cycles it’s super important to take care of yourself. Not only for your own sake but for the sake of the life you’re hoping to grow.
What is IVF?
In vitro fertilization, or IVF for short, is a process by which an otherwise infertile woman is medically implanted with a fertilized embryo. The goal of almost all IVF procedures is to encourage the woman’s own body to produce viable and healthy eggs.
Once those eggs are produced, they are retrieved by her medical team and then fertilized in a laboratory setting. The eggs are then incubated for a period of around five days. After which, the fertilized eggs, now called embryos, are assessed to ensure that they are healthy and ready for implantation. This assessment process is called preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD.
Should the embryos be healthy and prepared for further growth, they are then transferred to the woman’s womb. At this point, the embryo will hopefully attach to the uterine wall, and a fetus will begin to form, resulting in what’s called “clinical pregnancy”. It takes about two weeks for doctors to reliably tell whether or not the IVF procedure was successful.
During an IVF cycle, it’s common for women to undergo hormone treatment, to help encourage their ovaries to produce functional eggs. This portion of the IVF cycle can be stressful, and sometimes moderately painful. Following implantation, the two-week wait for results is a time of worry and excitement. Many women report higher levels of anxiety during this time. Once clinical pregnancy has been achieved, it’s full steam ahead with the woman’s own unique pregnancy plan. These plans are based on the medical history of the mother and how her pregnancy is progressing. Oftentimes, IVF pregnancies are very similar to natural pregnancy, with all the same expectations and experiences.
IVF and Exercise: Before IVF
Consider your weight
Many studies have linked obesity with lower fertility rates, in both women and men. Not only can being severely overweight negatively affect your everyday health, increasing your risk for illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and gastrointestinal disease, but it can also increase the likelihood of injury. The best time to consider your daily fitness, diet, and exercise routines is before you choose to engage in IVF.
Try to obtain a healthy weight
A healthy weight is not a number. While many scientists use a metric called Body Mass Index (BMI) to gauge the medical implications of a person’s weight, for the rest of us, it’s harder to define. A healthy weight also looks different on each and every person. Where some struggle to keep weight on, others struggle to reduce it. Keep an open mind and a healthy perspective on your own body, trying not to engage in negative behaviors or habits. Discuss your weight with your regular doctor if you’re unsure about what a healthy weight looks like for you.
Radically change your routine
Immediately before beginning an IVF cycle is not the time to radically change your routines. Whether this is diet, exercise, social, or emotional- you’re preparing for many big changes yet to come. Find a comfortable balance in your life and find a spot that is enjoyable to maintain. Daily exercise doesn’t have to be high impact, just going for walks or doing gentle yoga or Tai Chi routines is enough. Keep your body limber and keep moving to ensure a healthy level of fitness.
IVF and Exercise: During IVF
Maintain normal exercise
Unless you’re an Olympic level athlete or undergo long hours of intense physical training every week- your standard exercise routine is probably just fine during this time. While there seems to be a lot of conflicting information about whether or not exercise during IVF is a good thing, many meta-studies have surmised that moderate daily activity is actually beneficial to your overall fertility chances.
Give in to your urges
IVF can be an extremely stressful time. As we mentioned before, many women report increased levels of anxiety during this time. Lethargy, sleep disturbances, and a less than sunny disposition may be something you’ll find yourself contending with. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel like attending your yoga class every day, or binge on a cookie now and again. Take the time to give yourself some much-needed space. Allow yourself to find ways to relax, even if that means lounging around the house. Do try and stay active, but don’t feel like you need to push yourself.
Engage in overly stressful activities
Now is not the time to take up aerial ribbons or trapeze classes! Or join that intense circuit training course you’ve been thinking about. Leave high impact and high-intensity workouts for another time. While it’s important to keep moving and stay limber, putting excessive strain on an already busy body isn’t a good idea. Between appointments, procedures, and everyday life, you’ll find your schedule is already pretty full.
IVF and Exercise: After IVF
Engage in regular activity
While you’re enduring the excruciating two-week wait to see if you’ve gained positive results from your most recent IVF cycle, stay busy! Go for walks, engage in gentle, regular, exercise, and take the time to practice mindfulness. Do what you can to keep your mind and body focused on positive activities. Enjoy your surroundings and your family. Take time to go out with friends and enjoy easy hikes, or just take a walk around town.
Create and maintain a healthy routine
IF you’re hoping to create a healthy routine, now is the time to start! Find a way to incorporate healthy foods and regular exercise that you’ll be able to maintain throughout your pregnancy. Try and create new friendships or maintain existing support programs. As you progress throughout your pregnancy journey, it’s important to keep a healthy focus on having an active lifestyle and a healthy diet.
Try and lose weight
While many of us get a bit worried about what weight we could gain during pregnancy, now isn’t the time to engage in a blistering weight loss regime. High impact exercise and super restrictive diets are not only unhealthy at this juncture, but they’re also relatively unsustainable. Keep in mind that the routine your building now is the one you will have throughout your soon to be pregnancy.