Exercise has taken quite the negative rap when it comes to preconception and conception. It has been blamed as the culprit for infertility, failed IVF cycles, miscarriage, early delivery, and everything in between. “Keep your heart rate below 140. Don’t lift greater than X number of pounds. Don’t run more than three miles”…the list goes on and on. In recent years, one of the biggest areas of confusion and debate, has been around exercise and its impact on fertility, especially when a woman is going through fertility treatments like IVF. To help us separate science from fiction, we turned to two experts on the PROnatal Advisory Board — Drs. Jaime Knopman and Sheeva Talebian, board certified reproductive endocrinologists and OB/GYNs, and mothers. Read on for their perspective on exercise during this period, which is grounded in research and objective data.
Why is there a concern about exercise during fertility treatments?
The reason for the concern actually has less to do with the impending pregnancy, and more to do with the size of your ovaries. Fertility treatments, specifically IVF, cause the ovaries to grow in size. Bigger ovaries have a bigger chance of twisting (medical term = ovarian torsion); this is a medical emergency and requires surgery to correct. To reduce the chance of this happening, old-school fertility recommendations included a blanket recommendation: “Don’t exercise.” However, with more modern treatment protocols and a slew of exercise regimens, this is no longer the case. While you may not be able to run the New York City marathon three days before your IVF retrieval, you can certainly participate.
The key is modification (and moderation!). Just as you would modify regimens and activities when pregnant, you can do the same while trying to get pregnant. But you don’t have to stop. It is likely what makes you feel good about you, and what makes you sane. The medications can mess with you (both mentally and physically), and we want you to maintain every aspect of what makes you YOU.
What’s the best type of exercise to do when undergoing treatments?
No one regimen, routine, or practice has been demonstrated to be the best. You should always share with your doctor what you are doing and let your doctor referee your activity level. Additionally, if exercise is a big part of your life, then pick a doctor who gets it, and your needs. Being avid exercisers ourselves, we get the yen for a good sweat. We have ways to alter your IVF treatment plan so that we can keep you moving throughout the entire process. There will most certainly be a brief pause to any high-impact exercise at some point in the process, but you can hit the resume button pretty quickly!
So the bottom line?
Don’t stop moving! Motivating yourself to move can be hard. We commend you for wanting to keep moving, no matter what the season, the occasion, or the situation. Although you may have to move slower, or lift a bit lighter, you can always find something to keep your blood moving and the endorphins flowing, even during your treatment cycles. So don’t be so quick to freeze that gym membership after all!
Dr. Jaime Knopman and Dr. Sheeva Talebian are board certified OB/GYNs and fertility specialists on a mission to educate and empower women on all things reproductive. Their website,Truly-MD, was born (no pun intended) out of a desire to change the dialogue, shake up the conversation, and revamp the answers women have been given about their reproductive health. From your first period to your last, Truly-MD offers answers, insight, and awareness of all things female-related with accessible, digestible, and honest medical advice to help you feel healthier, stronger, and more empowered. Drs Knopman and Talebian hold director level positions at CCRM New York (one of the nation’s leading fertility clinics). For new patient inquiries, please contact CCRM at 212-290-8100.