To exercise or not to exercise? That is a big question for women trying to get pregnant and stay pregnant. There is a lot of confusing information out there and each fertility clinic has its own advice to give regarding exercise. At Triangle Acupuncture Clinic, our opinion is moderation, moderation, moderation! We see a wide range of women from the running addict to the running averse. In general, the main issue when you’re talking about getting pregnant is body fat. If you regularly run 4 miles/day, it is likely that you have very little body fat and thus very little fat left over for hormone production and balance. Conversely, if you are overweight and do not exercise at all, you can have too much circulating estrogen and androgens which also lead to irregular cycles. The answer for these two types of women is to meet in the middle.
The human body needs to exercise. It is important for every system in your body including the immune and circulatory systems and it also impacts mental health. Our running addicts will tell you that they cannot stop, it is the only way they feel good. This is because aerobic exercise gives you an endorphin rush which relieves stress and keeps your mood happy. It is like ‘moving meditation’ because you achieve similar results as someone experienced at meditation who sits to meditate and clear their mind. Studies and experience have shown that aiming to keep your heart rate around 120bpm is fine. For most people this is walking while others may be able to walk/jog/walk/jog.
Yoga is a great way to further augment a moderate exercise routine. Yoga is much more than just stretching. You will learn where your tension lives in your body and actively work on releasing it, learn powerful breathing techniques and enjoy a sense of strength after work-outs. A great yoga DVD by Brandon Horn and Wendy Yu entitled Restoring Fertility was specially designed for fertility enhancement and has different poses for the four different phases of the menstrual cycle. Getting out and attending local yoga classes can be good for your mind as well, there is added benefit to being exposed to the collective energy of people who are all working on individual strength and health.
If you are overweight, the best thing you can do is to get moving. While it’s not ideal to lose a significant amount of weight while you’re trying to conceive, slowly moving toward your target weight is very beneficial. If you have more than 30 pounds to lose, just losing a pound or two a week can be enough to resolve some ovulation issues for instance. Women with a BMI greater than 30 have a higher risk of pregnancy related complications so it’s an important consideration as you’re planning to conceive.
After an IUI or IVF embryo transfer or in the luteal phase for anyone, a lot of people stop exercising completely. While it is expected that you will take a couple days off around transfer day when doing IVF, light exercise is good for you and will help pass the time during the two week wait. Taking a walk or doing your normal exercise at a lesser intensity is fine and will help keep your stress down. You do want to avoid running or activities that include jumping.
The bottom line for everyone is to move your body, gently! If you’re not exercising then get out there and walk 30 minutes/day or find a fun activity that you enjoy like dance classes or swimming. If you are an avid exerciser then rein it in a bit and look for activities like yoga where you can still give your muscles a great work-out but not exhaust your body’s resources.