Exercise offers a plethora of benefits to women before, during and after pregnancy. The type, frequency and intensity of physical activity, however, can play a major role in your ability to conceive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 7.3 million women between the ages of 15 and 44 suffer from infertility. While it’s been proven that low-impact exercise is beneficial for everyone, can too much of a good thing be bad for women trying to conceive? Understand the dos and don’ts of fitness while trying to conceive to increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
Tone Down the Intensity
Infertility is influenced by a number of things, including your physical activity and weight. According to Alabama nutritionist Dr. Robert Keith, a BMI that is less than 20 has been shown to decrease fertility due to low body fat values.
Moderate forms of exercise, such as brisk walking, golfing, leisurely cycling and gardening, have little effect on fertility and can be beneficial in weight management. Women who engage in moderate activities for any length of time can actually increase their fertility rates slightly, according to a recent study published in Fertility and Sterility.
While being overweight in itself is a risk factor for infertility, research shows that vigorous exercise did not delay conception times in women who were overweight or obese, and that exercise may actually improve fertility in these women. But too much exercise in thinner women could lead to bigger issues. For women of average weight, vigorous exercise can significantly lower the probability for conception. In a news release published by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, research showed that women of normal weight who vigorously exercised five or more hours per week were 42 percent less likely to become pregnant than women who did not exercise at all. And for those who are really thin, or have a BMI that is less than 20, have been shown to have decreased fertility due to low body fat values, according to Alabama nutritionist Dr. Robert Keith.
Fitness Dos and Don’ts
Establishing a low-impact exercise routine before pregnancy can make you feel more prepared for pregnancy, give you more stamina for labor and help your energy levels post-delivery. Choose a variety of activities you enjoy so fitness never gets boring. Go for a soothing swim during the summer, take a walk in the evening when it gets cool or participate in a baby-friendly Zumba class if weather does not permit outdoor activity. Don’t wait until after you’re pregnant to begin exercise, as strengthening your abdominal and back muscles early on can help you maintain a better center of gravity as your belly grows. Having a strong core also gives you better posture and balance.
Two weeks before you begin trying to conceive — and throughout your pregnancy — cease any sport or exercise that carries the risk of bodily contact or a hard fall. Activities such as snowboarding, downhill skiing, horseback riding, rock climbing, surfing, soccer and basketball can all result in abdominal trauma. It’s also vital to stay hydrated before, during and after pregnancy to help regulate your core temperature, which can also affect your ability to conceive. Use an ovulation calculator to determine which days of the month will provide you with the best chances of getting pregnant and plan your fitness changes accordingly. Using the date of your last period and your average cycle length, you can find out your most fertile days and drastically boost your chance of conceiving.