Gaining weight during IVF treatment is a common side effect of treatment that many women seem to experience. So is it the IVF to blame? If not, what other factors could be causing it? And why don’t all women gain weight?
Before I dive into answering those questions, let’s get something clear from the start here. Pregnancy clearly causes weight gain, so it’s important not to confuse IVF treatment up to the embryo implantation stage as being a culprit of weight gain after it. What I’m talking about today is the IVF process itself and how much, if any, it can be linked to weight gain.
The weight gain is real
Now it is true that weight gain during IVF is a real thing. Some women will put on weight due to fluid retention during the superovulation phase of the IVF cycle. So in this case, it is the high estrogen levels that are causing the fluid retention. But the feelings of bloating are only temporary. While it may be uncomfortable, retaining extra fluid isn’t so much an issue compared to gaining extra body fat. And once the superovulation stops, the hormones get excreted into the urine and the bloating subsides. This means that most women will quickly lose the fluid they accumulated and will go back to their normal body weight.
The other type of weight gain that some women do experience is what I call ‘true weight gain’ and this from putting down more body fat. So are the IVF drugs to blame here? The answer is a bit murky because it isn’t quite clear how these hormones could cause the weight gain.
Looking a bit deeper into the science finds at least one study looking at weight changes over the IVF cycle. For women in the study, their weight at the beginning and end of each IVF cycle was the same. It was only during the stimulation phase that you see a temporary increase in weight. But the key to looking at this type of research is that this was the average result. Every woman is different so it is possible that some women did gain weight, but this was balanced by women that perhaps had a small amount of weight loss.
Now if you are that woman that gained weight, then your weight gain is real! But can the IVF be blamed for it? Maybe, maybe not, but what can change is how much is eaten, or even more likely, how active a woman is.
It seems many women do take it easier on themselves during embryo transfer and are less active because of concerns of exercise affecting a successful implantation. Less activity can easily lead to weight gain. So, drastically reducing exercise can definitely lead to weight gain over an IVF cycle, but this has little to do with the IVF drugs!
What have emotions got to do with it?
So what about eating changes over IVF? IVF can be stressful, and this is combined with mood swings that come from it. Some people are natural overeaters when stressed. Other people actually eat less when stressed. So here’s what I think is happening. Weight gain is likely if you are a person who is a stressful eater. So again, weight gain during IVF can be a very individual thing even though the science says ‘on average’ women don’t gain weight. Not everyone is average and some people do gain weight!
So in a nutshell, not every woman experiences weight gain with IVF. Weight gain when it happens is more a result of changes in physical activity habits and an eating response from stress and mood changes. So that’s why it’s important to understand that every person’s response can be different.
What to do about it
So what to do if you’ve experienced weight gain from your IVF treatment? First of all, this isn’t the time to embark on an intensive weight loss diet just to drop a few kilograms! Your health and nutritional needs mean you want to be eating well during this time. Fad and crash diets could even jeopardise your chance of becoming pregnant. And as I outlined earlier, it could just be that you’ve consciously become less active so that is something that is easier to fix.
If stress is causing you to overeat, then it is a great time to control this with things other than food. Yoga and exercise are great for this and come with the bonus that they will keep your body burning extra calories afterwards. On top of this, make healthy food choices your top priority rather than restricting foods. So that means plenty of fruits and veggies.
And the good news from all this is that if hormone treatments are a cause of weight gain for you, especially if it is fluid, you can expect to lose that weight once the treatments stop.
I’ve given you a lot of information today. So, let’s summarise:
- Gaining weight during IVF is common, but not every woman experiences this
- Bloating does explain some of this weight gain, but fortunately, this settles with time
- Changes in activity levels are the likely reason that some women gain weight
- Stress and mood changes can be a trigger for over-eating during IVF treatment
- When it comes to food, it is much better to focus on eating healthier, rather than eating less to deal with any weight gain.
Now, I have a question for YOU. What do you think is the key cause of YOUR IVF weight gain? Let me know in the comments below. And, if you have any questions for me, feel free to ask….I’m here to help!
And, to make all this easier for you, I’d love you to download my free meal plan. Just go to www.melaniemcgrice.com/fertility
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