Home » IVF#2 » IVF#2: To Exercise, or Not to Exercise?

IVF#2: To Exercise, or Not to Exercise?

This question plagues me every single time we get close to an FET/IVF/TWW, and to be honest, I am no where closer to a solid answer on this.

As most of you know, I am a very physically active person. I played multiple sports on a competitive level. My regular schedule of activity before TTC was intense hockey games 2-3 days a week, plus weight lifting 3-4 days a week. My body loved it, my mind loved it. Sometimes I wonder if that’s how I managed to keep my depression at bay without meds for so long.

When we started doing the IUIs, I continued playing hockey twice a week, weight lifted 2-3 days a week, and limited my exercise to regular daily activities during the TWW (no hockey, no weights). In between BFN’s, I would go back to playing hockey and lifting. In total, I had 4 BFNs from IUIs.

When we moved to IVF last year, I went down to playing ice hockey once a week, and continued weight lifting. Once my ovaries started becoming palpable from the outside (approx stim day 8), I stopped everything except for walking the dogs. We got lots of eggs that round. 21 mature –> 14 fertilized –> 7 day five blastocysts.

Embryo transfers 1 and 2 were DW’s, and she weight lifted once a week plus dog walks before the fresh transfer, and only dog walks during her TWW. After her 5 week miscarriage she joined me back playing hockey once a week. After her second transfer, she only did dog walks, until her miscarriage again at 5 weeks.

Prior to embryo transfer #3, I was playing ball hockey twice a week, and walking the dogs almost daily until the TWW. During pregnancy, I only did dog walks a couple of days a week, until 6 weeks when I went back to weight lifting, and then miscarried sometime during week 7/8.

I returned to the gym a week after my D&C at week 9, and for three months, lifted heavy weights and did compound lifts (squats, deadlifts) 3-4 days a week. I also did sprints 2 days a week. This is until embryo transfer #4, after which I did nothing but dog walks.

After embryo transfer #4 = BFN, I look two weeks off due to being depressed and Christmas holidays. For the past two weeks, I have been working through this high volume fitness competition program. I am on week three of the muscle building phase. Since I started it, I’ve packed on three pounds, but it’s hard to know if it’s just water weight from re-introducing carbs (from 15% to 35% of my macros), muscle mass, or gosh fat (from eating nearly 500 more calories daily than before). I am loving the program so far, and find that I am so hungry even with the increase in calories (from more muscles?), but realize that I shouldn’t be continuing this program once I start stims. The program has me lifting for 90 minutes 6 days a week, plus the 3 days of cardio that I’m not doing (I don’t want to create a calorie deficit). I realize that this is too much, and too frequent for a body trying to optimize reproduction.

Now, I’m trying to decide whether to limit myself to dog walks soon, or whether it’s safe to keep lifting, but at a much lighter resistance.

During my research, I find things like this, which has me thinking that since I have worked out regularly for over 15 years now, no matter what I do, my outcome will be the same. This study essentially says that women who have a history of exercising regularly for five or more years generally have poorer outcomes than sedentary women, regardless of if they exercised during IVF or not.

Then of course, there’s this, which has me totally thinking that I shouldn’t exercise during the first 18 weeks of pregnancy because of the greater risk of miscarriage, but then confuses me by showing studies that say exercise helps to prevent miscarriage. Though, neither really matters to me right now because my concern is about IVF outcomes.

The alternative medicine doctor part of me thinks that all strenuous activity (things that make you sweat, hold your breath, increase your intraabdominal pressure) should take a back seat during stims and the TWW because these kinds of activities drain the resources (Qi) needed to make and nourish developing eggs/embryos. From a primal/paleo perspective, these activities would mimic the unfavourable conditions of running away from predators, or having to hunt/forage, both of which indicate to the body that right now food is scarce and not a good time for baby making. Also, heavy lifting encourages the cycle of muscle damage and repair, which is the basis of muscle building. This increases the oxidative load on the body, and the resultant increase in metabolism increases the amount of free radicals floating around, which is also bad.

