Yoga, including breathing exercises, meditative practices, and specific body postures, is widely practiced for its relaxation and overall health benefits. Many people I work with practice yoga daily and ask me if it is OK if they continue their yoga practice while they are undergoing an IVF cycle. The answer is …
Yes! However, you should be mindful of what you are doing and why you are doing it.
YOGA BEFORE INJECTIONS / OVARIAN STIMULATION BEGIN
Yoga can help reduce stress levels and increase blood circulation, similar to the effects of acupuncture. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine looked at the effects of Yoga on IVF outcome at their 2017 scientific expo. In one paper, it was concluded that, “Stress negatively affects reproductive outcomes in IVF cycles and this study suggests YOGA can be an adjuvant to improve the pregnancy rates in couples undergoing ART.” In another paper, they stated that, “Overall, these findings show a positive benefit of implementing either an in-person or online yoga program for anxiety reduction in patients with prior failed IVF cycles”.
If you are already a practicing Yogi, you can help prepare your body for your IVF cycle with gentle, restorative styles of Yoga which nourish your body, encourage blood flow, and reduce stress. If you are not yet a practicing Yogi, now might be a good time to start!
YOGA DURING INJECTIONS / OVARIAN STIMULATION & AFTER EMBRYO TRANSFER
Once your injections begin, your body will need energy and resources to develop extra follicles in your ovaries and to grow your endometrial lining. It is important to shift the intensity of your Yoga practice to moderate or light to ensure your body has access to the nourishment it needs during this time. Other important things to consider during your stimulation:
- Practice gentle forms of Yoga which maintain a neutral body temperature – in Chinese Medicine theory, blood and sweat share a common source; this is a time when you want to nourish your blood, not compromise it by losing your fluids through sweat
- Avoid twisting poses – your ovaries need all the blood flow they can get; twisting poses potentially restrict this blood flow. Also, once your ovaries are enlarged with extra follicles there is a risk that a twisting pose could cause a very painful and potentially dangerous ovarian torsion
- Avoid inversion poses – it is wise to keep your uterus & ovaries below your heart, allowing gravity to help deliver your nutrient rich blood
- Keep your abdominal muscles soft – engaging your abdominal muscles or “down-bearing” will minimize the space in your abdomen and shunt blood flow away from your stimulated organs of reproduction
Remember to transition slowly between poses, listen to your body, and do not continue any pose which feels uncomfortable – this is not the time to be pushing new limits with your Yoga practice. Your goal should be to maintain strength & flexibility, reduce stress & anxiety, and develop your breath control.
YOGA AFTER A POSITIVE PREGNANCY TEST
You can definitely continue your Yoga practice once you are pregnant. This would be a perfect time to find a prenatal Yoga class taught by an experienced teacher. In addition to the points listed above, you want to be careful in pregnancy not to do poses in the prone position. Be very careful with stretching as increased levels of the hormone relaxin, which aids to soften tendons and ligaments in pregnancy, may leave you prone to injury without proper mindfulness.
If you would like to talk more about how exercise and lifestyle can help you in your IVF cycle you can book an initial consultation or a free 15 minute consult by calling 604-873-9355 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Dr. Erin Flynn, MSc, BA, FABORM
Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine