Every woman’s body composition is unique, and there are a myriad of factors that play into fertility. While there are many promising fads (and downright myths), there are no magic exercises or yoga poses to insure pregnancy, despite what fitness gurus may tell you.
There are many factors that contribute to a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant, such as genetic predisposition, environmental influences, and even her husband’s health. While some women think exercising more will increase the odds of conception, this may prove to be more harmful than beneficial for some women.
Is There a Formula for Success?
Do you ever notice that some women who hit the gym six days a week still have a higher weight, while some women who barely exercise are underweight? Exercise alone may not have much of an impact on a woman’s weight, but it may have more of an impact on her fertility.
To increase your odds of successfully conceiving, doctors recommend a healthy balance of proper nutrition and the right kind and amount of exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Interestingly enough, it’s not only women who need to stay healthy. Men’s health plays into the success of achieving pregnancy too. Approximately one-third of infertility cases have been tied to overweight or obese men, which negatively affects their sperm count.
Doctors recommend a healthy balance of proper nutrition and the right kind and amount of exercise to maintain a healthy weight.
How Much Is Too Much?
Underweight women typically have a lower body fat percentage to begin with, which can affect their natural fertility because excessive exercise can exacerbate the issue. A study in Fertility and Sterility showed a 42% decrease in fertility among normal-weight women (a BMI under 25), who partook in strenuous exercises such as running, swimming, or cycling for five or more hours a week versus those who did not exercise. In contrast, the effects of high-intensity exercise on overweight or obese women did not have the same effects on conception as the other groups.
Jessica Scotchie, a reproductive endocrinologist in Chattanooga, Tennessee states, "Very vigorous exercise can affect ovulation, and thereby disrupt menstrual cycles.” Normal and underweight women upping the ante on their HIIT cycles when trying to conceive do so at the risk of disrupting their hormones and menstruation patterns. Doctors recommend that already active women maintain their exercise habits, as long as they do no more than five hours a week, as this has negative consequences on fertility.
Normal and underweight women upping the ante on their HIIT cycles when trying to conceive do so at the risk of disrupting their hormones and menstruation patterns.
Dr. Klein, chief medical officer and reproductive endocrinologist at Expect Fertility, also warns that high-impact exercises can increase the risk of other scary ailments such as ovarian torsion, a painful condition where the ovaries twist around its base and cut off the blood flow. While this gynecological condition is very rare, occurring in 1 in 1.5 million women, it may affect women undergoing IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) treatment. He comments that “women undergoing fertility treatments are typically advised to avoid vigorous types of exercise during treatment.”
For overweight women, adding moderate activity may actually help. Texas OB/GYN Robert Brzyski, MD, Ph.D. notes, “Women who do not exercise at all should be encouraged to do so when they are trying to conceive.”
Women who do not exercise at all should be encouraged to do so when they are trying to conceive.
The relationship between fertility and exercise in women appears to show that hitting those high-impact cardio classes may have negative effects on normal-weight and underweight women but not on overweight or obese women.
Infertility is a dynamic issue and a woman’s (and man’s) health history, nutrition, and stress-levels should all be taken into account when planning for a child. Everyone is unique, so be sure to rest and take care of yourself for your own health - and that of your baby!