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Full Steam Ahead Until Retrieval Day

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a blog by Deborah Moore, April 11, 2010

After some dithering and flip-flopping, my husband and I have finally decided to give IVF one shot. Since IUI did not work for us, and our secondary infertility is largely unexplained, we felt that we needed to give this procedure at least one chance so that we knew we had given it “our best.” We were reluctant to get to this level of involvement in fertility treatments because it is such a stressful one, not to mention various moral objections we had.

Our fertility doctor provided us with some solutions to overcome some of our moral objections. And so here we are, about to embark on what thousands of you have already endured for some time.

I had so many questions for our doctor and my friends who had undergone IVF: is there anything I can eat or drink that will improve my chances in this process? Should I think about acupuncture? Should I cut back on my work? And of course, what about exercise?

My doctor’s response is why I really respect him and like his style.

He told me that, while the studies on how, and to what extent exercise impacts the success rates of IVF were not 100% definitive, his recommendation is always to take it easy and rest as much as possible. He explained that, should the procedure not work, he would hate for his patients to blame themselves for causing the failure because they went for that easy bike ride (even if that wasn’t the cause).

I love his common sense approach!

His next piece of advice for me during our consult a month ago – knowing that I am an athlete – was to “go nuts” on the training from that point until retrieval day. As he put it, “you’ll be out of commission from regular exercise from the transfer date until a hopefully successful end of first trimester, and then who knows for how much longer after that if you have multiples, so make the most of it while you can!”

And so, for the last month, I have been swimming, biking and running like my life depended on it, but also skipping workouts when I just didn’t feel like it. In many ways, I feel much like I do when preparing for a big race – I have a date to motivate me to train harder, except this time, the date is one of cessation of activity and some hopeful new beginnings.

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Comments (2)

I'm really surprised that your doctor was telling you things like that, given that the studies suggest that being active is by far much better for you than "resting as much as possible."

Actually, studies are mixed at best, and inconclusive on the impact of exercise on IVF treatments. Some indicate that the stress higher level exercise can place on your body (training for Ironman triathlons as I do) can just generally run your body down, affect cell health etc etc. Other studies indicate "working out" moderately can enhance your chances of conceiving simply because you are in better health. I think it all depends on where you are starting from and what your specific infertility issue is.
There is also no conclusive evidence of the impact of exercise on implantation post-transfer during IVF, but as my specialist says, "if it doesn't succeed, you'll forever wonder if it was the exercise that did it, and why would you torture yourself like that?".

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