As for light exercise such as walking, and light cleaning, I believe these activities are good during stims and the TWW. They increase the circulation through the body, and get some good endorphins flowing.

What I would love to see is a study comparing consecutive IVF cycles- one with exercise and one without, with identical treatment plans, and what the resultant embryo numbers and qualities are. Too bad I can’t find anything like that, as it would shed some light on what I should do.

What I do Know
– I have already stopped doing cardio because it is counterproductive to try to burn calories
– I will keep my calories the same as right now (well-fed and higher than maintenance).
– I will definitely not put myself at risk of ovarian torsion.
– I will not exercise while my ovaries are healing from egg retrieval (last time took two weeks to have a non-painful poop)

Those of you who have done IVF- what kind of activity did you maintain during your stims? What kind of outcome did you have from your IVF? What would you do if you had to do IVF again? What was recommended to you by your RE?

31 thoughts on “IVF#2: To Exercise, or Not to Exercise?

  1. I am glad you posted this. I am curios to see peoples thoughts. I too have been physical actI’ve and as we hopefully will be starting out first IVF cycle I need to concider this more seriously. I want to do everything I can to have a healthy pregnancy and it will be hard to completely stop everything.

  2. I haven’t done IVF, but I can tell you what our doctors told us with RPL. Local RE told me I wasn’t allowed to do anything more then walk our dog on a daily basis – for 2 years I lived this way, and it was my version of hell. I was never as physically active as you, but I was typically doing spin class 2 times a week, and running 3 or 4 times a walk (clearly I love cardio). Then Dr. Braverman made it clear to me that I was allowed to do 30-45 minutes a day of moderate exercise – his only limitation was “no training for marathons” as intense training will impact monthly cycles and fertility.

  3. My RE didn’t want me doing anything intense during IVF. I’d been running, but she said no running and basically limited me to walking the dogs. Same with the entire first trimester. I am just now going to start exercising again, but honestly I’m probably going to stick with walking on the treadmill. Boring as hell, but I’m terrified to do much more.

    • Yeah, that’s what I was thinking too. My reasoning is- some people can get pregnant so easily and it’s no big deal to their body to work out while TTC or 1st tri. But we have histories of pregnancy loss, and needed invasive procedures to even get pregnant, so it’s not worth challenging an even more challenged system.

      • Oh my gosh. You are a brave woman! It’s 82 degrees F here right now! Beach weather! You can’t beat January in Southern California!

      • Oh my gosh. I wouldn’t even know what to do with myself. Last week it was colder–getting down to about freezing at night–and Twix & Rolo were fighting over the electric blanket! They would DIE in frigid weather like you have! They’d probably both run away to live with my mom. πŸ™‚

  4. I did fertility yoga + walking up until transfer with our IVF. I did NOTHING post-transfer and I felt horrible! My RE recommends pelvic rest though. He told me NO yoga. With our upcoming FET, I’ve decided to allow myself light yoga poses during the 2WW. I can’t handle the tension in my body if I don’t.

    • I’m the same way as you. I need the exercise to release tension. I guess the yoga has too much twisting? I enjoy yoga and walking, but need the hard muscle contractions of resistance training. Thanks for your input!

  5. You are so knowledgeable about this – I was fascinated reading the nutritional terms & info you shared. I’ve only ever looked at diet and exercise as a means to an end, and not a way of life. I need to switch my way of thinking – you’re an inspiration.

    I know whatever decision you land on will be the right one for you. My gut says you’re already doing the right thing not exercising while healing after retrieval & putting yourself at risk of ovarian torsion. I hope someone with experience can chime in for you.

    • Thanks Linds. I have always been super interested in exercise and nutrition. Exercise has always been such a stress reliever for me, especially with the anxiety. I have trouble reducing my activity, so I tend to obsess about it a bit. Slowly but surely, I am forming an idea of what will work for me and my reproductive system. Thanks for the support!

