IVF Do's and Don'ts: Your Guide to Diet, Exercise, Sex & More
February 6th, 2023 | 10 min. read
While beginning an IVF journey is very exciting, managing all of the appointments, injections and medications can feel overwhelming. It's only natural to want to do everything just right in the hopes of giving yourself the best shot at IVF success.
Let's explore the do's and don'ts of IVF so you feel as empowered and confident as possible!
In this article:
- The Do's & Don'ts of IVF Treatment
- Can I have sex during an IVF cycle?
- Is there anything I can do to ensure IVF success?
- Can I get vaccinated for COVID-19 during IVF?
- Is it safe to get the flu shot during IVF?
- Can I exercise during IVF?
- Should I try to lose weight during an IVF cycle?
- What should I eat during IVF?
- Can I drink alcohol during fertility treatment?
- Can I travel during IVF?
- Can I color my hair during IVF?
- Can I get a massage during IVF?
- My Best Advice? Keep Living Your Life!
The Do's & Don'ts of IVF Treatment
Beyond making sure your IVF cycle goes as smoothly as possible, you probably have some lifestyle questions. Okay, maybe a lot of lifestyle questions! If you're wondering about whether your favorite exercise class is safe during IVF, what you can eat and drink, or if you can have sex, trust me when I say that you're not alone on your quest for answers.
As the Associate Director of Nursing here at Illume Fertility, I've truly heard it all. And after 15+ years in the fertility field, I get questions like these daily from patients who are anxious to do everything right to ensure they have the best chance of IVF success.
That’s why I’m here to answer your big IVF questions and debunk any myths you might have heard about going through the treatment process. My goal? To make it all as simple as possible so you can focus on powering through treatment like the warrior you are!
Let's dive in and answer the most common questions I get from IVF patients.
Can I have sex during an IVF cycle?
Yes! It is completely safe to have sex during ovarian stimulation. However, there may come a time during your IVF cycle that it simply becomes uncomfortable to have sex. This discomfort is mainly due to your ovaries expanding. If that is the case, refrain from intercourse.
Your hormones are also constantly fluctuating during IVF treatment, which may mean you're just not "in the mood" to have sex. Bottom line? Listen to your body. If you feel okay physically and mentally (and your doctor hasn't instructed you otherwise), go for it!
Note: We do ask that you refrain from sex after your embryo transfer until after your official pregnancy test. Your nurse will give you new instructions based on your pregnancy test results.
Is there anything I can do to ensure IVF success?
The answer to this question is a bit complex, so let's break it down together.
While you can't do anything to 100% guarantee your IVF cycle will be successful, there is a lot you can do to optimize your health and give you the best chance of achieving your goal: a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Here's what you CAN do:
- Prioritize your health prior to starting IVF treatment
- Manage your stress levels (think: yoga, meditation, therapy)
- Get enough sleep each night (8 hours is optimal)
- Take your prenatal vitamins
- Be proactive and ask your Care Team questions
Can I get vaccinated for COVID-19 during IVF?
Yes! Here at Illume Fertility, we strongly recommend COVID-19 vaccination for all eligible individuals, regardless of where they are in the treatment process.
All of the leading reproductive health organizations recommend vaccination and available data confirms the safety of vaccination against COVID-19. There is strong evidence behind this advice, which we encourage you to explore:
- ACOG's COVID-19 vaccination guidelines
- ASRM's resources on COVID-19
- CDC guidance on COVID-19 vaccination
Getting vaccinated not only protects you but offers a layer of protection to your baby should you become pregnant. Find out more about COVID-19, fertility and pregnancy.
Still feeling wary or have lingering questions about fertility and COVID-19? Ask your doctor! Our team is always happy to offer evidence-based answers you can trust.
Is it safe to get the flu shot during IVF?
Another yes! Getting vaccinated yearly against the flu helps protect you and your future baby from serious complications from the flu, birth defects, and other health issues.
Flu seasons vary in their timing from season to season, but the CDC recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October, if possible. This timing helps protect you before flu activity begins to increase.
Can I exercise during IVF?
Exercise is almost always a good thing! It improves your overall physical health, but it does a lot for your mental wellbeing too. We are big advocates for moving your body here at Illume.
Movement such as walking, elliptical training and light weight exercises are all safe. Yoga is also great. We even offer a research-backed, free, weekly yoga class here at Illume Fertility called Fertile Yoga. A lot of our patients take this class, so attending also gives you a chance to meet other people going through the same experience.
We encourage you to try a Fertile Yoga class or one of our other free community events!
What type of exercise should I avoid during IVF?
One form of exercise that we tell all patients to refrain from during IVF stimulation is CrossFit or high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
Why? Your ovaries are expanding and growing larger due to the fertility medication you're on. As they grow, it can increase your risk of ovarian torsion (when the ovary twists on itself, causing intense pain).
