Exercising During Fertility Treatment for PCOS

As you probably know, regular exercise is an important part of the PCOS lifestyle. It is necessary for both your physical health and mental well-being. But before starting infertility treatment for PCOS, you’ll probably need to make adjustments to your exercise regimen. How much you cut back and what you need to eliminate from your routine are important questions to ask before you get started.

Women exercising in a fitness class at gym
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It Depends on Your Treatment

This is a question that you’ll need to ask your reproductive endocrinologist (infertility specialist) or obstetrician; whoever is providing the treatment. The answer depends on a number of factors, including your overall health and fitness, what medication you are taking or treatment you are undergoing, where you are in your treatment plan and your response to the medication.

Generally speaking, it may be okay to continue with your regular exercise plan with a few modifications. If you don’t exercise regularly, however, now is not the time to begin an intense workout regimen. Walking or gentle yoga is generally okay and may even be encouraged. When talking to your doctor, ask very specific questions about the type, intensity, and frequency of your exercise routine. Cardio may be prohibited, but gentle stretching okay. You will absolutely need to defer to your physician, as each doctor has their own preferences for what they recommend as far as exercise and activity.

Important Factors

If you are taking Clomid or injectable gonadotropins like Gonal-F to prepare you for insemination or help you time when to have intercourse, it is more likely that you’ll be able to continue exercising, though you may need to tone down the intensity a little bit as you get closer to ovulation. If you are undergoing IVF, you will be taking higher doses of these fertility drugs and will almost certainly need to cut back on the intensity of your exercise routine.

Sometimes these drugs are associated with a serious condition, known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, or OHSS, where the ovaries become overstimulated. The ovaries swell with extra fluid, putting you at risk for dehydration, blood clots and even ovarian torsion, a very severe complication. Though rare, ovarian torsion occurs when the ovaries twist on the stalk that attaches it to the abdominal wall. The stalk contains the blood vessels and nerves that supply the ovary; when twisted, blood flow to the ovary is cut off and the ovary can die.

Women with PCOS are at a much higher risk for developing OHSS and must, therefore, be extra careful about their activity. In addition, women who have had OHSS before or who have a very high response towards the medication are also significantly more likely to hyperstimulate and may be restricted in their activity. If you develop OHSS, you will almost certainly be placed on bed rest until your ovaries return to their normal size. Proactively resting after your ​egg retrieval or insemination may even help prevent OHSS.

Where you are in your treatment plan is also a consideration. Some physicians require absolute bed rest for a period of time after having an egg retrieval or embryo transfer, while others will allow mild activity. Some may even require that you abstain from any exercise during the two-week period while you are waiting to see if you are pregnant.

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