Exercise and fitness top the list of hotly debated topics when it comes to preconception (aka fertility) and pregnancy. Everyone has an opinion. And while I too love to listen to what my “google educated” mother has to say, I am are here to assure you that 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 this data is weak, making these recommendations 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 a marathon three days before your IVF retrieval, you can certainly remain active.
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, select a doctor who gets it and your needs. Being an avid exerciser myself, I get the yen for a good sweat. There are ways to alter your IVF treatment plan so that you can keep you moving throughout the entire process.
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. I 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, there is something that you can do to keep that blood moving and the endorphins flowing, even when you might be growing!