From Twitter to Instagram and Facebook to Google, we are constantly surrounded by other people’s thoughts, opinions, and advice (with the latter often being unsolicited). Do this; don’t do that. Eat this; don’t eat that. Wear this; don’t wear that. It’s overwhelming. One of the most hashtagged topics is what a woman should and should not do while she is either pregnant or trying to get pregnant. And while most advisors are well intentioned, their advice is often not well researched. This can not only be frustrating but also confusing; deciding whom to listen to can add to an already stressful process. Exercise and fitness top the list of hotly debated topics when it comes to preconception and pregnancy. But we are here to tell you to lace up, because your daily gym routine is unlikely to be the one to blame for your fertility struggles.
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. But the science behind these data is weak, making them more fiction than fact. While there are times during fertility treatment where you may need to modify your regimen, it 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 to help you maintain every aspect of what makes you YOU.
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 them 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 impact exercise at some point in the process, but the resume button can be hit pretty quickly!
You may not be a world-class athlete or make the next Olympic team, but if exercise is important to you, then you should not have to stop. Motivating yourself to move can be hard. We commend you for wanting to keep “moving it,” no matter what the season, the occasion, or the situation. Although you may have to move slower or lift lower, we can find something that you can do to keep that blood moving and the endorphins flowing, even when you might be growing!