Last Updated on November 30, 2017
Many people ask about exercise during IVF (in vitro fertilization). Women who use IVF as a fertility treatment tend to be extra cautious – and for good reason. Everyone, including fertility doctors, women, and their partners, wants to be sure the treatments are effective and comfortable.
Is exercise during IVF safe? How much, and what types of exercises should women do during IVF? How will exercise during IVF effect treatment? The common questions come up in discussions about IVF.
- Health and IVF
- Exercise During IVF
- Risks With Exercise During IVF
- Ways to Safely Exercise During IVF
Health and IVF
The fertility clinic provides guidance and suggestions for staying healthy through an IVF cycle. With shifting hormones and some lifestyle changes due to the new medication cycles, women may be concerned about their overall health. Many women are concerned about weight gain, or, just want to maintain an active lifestyle.
Some research suggests that too much vigorous exercise impacts IVF success negatively. The primary reasons have to do with exercise and its ability to shift hormones and impact the reproductive system. During IVF cycles, medications alter the lymphatic system and its responses, as well as enlarge the ovaries and cause some actual physical changes. Exercise may hinder that.
The research performed by Dr. Mark Hornstein and his team actually went on to suggest that years of vigorous exercise prior to IVF treatment also impacted IVF success. His research study showed that women who exercised for more than four hours a week, between one and nine years prior to IVF, had lower success rates than other women.
At the same time, some exercise helps, both emotionally and physically. The bottom line is that you may exercise during your IVF cycles, with some caveats and guidelines. Read below for answers to very common questions about IVF treatment and exercise from both experts and IVF patients.
Exercise During IVF
Should you restrict exercise during IVF?
Many IVF patients ask about restrictions related to exercise. The truth is that many women are concerned that too much exercise – or certain exercises – will hinder the treatment or impact it negatively.
Experts suggest that you pull back on the intensity of exercise during IVF, but not stop exercising entirely. In fact, research shows that a healthy body weight (BMI – Body Mass Index) naturally improves the success of an IVF cycle. In other words, being over or underweight can impact and IVF cycle negatively. But a healthy weight impacts an IVF cycle positively
So you should continue to exercise but consider low-impact exercises. The issue isn’t so much how often you exercise, but rather, how the exercise impacts the effects of the treatment. IVF medication stimulates the ovaries – enlarges them and encourages the production of several mature, healthy eggs. High impact exercise puts physical stress on the body and has the potential to hinder the progress.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is too intense during an IVF cycle, and so are very intense cardio group workouts and similar activities. Aim to protect your body, so avoid activities that put your abdomen and uterus at risk of injury. While the body is quite capable of sustaining itself from injury most of the time, you don’t want to expose yourself to situations that will make it harder for your ovaries to produce healthy eggs.
Don’t eliminate exercise, though, especially if you tend to exercise on a regular basis. If you typically do HIIT or very intense cardio, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may advise you to pull back on that type of exercise until your treatments end.
What Types of Exercise During IVF Are Best?
Are some exercises better than others when it comes to IVF treatment? Many experts and patients alike debate this! The overwhelming consensus, though, is that low-impact exercises are best. But which ones?
Some people suggest swimming as a good choice. Swimming burns calories and strengthens and tones the muscles at the same time. It’s also easy on your joints and is enjoyable and relaxing. Swimming for 60 minutes can be just as effective as running or jogging for 30 minutes.
Even if you choose swimming, which is a relatively low-impact exercise, make sure you do not exert yourself. During an IVF cycle, your focus should be on creating a healthy environment for your eggs to develop, and then a healthy environment for a baby to develop and grow until birth. You will have plenty of time to exercise after your baby is born!
Experts also suggest walking as a good form of exercise during IVF. Walk at a normal pace – no speed walking – and just do so on a regular basis. If you’re switching from very high impact exercise, walking may not feel like much. But it’s important to stay mindful of your body and respect the process. Try walking longer or further than usual, but not faster.
Also, try gentle yoga as exercise during IVF. Gentle, restorative yoga places little stress on the body. Avoid positions that are uncomfortable or cause pressure in the abdomen – that would be completely counterproductive. Also, steer clear from power yoga classes or yoga fusion classes. If possible, discuss your treatment and situation with an experienced and compassionate yoga instructor who can modify poses for you.
Is Weight Lifting During IVF Okay?
If you need to incorporate any weight lifting, use very low weights (such as low weight dumbbells). Eliminate heavy weight lifting from your routine during IVF – including kettlebells and kettlebell swings.
There is some debate about lifting heavy weights while pregnant, but during IVF, it is better to be safe than sorry. Talk to your doctor if lifting heavy weights makes up the bulk of your workout routine. He or she will likely suggest that you stop doing so until you are later into your pregnancy (or after the baby is born).
Risks With Exercise During IVF
So, why do experts take so many cautions with exercise during IVF? What are the risks? Exercise during IVF can put you at risk for a few conditions or problems.
Women who go through IVF treatment have a higher risk of ovarian torsion than other women. Generally, ovarian torsion rarely occurs – without or with IVF – but enlarging the ovaries increases the risk. Another name for ovarian torsion is “twisted ovary,” and it’s a painful condition that sometimes requires surgery. Can you reduce your risk of ovarian torsion? Some experts suggest that you can. A Missouri-based fertility specialist, Dr. Mira Aubuchon, stated in a Prevention.com article that she advises patients to “avoid workouts that involve jumping or bouncing,” to prevent ovarian torsion.
Columbia Fertility stated that “higher exercise levels seem to affect the ability for the embryo to implant and also increases the chances of pregnancy loss.” For that reason, avoid vigorous exercise during IVF and early pregnancy, as well. Depending on your specific fertility situation, your doctor may have more restrictive guidance for you to follow.
Ways to Safely Exercise During IVF
Now that you know which exercises to avoid as well as a few that are ideal, follow the below tips for safe exercise during IVF.
1. Limit the amount of exercise
Limit your exercise to less than four hours a week. Try exercising for a maximum of three times a week for less than an hour. You’ll still benefit from movement and increased energy, but you’ll reduce your risk overall.
2. Stay away from high-impact exercise
As stated earlier, avoid anything strenuous at this time. Stay relaxed and provide your body a chance to create a healthy baby! An IVF cycle lasts only a short number of weeks. You can set aside the high-intensity exercise for this amount of time. You will not regret avoiding the intensity once your IVF cycle is successful.
3. Follow your doctor’s guidance
Your clinic and/or fertility specialist will provide guidance or suggestions for exercise during IVF. Most likely, they’ll tailor their advice to you and your specific situation. Therefore, follow it. This isn’t the time to crowdsource your fertility advice. While other people’s opinions and experiences help, you should really only be concerned with what your fertility doctor tells you. They are working with you to have a successful IVF cycle, so don’t disregard anything that they say in terms of exercise. Just discuss any objections with them directly.
4. Focus on health and wellness
Health involves more than just exercise. Exercise helps reduce stress, anxiety, and provides a healthy distraction. However, you’ll have to find other ways to do that during IVF. Take long, slow walks, or spend time with loved ones. The IVF cycle provides an excellent opportunity to slow down and reflect on your life, practice mindful meditation, or do some gratitude exercises. Take the time to prioritize and respect the changes your body goes through during IVF in order to make pregnancy possible. Honor the fact that you might need additional rest and stillness as you prepare to conceive a new baby.