  6. I love how passionate you are about working out. I wish i had the motivation. I really do try but it doesnt come natural to me. While youre trying to decide if you shouldnt work out i’m trying to convince myself that i should lol i think abt one of your posts when i poke myself every morning… you said you tried to find some fat on your hip for an injection…. I giggle every time i think abt it bc i WISH i had that problem. ahhh it amazes me how we are all different yet so the same. Anyway back to your dilemma. I say screw the work outs try a different approach and let your body relax. πŸ™‚ its only temporary…

  7. Oh my. What a contradictory subject! It sounds as though your exercise falls into the intense category, and I think generally that is considered too much when TTC. However dropping from that back to just dog-walking… if your body is used to working out hard, it seems like a big change. I thought that (moderate) exercise was good as it improved blood flow to the uterus (I read somewhere that poor blood flow lowers IVF chances of implantation). I think you need to settle on something that feels good enough for you as an active person, but that isn’t going to put strain on your body when it needs to be concentrating its energies elsewhere. Very tricky.

    • Yes, you are totally correct. I think I am struggling with the idea of transitioning, though I know that I will do that soon. I think that part of it is learning how to relax, which has been a struggle for me the past year!

  8. This is such a good past and I struggle with it, too.

    When I did my first round of IVF I was running and cycling a lot. I averaged about 50 KMs a week on runs (didn’t track cycling) and I did heavy lifting about 3x a week. I stopped everything but walking when I started to ‘feel’ my ovaries, then I did 10KM walks a day, completely stopping the day before transfer and the 2ww.

    If I were not as active as I was, (which is true now), even those 10KM walks would be a workout. But back then, they were easy and relaxing stress relievers and I didn’t feel sore or tired, even doing them every day.

    Now, after 3 years of IVF and all the on and off exercising, a 10KM walk IS a workout πŸ˜‰ I tried to do a 10KM walk a day, every day, during the holidays just to see where I’m at, and admittedly, couldn’t do it, I needed rest days :-).

    So… I offer myself up as a case of activity definitely being relative and individual to us all at any given moment.

    As for me, I’ve been little miss perfect – lying around like a slug and still miscarrying. I’ve done light runs – ectopic. And then little miss perfect again – another miscarriage. Plus, tons of BFN cycles, also as little miss perfect. During all those inactive cycles I lost my fitness, my connection to my body and struggled with the conflict of wanting to do the right thing according to the rules, versus what my body was telling me (body says move it!).

    I do think there is a balance – running when your ovaries are big and stimmed is stupid! – and who wants to run on transfer day? Not I! But otherwise, barring the obvious no-go times, I’m kinda at the place where I think it is, what it is and that our bodies actually know what we need more than our heads do πŸ™‚

    • My goodness, you really are a runner! I wish I were a good runner. The 10K walks sound amazing. I only do about 4K every other day with my dogs right now, as it’s friggin’ -30 with the windchill. You’re onto something with the long walks though… Now if only it would just warm up! If you’re used to running that much, I can see how difficult it would be to be sedentary. That whole body engagement, the wonderful exhaustion, not to mention the mental rewards…

    • I found that I lost a lot of my fitness and connection to my body as well. The two weeks on, two weeks off thing is like the worst fitness program ever! It took a while for me to become comfortable being less active (last FET, which was a BFN), but when all you’re doing is waiting and waiting, exercise helps to pass the time and also make you feel like you’re achieving something. Last FET, I managed to be couch potato like for 10 days, and not hate it. It was freezing out (December), I had an appetite for things like slow cooked meals and soup, and I had a stack of Gillian Flynn novels to read (plus a couple that an awesome blogger friend sent me). I basically planted myself in a horizontal position on the couch. The dogs weren’t pleased with it because they usually sleep there!

