Fertility & Infertility Exercise

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My Personal IVF Story

Since 1 in 4 experience infertility, I thought I would share my personal story.  So many of you are in that same desperation I experienced 7 years ago.  We will get into the research on exercise and fertility in a few, but first my anecdotal research.

I went through 4 IVF’s to conceive my first 2 kids. The 1st one did not work. The 2nd one ended in miscarriage. The 3rd one ended with a baby! And the 4th one ended with another baby. And all the blood work, meds and IUI’s before that. Then, as God would have it, we had another lil’ gift from God. We found out the day we were moving in with my in-laws while building our house. Haha, funny how that works.

The fertility medications got the best of me and I let my exercise routine go, as well as my healthy eating habits. All that did was create more stress! Had I listened to my doctor – which I did by the time we got to IVF #3 – he did not recommend altering your regular activity when going through IVF or IUI. Why? Because it creates more stress.

In the stage of trying to get pregnant an intensity between 12 and 14 on the Borg scale, 3-5x/week, is sufficient enough to create the effects of exercise. So keep your current routine. And if you have not been exercising, the sooner you start the better – just make sure you chat with your doctor first.

Having experienced these 4 IVF (in-vitro procedures) and one miracle baby, I decided to hit up my Reproductive Endocrinologist Dr. Peter Alhering, board certified OB/Gyn.

Does exercise decrease fertility?

1)  For a pregnancy conceived the ole’ natural way-during the 2 week wait between ovulation and a positive pregnancy test, can a patient exercise just as they were previously?

Normal activity for a given individual should not incite pregnancy problems.

2)  A patient going through IVF or IUI, the weeks leading up to the embryo transfer or insemination, can they exercise just as they were previously?  Even if they were doing intense training?

There is no need to alter normal activity. I believe that is what the stress is: a) making people alter their normal lives without good reason and b) imposing unnecessary restrictions.

3)  A patient going through IVF or IUI, while waiting for their positive pregnancy test, can they exercise just as they were previously?  Even if they were doing intense training?

Patients can assume normal activity.

4)  For a patient that has never exercised before do you recommend exercise prior to a Infertility Procedure?  What about during the process and after embryo transfer?

I always recommend that people exercise…starting the sooner the better.

They should adopt a sound and rational program based upon their current level of activity and health issues, if any.

Infertility and Exercise Research

In backing up all of Dr. Ahlering’s recommendations we will – as always, rely on research!  Some of what you read above may seem shocking as there are so many misconceptions like fit women do not have enough body fat or their commitment to working out is a stress.

-Body fat cannot be the sole indicator for the inability to conceive.

-Most women that workout say that is much more of a stress reliever than stress creator.  The only exception here would be professional athletes, where working out is a big part of their job.  And we all know no matter how fun your job it will create stress at some point.7 IVF 4

I also decided it was time to find a more recent study on the fertility of regular exercisers.  It comes from Dr. James Clapp & Catherine Cram’s book “Exercising Through Your Pregnancy” Second Edition.  Ms. Cram is an exercise physiologist specializing in prenatal and postpartum fitness.  She worked with Dr. James Clapp, III, one of the pioneers in pregnancy exercise research.  His research spanned over 30 years – on that note pregnancy exercise studies were so few and far between and he ignited a fire.  Over the last 5 years I would say the research has quadrupled, at least.

So back to my point.  They studied 250 pairs of healthy, physically active women planning pregnancy.  One woman in the pair exercised while the other did not.  Their exercise was defined as continuous exercise for 20-60 minutes 3-5x/week, with intensities required between 51 and 90% of maximum oxygen consumption or 14-18 on the Borg Scale or between 145 and 190 beats per minute.  Their findings in infertility and exercise were pretty much the same between the control and exercise groups.  “Thus, although exercise can interfere with normal ovulatory and menstrual function, when we look at fertility prospectively in women without a history of fertility problem, we cannot detect an effect over a wide range of exercise performance.”

Exercise will not interfere with fertility.  But to make sure you are in the best pre-pregnancy state:

-Make sure your nutrients are balanced.

-Make sure you are hydrated.

-Make sure you are rested.

-Make sure you are working out in a cool ventilated area.

-Make sure you have your doctor’s permission and do not have any vaginal bleeding or abdominal pain.

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