If you’re trying to conceive, or hope to further down the line, there are some helpful, practical pointers that could improve your chances.
By Lucy Gornall, Health Journalist of the Year (HFMA) and personal trainer specialising in pre and post-natal fitness
We all know the importance of exercise, and the benefits it can provide for our body and mind. Well, it’s no different when you’re trying for a baby; exercise and being active are important (lifestyle factors) when trying to conceive as well as help prepare your body for the potential nine months of pregnancy that lie ahead.
However, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to fitness and fertility. Often, it’s a case of listening to your body and doing what feels good.
Follow these simple pointers to increase your chances of conceiving…
1. Why Does Exercise Help?
Just to recap, exercising whilst trying for a baby, can provide a multitude of health benefits. It can help improve sleep, reduce stress and clear an anxious mind.
It can also help you to maintain a healthy weight. The NHS states that being overweight can affect your chances of conceiving, however being underweight can also affect your chances. Aim for a BMI of between 20-25. Find out your BMI using the NHS calculator
To note, athletes who train vigorously every day and have low levels of body fat, often struggle with infertility…
2. Be Active Every Day…
That’s the current guidance from the NHS. This doesn’t mean hitting the gym every day, it’s simply a reminder to keep our bodies moving, whether that be through planned exercise or through NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis). NEAT is the unplanned ‘exercise’ you do each day; it could be cleaning the house, cooking, gardening or even walking to the train station.
The NHS also encourage 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week, as well as strengthening activities on at least two days a week.
3. Avoid Overly Strenuous Exercise
Long term this can wreak havoc with your hormones, therefore potentially affecting fertility. If you’re trying to conceive, or have been struggling to conceive, it might be worth cutting out exercise that places too much stress on the body. But as with anything, this does vary woman to woman. Some women may find that running is particularly stressful, whilst others might find running less of an issue. Crossfit is one such exercise that could place a high amount of stress on the body; working at 80-100% intensity, several times a week could mean that your body prioritises muscle building, instead of fertility.
4. Muscle Building Always Has Its Place Though…
However, including resistance in your workouts is pretty much always beneficial. This could be with weights or simply your own bodyweight (think push-ups, bodyweight squats and pull ups). Not only does resistance training help maintain muscle and bone strength, it can relieve unwanted tension and provide a great supply of ‘feel good’ endorphins. Plus, whilst it won’t directly aid conception, it will help prepare your body for pregnancy. Strong back and core muscles can help counteract the change in posture caused by a growing baby bump.
5. Ensure Plenty Of Rest
Rest and de-stressing are essential. Not only should everybody factor in recovery time to let muscles recover and avoid injury, but it’s helpful to maintain a healthy hormone balance. According to Nuffield Health, signs of a hormonal imbalance can include mood swings, night sweats, weight gain and fatigue. Oh, and it’s worth noting that sex is a great de-stressor…enjoy!
6. Become a Yogi…
If you’ve never been a fan of yoga or Pilates, now might be a good time to start. Not only do these workouts help build strength, they also work on balance and muscle tone.
In addition to this, yoga in particular is great at helping you to relax and de-stress; important when trying to conceive.
7. …But, Give Hot Yoga a Miss
On the flipside, if you’ve never experienced a hot yoga session, now probably isn’t the time to start. Practising yoga poses in a room heated to temperatures of up 40 degrees celcius can be stressful on the body. Too much of this stress, continuously, means your body shifts into fight or flight response, and blood flow is directed to more ‘important’ organs, rather than those all important reproductive organs. You might also find that this is the reason behind bloating and constipation after intense exercise; your body sees digestion as less important than your lungs, heart and brain.
The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional regarding any medical condition. While every care is taken to ensure the accuracy of the information presented in the blog and to describe best generally accepted current practices we cannot accept any liability for errors or omissions or for any consequences from application of the information given. Information correct at date published.