Read any article on “tips for increasing fertility” and you’re bound to see something about the importance of lifestyle – typically diet and exercise. A wide range of studies show a correlation between women with healthy weights and increased IVF success rates.
Exercise and IVF, however, is a trickier business. Too much exercise – particularly cardiovascular activity – seems to have an effect on reproductive hormone production, and that affects your ability to conceive.
Another challenge in determining “how much is too much” is that “exercise” for one woman is very different from exercise for another. The frequent low-impact walker exercises, as does the regular triathlete, as does the lifelong equestrian rider or rock climber. However, the intensity levels and risks associated with these various exercises is very different, and some are more conducive to a successful IVF cycle and a healthy pregnancy than others.
Take it Easy and Other Exercise Tips for IVF Success
After reviewing studies regarding exercise, pregnancy and IVF success, we’ve found these 6 tips will help you achieve the healthy pregnancy and live birth you so anxiously desire.
- Take it easy. That’s the most important and more general advice we can give to women who are pursuing IVF. We realize that taking it easy is a major challenge for women who are used to vigorous exercise. However, the more studies you review, the more you will see a correlation between increased physical activity and decreased rates of conception.
If you are a regular runner, biker, marathon runner or participate in workout regimens designed for moderate/advanced athletes, your doctor is probably going to tell you to take it easy while pursuing your fertility treatments.
- Four hours or less. What does “take it easy mean?” Well, good question. A 2006 study, published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, reviewed IVF results for more than 2200 women over a nine year period. Their conclusion was, “Women who reported exercising 4 hours or more per week for 1-9 years were 40% less likely to have a live birth and were almost three times more likely to experience cycle cancellation and twice as likely to have an implantation failure or pregnancy loss than women who did not report exercise.”These findings may inspire you to pare your routine down a bit during the months preceding, during and after your IVF cycle to give you and your baby the best chance for success. Keep your cardio workouts to no more than 4 hours per week and fill in the gaps with lower-intensity options that still increase strength and flexibility, like yoga, water exercise, or tai chi.
- Ditch high-impact anything. If your exercise of choice is high-impact, it’s time to put it on the backburner for a while. Any serious falls, injuries or impact to the abdominal wall can seriously compromise your reproductive health, especially if there is a freshly implanted baby in there, or if you are prone to miscarriages.
- Prepare for “no exercise” during the week of egg retrieval. This isn’t because you shouldn’t (although you will want to take it easy), but more because you probably won’t feel like it. The fertility medications you’ll take, combined with some of their potential physical side effects – like bloating, fatigue and mild discomfort – will make you feel more like lying down and taking a nap than going outside to run a few miles. This is A-OK, and we always recommend you listen to your body and not push anything. You are embarking on a very intricate and delicate process, so you don’t want to do anything that could compromise it.
- Start finding other modes of stress release. For many women, regular exercise is as much about the stress relief and endorphin rush as it is about weight loss or overall health. If this is the case for you, start learning new ways to reduce or eliminate stress. What are some of the things you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t? Yoga, meditation, more outdoor time, a hobby or craft class, all those books you’ve meant to read but haven’t had time to? Now is the time to start fostering a relationship with other modes of stress release and “escape” so you won’t be so shell-shocked when you have to back off from exercising.
- Take the long view. Perhaps one of the best pieces of advice for any situation in life is to “take the long view.” Your months, or even a couple years, of lower-impact exercise may seem like forever to you, but they’re really not. You are making a tremendous commitment – mind, body, soul and wallet – to bring a baby into your life. The months you spend cutting back on exercise now will be well worth the final results. Once you have your beautiful baby in your arms, you’ll enjoy nothing more than loading him or her up in your jogging stroller and getting back in shape. For now, just enjoy the miraculous process of transforming two single cells into a healthy, happy, miniature human being!
Are you considering using IVF to conceive a baby? Do you have questions about what you should or shouldn’t do during your IVF cycle? Contact us here at NCFMC and we’ll be happy to discuss your concerns.