The Best Shot With IVF
Women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) typically want to do everything right to guarantee the highest chances of success. While exercise is generally touted as healthy, competitive sports are more intense, and some limitations may be required. Here’s what athletes undergoing IVF need to know about continuing sports during fertility treatment.
Work it out
For most adults, 150 minutes of moderate physical activity is recommended weekly. Exercise has many benefits, including helping manage weight, strengthening bones and muscles, improving brain health, and reducing disease risk. Jogging or running, swimming, riding a bike, and playing sports are great ways to increase heart rate and stay healthy. Competitive sports are played with the intent to win and usually involve near-daily practice.
The effect of IVF
In vitro fertilization can be physically and mentally draining. During a typical cycle, the woman is given medication to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs. Once extracted, the eggs are combined with sperm to make an embryo. The embryo is then transferred directly into the uterus. Side effects of IVF include bloating, cramping, bruising, spotting, headaches, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), and mood swings.
Get moving before treatment
Before starting fertility treatment, exercise is encouraged. Daily movement can help maintain a healthy weight, balance hormones, and improve mental health. In a recent study, researchers found that women with a continuous active lifestyle had a higher chance of pregnancy using IVF. Once IVF starts, a temporary slowdown may be advised to optimize success.
What can I safely do?
Although each situation is unique depending on the patient’s infertility diagnosis and underlying health conditions, most doctors are ok with low-impact exercise during IVF. A daily walk, a relaxing swim, or a slow bike ride are all good options. People that were previously active may be able to keep up with more moderate exercise, like a daily run. However, for women who were previously sedentary, starting a new exercise program during IVF is generally discouraged. The healthcare provider can provide specific guidance.
Exercise to avoid
The main types of exercises to avoid are anything capable of causing trauma to the abdomen. With so much egg growth happening, protecting this area is important during IVF. This means sports like kickboxing, basketball, gymnastics, and soccer are best to steer clear of. Once the medication is started to stimulate egg growth, the ovaries will swell. This is normal but can make patients vulnerable to a serious condition called ovarian torsion. Twisting and turning during exercises like yoga or dance can increase the chance of this problem happening.
The professional level
Professional athletes are a different breed. These women often practice the sport of choice for hours every day. While impressive, this amount of exercise can affect the menstrual cycle. Reduced body fat from working out so frequently can affect hormones, causing amenorrhea. When amenorrhea occurs, a woman does not have a period, which is a big concern for women planning IVF. Maintaining a level of exercise and body fat that promotes a regular menstrual cycle is encouraged for anyone planning fertility treatment.
Take it easy for now
The bottom line is that light exercise like walking can be continued for most women during IVF. However, to maximize the chances of success, avoid complications like torsion, and decrease discomfort, women should refrain from participating in competitive sports during the cycle. Although this may be difficult, remember the IVF procedure will be over soon, and more rigorous exercise can usually be resumed soon after.