When you're trying to get pregnant, it can often seem like there are endless rules about what you can and can't do, especially if you've chosen to do in vitro fertilization (IVF). For instance, you've probably heard that you're not supposed to consume alcohol or caffeine and that there are certain foods you should avoid. But can you still exercise when you're undergoing an egg-retrieval procedure like IVF? It's important to know which types of workouts you should avoid so you can stay as safe and healthy as possible during this time.
Can I Exercise During IVF?
IVF is an assisted reproductive technology; the process involves extracting eggs, retrieving a sperm sample and then manually combining the sperm and egg in a lab. As patients prepare for the egg retrieval process, it's important to note that you'll need to do everything you can to protect your ovaries. This is because you'll be taking medications to stimulate ovulation, which will cause your ovaries to enlarge and become highly sensitive.
In terms of exercising during IVF, it's all about the intensity of your workout and what stage of the IVF process you're currently going through. First, it should be noted that you should always consult with your healthcare provider about your workout routine, just to be on the safe side.
But in general, it's recommended that anyone undergoing IVF should avoid high-intensity exercises at all costs and instead opt for low-impact, gentle exercises that are meant to relieve stress. Even if you're used to vigorous exercise (such as running, weightlifting, biking and any other high-impact workout), it's strongly recommended that you opt out of this type of exercise completely.
Why? According to The Fertility Institute, high-impact exercise can put your body through harmful physical stress and even lead to ovarian torsion, which is when the ovary twists around its stalk; this can greatly complicate the IVF process. In vitro fertilization has limits, and patients should take it easy in order to achieve the healthy pregnancy and live birth they desire.
Understanding Your IVF Exercise Options
In addition to avoiding strenuous cardio and other high-intensity workouts, there are certain times during the IVF process when exercise should be avoided altogether.
According to an article published by the Pacific Fertility Center, it's recommended that you temporarily stop exercising during the week of egg retrieval and directly following the embryo transfer. This is because the ovaries will be enlarged, and strenuous activity could cause bleeding or ovarian torsion. It's normal to experience some mild discomfort, fatigue and bloating during this time, so you likely won't feel up for exercising anyway.
As far as IVF-safe exercise options go, light yoga, walking, swimming and stretching are all good options. The Northern California Fertility Medical Center also recommends finding other modes of stress relief, such as meditation, reading, spending more time outdoors and taking up a new hobby.
Tips for IVF Workouts
In general, if you want to work out during IVF, the rule of thumb is to exercise no more than four hours per week. A study published by Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women who reported exercising four hours or more per week for one to nine years were 40 percent less likely to have a live birth, so it's crucial not to overdo it.
It's also important to drink plenty of water before, during and after a workout, and to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet to keep your energy up. Above all, remember: Taking care of your body should be your top priority during your IVF cycle.
- The Fertility Institute: Understanding Exercise Safety During the IVF Process
- Northern California Fertility Medical Center: IVF and Exercise
- American Pregnancy Association: In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): What Is It?
- Pacific Fertility Center: What We Tell Our Patients About Alcohol, Caffeine and Exercise
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health: Obstetrics and Gynecology: Effects of Lifetime Exercise on the Outcome of In Vitro Fertilization