  9. WOW!!! Your workout is intense! That’s awesome! I don’t really have much experience with this subject as I’ve never been pregnant or in the TWW, i don’t really exercise much, and every doctor really does have a different opinion, which doesnt really help. But i keep thinking about a conversation we had with our doula about being comfortable in the delivery room and how the body is an amazing thing…Callie told her that she didn’t want anyone to be in the delivery room with her besides the doula and myself. I was upset (understatement) because I really wanted my mom to be there, and the doula said that the body, if it doesn’t feel comfortable, if it doesn’t feel safe will actually NOT deliver. It will close itself back up, until it gets the signals from her brain saying, “Ok! I feel safe, i feel comfortable, I’m ready!” She gave an example of a zebra having her baby half out, and then some lions came, and her body literally sucked the baby zebra back in, and the mother zebra ran off and found a safe place where she later delivered her foal. Allllll that said, who knows if the excersie is sending the correct triggers and messages to your body. Maybe it’s not feeling “safe” enough, you know what I mean? I’m wondering if doing the complete opposite of what you have been doing (cuz you know when your TTC you have to try EVERYTHING) will improve your chances a little bit. I know when Callie was trying, we did something new pretty much every month,. 1st month- no exercise, second momth-yes exercise, third month-no cup of coffee, fouth month-all the coffee you want, 5th month-no hot showers, etc!. Finding balance I think is the tricky part, but the body is an amazing thing! Hope that all made sense!

    • I love the wisdom from your doula, as well as the zebra story. As I read more comments, I really am thinking that I should just taper down the workouts starting now, and give my body a rest (except for dog walks) once I start stims. That’s what I think my body wants. Obviously, my mind is revolting, but my mind has been a little pushy lately (think insomnia), and maybe needs a time out. Thanks for sharing all of this, including what you girls did with C. Btw- where can I find your IVF story- from what I remember, your blog starts off with pregnancy already yes? I think you need to do a throwback post πŸ˜‰ (Ya know, on top of your regular full time job, being a mom and a wife, and labor anytime… Lol).

      • it totally starts off with pregnancy, but one of my pages is our timeline. I wrote some of our IVF story there, but i can totally do a full blog about it…might give me something to write about as i’ve had a bit of writers block lately…good call. And yeah, maybe your body might just need a break…see how well you can listen to it and try your best to give it what it’s asking for *sometimes the messages aren’t that clear tho…LOL* and btw, Cal’s is like 80% effaced but not dilation! UGH!!

      • Oh shieeet! How soon does that mean? Are you ready mama? Of course you’re ready! Btw- message me your mailing address to my facebook πŸ™‚ I can’t wait for your IVF story. I just eat that shit up!

      • There is no exact science to it, mainly becuse she isn’t dilated, but when C. was leaving the appointment, the dr said, “I hope to see you this weekend. I’m on at the hospital”, but C says that the way she said it, made it seem like it was possilbe that they could come…who knows! And i think, we’re ready…for the most part, LOL! I still haven’t packed a bag, can you believe that!

  10. I JUST saw this post, but I am so glad you’re bringing this topic up! I struggle with this, big time. And I have DEFINITELY gained weight since we started TTC, simply because I have not been doing as much strenuous activity. I hate it, but as I’m running along with a heart rate of 180, I think to myself “this probably isn’t a good idea.” Then I go read things about professional athletes who never miss a beat. SO hard to know what to do! Let me know if you come to a conclusive answer!! (I know you’re in the IVF phase, so your answer might be different – we’re just getting going with IUIs) πŸ™‚

  11. You know usually I run marathons and ultramarathons and do Yoga. I ran a 3-day trail run up until the day I started shooting up, then stopped completely. My IVF result was as good as it can be with an 0.24 AMH on 400IU Menopur with antagonist protocol. 4 follicles, 3 eggs, 3 embryos on day 2, 2 transfered, singleton pregnancy.
    I had lots of liquid in my uterus after retrieval, swollen ovaries, an ovarian cyst, later a small hematoma. This all led to no sports until week 10 (doctors orders). Later light jogging, up to 1 hour until 6 months.
    During my previous 9 tries via IUI, I did my normal routine until O. The first couple of tries I also continued during TWW, but my pregnancy loss came the day after I had run. To deal with it, I ran a marathon (with no preparation). Like you, I need sports for my mental health. I stopped working out for the TWWs after that though.

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