Stages of the IVF process in relation to yoga practice

I thought it would be helpful to shine a light on what it feels like to go through IVF. This is just my humble opinion based on my own personal experience. Obviously everyone responds differently.

Every step of the way your students will be riding the overwhelming rollercoaster of emotions that comes with the territory.

STIMS — is when you self administer needles which help your ovaries grow extra eggs. Stimulating your ovaries to grow extra eggs is hard work. You are potentially asking your body to do more than a years worth of work in a little over a week. If your student comes to class during this period they may be nervous, emotional, tired/exhausted, headachy, tender and extremely bloated and twingy around the ovaries. I felt like my ovaries were going to explode and my body only ever produced a couple of extra eggs at a time. Your student may be scared of moving too much as there is a risk of ovarian torsion. I felt like I wanted to cocoon myself to nurture and protect the precious eggs that were growing — Supta Badha Konasana with hands on ovaries (sending love) is perfect for this. Lying on the side, forward bends, stretching arms up overhead may be uncomfortable for your students. I found any non restorative yoga uncomfortable. I would suggest offering them restorative yoga, yoga nidra or very very gentle floor based stretches during this period and definitely no twisting. To highlight how uncomfortable this period is I only ever planned my stims during term breaks as I knew I wouldn’t want to be teaching through it.

JUST AFTER EGG COLLECTION — I needed a couple of days bed rest to recover every time I had an egg collection operation. In the first few days after an operation my ovaries were extremely bloated to the point of it hurting to walk. Your student is likely to still be emotional, tired, headachy, tender and sore around the ovaries. Their nerves quite possibly will be on edge as they will be waiting to see if any embryos have been created in the lab. Their body will still be healing from the operation so anything you can do to help this healing process would be valuable. Getting your student to rest their hands on their abdomen maybe comforting. Suggesting they soften into any discomfort and pain rather than bracing and tensing against it will help. I would suggest keeping the yoga restorative or gentle and helping them take their mind off of it by giving them lots of opportunities to be present and in their body.

DURING A EMBRYO TRANSFER — Obviously you won’t be there with your student but your student may ask for your advice. Embryo transfers are invasive and extremely uncomfortable. You need to have a full bladder while they insert a catheter through your cervix (no drugs or anesthetic). The more relaxed you can be during this process the better. Any tips you can offer your student to help them stay relaxed during this time will be welcomed. Some suggestions could be — breathing exercises, visualisations, relaxations, meditation, mantra, listening to music… Anything to keep their physical body relaxed and their minds and hearts focussed on love so they can warmly welcome their embryo.

TWO WEEK WAIT — You need to wait two weeks after an embryo transfer to see if it has worked or not. This is an exciting, daunting, overwhelming, nerve wracking, longest two weeks of your life. Every little twinge or symptom has you questioning whether or not you are pregnant. One minute you think you are, next minute you think you are not. The cruel joke is that the meds most women take to help the embryo stick make you feel pregnant anyway. Listening to your body too much during this time may create a spiral of overthinking or doubt. So I suggest taking their minds off their body (no body awareness cues) and focusing then more single pointedly through mantra using Mala beads or visulaisation or just anything else you can do to take their minds off of it.

IF IT HASN’T WORKED — Your student may have had an embryo transfer that didn’t work. They may not have had any embryo’s created. They may have had a cancelled cycle. They may have gone into the lab to have their transfer and be told the embryo didn’t thaw properly and wasn’t viable. They may have been told they are pregnant to find they are no longer pregnant a week later. There are many unfortunate variables that could happen. In my experience this requires a grieving period. So be aware during this time your student will need extra TLC.

IF IT HAS WORKED — You treat your student exactly how you would your regular prenatal students although aware that they may be even more nervous about making it to the ‘safe’ 12 week mark.

I hope sharing this helps you to tune into your students while they ride the fertility rollercoaster.

Read more about my experience and how to help your students in similar situations here- ‘A yoga teachers journey through IVF

Please feel free to ask me any questions or bounce any ideas off me.

Amy is a gentle yoga and meditation teacher based in Mitcham, VIC. She gratefully doesn’t have much spare time these days but in between caring for her son, teaching classes and workshops she also enjoys making Mala beads and is writing a book about her fertility journey.

Amy 0417 121 179