Because CrossFit or high-intensity interval training can increase your chance of ovarian torsion, we ask you to refrain from these types of exercise during the stimulation phase of your IVF cycle. We promise we'll let you get back to that sort of routine when the time is right, but we always want you to be safe.
Should I try to lose weight during an IVF cycle?
While exercising throughout your fertility journey is beneficial, putting pressure on yourself to drop pounds during an IVF cycle is discouraged.
Why? Your body is already under a lot of stress and adapting to fluctuating hormone levels, so adding more stress by decreasing your calorie intake and/or drastically increasing your exercise regimen to try and lose weight can negatively affect your outcome.
We do, however, encourage you to focus on your health during the preconception period (AKA before you enter a treatment cycle), and have a free 90-Day Preconception Checklist you can download to keep you on track!
Tip: Learn more about weight and fertility from our Nurse Practitioner, Monica.
What should I eat during IVF?
A lot of patients ask about diet. Sometimes patients will tell me: “I'm not eating any sugar!” or “I stopped drinking coffee or tea.” But you don't have to stop either of those!
The keyword is moderation. Starting to make healthy choices now will follow you through pregnancy. A large cup of coffee a day is fine. If you like to have two cups a day, have a small cup in the morning and another small cup mid-afternoon.
Tea is generally considered safe as well, though there are some herbal teas to stay away from! Always reach out to your Care Team with any follow-up questions or concerns.
As for having dessert or a slice of pizza, go for it! Have a cookie or some fruit for dessert after dinner. Have that slice of pizza and simply add a large salad to the meal. When it comes to food, moderation and balance are the keys to sustainable success.
Tip: Learn more about how to eat for optimal fertility from our nutritionist, Jill!
Can I drink alcohol during IVF?
This answer is a bit more complex.
There are many different answers out there, from “not a drop while attempting pregnancy” to “it is completely okay.” However, you should NOT drink after an embryo transfer or after an IUI procedure. Why? Well, because you could be pregnant!
During the IVF stimulation phase, however, you can certainly have a glass of wine. I would advise you to limit your drinking to one glass (not two!) and not drink alcohol daily.
Can I travel during IVF?
Certain travel is okay when going forward with IVF! However, it’s important that you work with your fertility nurse when planning out your IVF cycle alongside a trip. A short weekend getaway can most likely be managed during your IVF cycle. However, we do discourage long trips - and typically, being away for four days or more is not allowed due to frequent monitoring and other factors.
Zika virus and COVID-19 are potential concerns, depending on where you plan to travel. Refer to the CDC for the latest information on the Zika virus, and consider COVID-19 vaccination and practice safety measures to lower your risk of infection.
The bottom line? If you’re planning a trip and embarking on an IVF cycle soon, always talk with your fertility nurse. We are always happy to discuss potential concerns and options, like using a birth control pill to manipulate your cycle a bit so you don't have any scheduling setbacks. That way, you can still sit on that beach with a cool drink and not worry about your cycle!
Can I color my hair and get my nails done?
Spa day = me time. Yes! Do it. Have fun and relax. You deserve it!
The great news? During your IVF stimulation phase, you can color your hair and get your nails done safely.
Our advice: Make sure you are in a well-ventilated spot since you may be more sensitive to fumes. Once pregnant, if coloring your hair, make sure to tell your hairdresser to avoid direct contact with your scalp.
Can I get a massage during IVF?
Yes, you can definitely get a massage! However, you should avoid deep tissue massage during your IVF stimulation phase, due to ovary enlargement. But massage is good for you - it will reduce stress and increase circulation, so we're all for it!Another relaxing option? Fertility acupuncture! (Pssst...we offer laser and traditional acupuncture here at Illume Fertility, which has proven benefits during IVF!
My Best Advice? Keep Living Your Life!
I'm hoping you found these answers about life during IVF helpful! In short, you can do pretty much everything you were doing prior to IVF, as long as you do everything safely and in moderation. Our goal here is to make your day-to-day life during IVF more manageable and less filled with questions.
One of my biggest tips? Be careful when looking to the internet for advice. Whatever you read or have questions about, make sure to check with a member of your healthcare team to get the most accurate answers. Remember, we’re here to help you!
By keeping an open dialogue with your Care Team, trusting our guidance, and practicing moderation, you can keep living your life during IVF. At the end of the day, we all want you to be happy and successful on your path to parenthood.
Good luck in your IVF cycle! We're all rooting for you.
Jocelyn Crespo, RN is the Associate Director of Nursing at Illume Fertility. She joined the Illume team in 2007 and loves connecting with her patients and trying to make each individual's fertility journey as smooth and stress-free as possible.