Can You Exercise While Trying to Get Pregnant?
Previously, women were excluded from athletic activities because people had concerns about the negative impact of exercise on fertility.
Did you know that in 2009 women were prevented from ski jumping at the 2010 Winter Olympics and some people argued that the myth of the falling uterus justifies why women shouldn’t be allowed to ski jump?
If this was true, then we would all have our internal organs falling from their anatomical positions whenever we skip rope, skate, or perform a physical activity that requires intense movement.
However, women who are trying to get pregnant have concerns about whether they can exercise while trying to get pregnant.
How You Should Exercise While Trying to Get pregnant
There are several benefits to exercising for the average person. Regular physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight, combat certain health conditions and disease, improve mood, promote better sleep, improve muscle strength, and boost endurance.
For women trying to get pregnant, exercise may help eliminate, or at least manage, some of the causes of infertility, including stress and obesity.
If you’re trying to conceive and do not wish to stop exercising, the main issue you should worry about is developing an energy deficit, which happens when you burn more calories than you consume. Unfortunately, it is much easier to develop an energy deficit than most of us realize.
Below are some quick tips to help prevent an energy deficit:
- Consume adequate carbohydrates and proteins 20-30 minutes before a workout.
- Use a fitness tracker to monitor and track fitness related metrics such as calorie consumption, distance covered, or sleep quality.
- Don’t increase your exercise without increasing your calorie consumption.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet. Your diet should include adequate macronutrients (carbohydrate protein, and fat), essential micronutrients (calcium, folic acid, iron, magnesium, vitamin), and vitamins necessary for energy metabolism (vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B7).
Note: If you’re taking biotin or vitamin B7 and plan to take a thyroid test, you should stop taking the supplement for at least two days before testing. Also, note that biotin may interact with some thyroid medications such as levothyroxine.
The video below presents a quick routine that focuses on total core strengthening and is appropriate for women who are not yet pregnant.
Why Is an Energy Deficit a Problem When You’re Trying to Conceive?
Before we get into this, you should note that regular exercise can boost fertility . What you should avoid is an energy deficit.
Why is an energy deficit so much of a problem?
As mentioned, some studies have shown that exercise can help fertility, other studies show that too much vigorous exercise may lower fertility.
According to research, when you have an energy deficit, your body favors processes that ensure survival over those that promote growth and reproduction .
Also, calorie restriction triggers a reduction in the activity of estrogen receptors in the liver, consequently causing a disruption of the estrous cycle .
So, if you are underweight and are trying to conceive, you should be cautious about energy deficits.
Research shows that underweight women with a body mass index < 19 mg/Kg/m2 took a longer time to conceive than their counterparts who had a normal body mass index . In fact, underweight women had a four-fold longer time to pregnancy than those with a normal body mass index.
Note that even women who do not have a very low body fat percentage can experience energy deficits .
How Much Is Too Much Exercise?
This question is hard to answer because there is no magic number that determines how much exercise is too much. It depends on many factors, including your body mass index and body fat percentage, medical history, fitness level, and type of workout that you perform.
Some women may feel insecure about exercising while trying to conceive. What many do not know is that exercise is not the problem. As mentioned earlier, the real problem is energy deficit.
Vigorous exercise, especially if compounded by weight loss, can disturb your reproductive function . However, the damage is not permanent, and your menstrual cycles can return to normal within six months of decreasing your exercise intensity.
Although there are no exercise guidelines for women who are trying to conceive, you can follow general exercise guidelines. However, you need to make sure you do not experience energy deficit.
If you are already exercising and are frequently missing your periods or going for several months without a period, you should consult your doctor. They may advice you to decrease your exercise intensity.
Decreasing your exercise intensity may help you get your period back. You may also be advised to see a fertility specialist depending on your doctor’s findings.
Other things to note:
- You may experience fatigue, mood disturbances, and poor sleep if you’re working out a lot without proper rest and recovery.
- Your fertility may be affected if you’re working out more than seven hours every week.
If you’re just getting started with exercise, it may help to seek professional help. Your doctor may suggest a safe level of exercise for your fitness level.
Another option would be to hire a personal trainer if you have the budget for this. A personal trainer may design a program based on your needs and fitness level.