There’s so much conflicting information about exercise during IVF. And to compound that, often times doctors seem to be on a different page with their recommendations as well. Let’s break this down.
What Exercise During IVF is Best
Research shows that exercise during IVF can have both positive and negative effects on the outcome. Moderate exercise is the key and has been shown to improve overall health and well-being, reduce stress and anxiety, and enhance fertility. Movement is a way to heal, to generate resilience and overall help you feel better mentally, emotionally and physically as you navigate IVF. Physically, during movement, blood is circulating in the body and the release of stress reducing hormones can help to let go. It offers a way of processing, transforming difficult emotions. If we take gentle movement as a conservative approach, then we’re talking about things like walking, yoga, Tai Chi, and/or Qigong practices that are more holistic in nature and have the most benefit during IVF.
What Exercise During IVF is not recommended
However, high-intensity exercise or strenuous physical activity can potentially have negative effects on IVF success rates. Running, high-intensity interval training, abdominal exercises and heavy weight lifting fall into the category of high-intensity exercise. In addition, excessive exercise can ultimately cause hormonal imbalances, leading to irregular menstrual cycles and reduced ovulation. Intense physical activity can increase inflammation and oxidative stress, which may negatively impact embryo implantation. Lastly, high-intensity training directs the flow of blood to large muscle groups and away from the reproductive organs.
Yoga During IVF
Yoga during IVF is a way of deliberately practicing yoga to support each phase of the process. Every yoga pose has a certain impact in our body physiologically, mentally, emotionally, energetically, spiritually. And when we take yoga poses and string them together in a certain sequence, we can have a specific in the body. Therefore, certain poses can be practiced in sequence to enhance all phases of the IVF process including the menses phase, during ovarian stimulation up until egg retrieval phase, and after the embryo transfer phase. The Yoga for Fertility 101 article goes more deeply into which poses are indicated for the different phases of IVF.
What the Research Shows about Yoga During IVF
Ali Domar, Harvard researcher, has studied the impact of including mind, body practices, such as yoga and meditation into fertility treatments for women. And what she has showed is that 55% of infertility patients who participated in her mind body program for a 10 week period conceived compared to 20% in the control group when tested over eight years. That means that women increase their chances of pregnancy by 175% or we’re three times as likely to get pregnant.
Another study has shown how yoga can improve assisted reproduction technology outcomes in couples with infertilty.
And lastly, over and over, yoga has been shown to decrease stress, decrease anxiety, and decrease depression, anxiety, and depression. Unfortunately, these negative emotions often go hand in hand with IVF. Yoga can be used as a tool to help support resilience and overcome these negative emotions. Another Harvard researcher named Herbert Benson, who actually started the mind body clinic at Harvard where Ali Domar worked, coined a term called the “relaxation response”. Yoga elicits the relaxation response and is essentially like a domino effect that happens in our body. When we start to shift our nervous system into the parasympathetic part of our nervous system, it allows the body to optimize the bodies capabilities to rest, digest and reproduce. We also know that when we have increased stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine, it depletes our reproductive hormones. So stress can negatively impact fertility. Practices like yoga, which reverse the stress cycle, help to nourish the reproductive system and our fertility.