We often read about and become familiar with the many drugs and other assisted reproductive techniques available on the quest to get pregnant, but there are natural ways to increase your chances of pregnancy as well. Two of those are diet and exercise. This article will share recent insights on exercise and its direct correlation to getting pregnant.
We all know regular exercise is a great way to help stay heart healthy, fit and happy. But did you know that exercise while trying to get pregnant can be a worthwhile investment, and may even help those with fertility issues find the perfect balance to conceive more easily.
Of course, it’s more than just the way your body will look on the outside. Turns out the endorphins released throughout the body with regular exercise will reduce stress, lower anxiety and depression, raise self-esteem, improve sleep patterns and increase libido. Regular exercise will also strengthen the heart, lower blood pressure, improve muscle tone and strength, build and strengthen bones, raise overall energy levels, and no doubt will help shed a few of those extra unwanted pounds by annihilating fat.
Who needs a miracle cure when we have diet and exercise!
BODY MASS INDEX (BMI) AND ITS PIVOTAL ROLE IN FERTILITY
Before we begin discussing the benefits of exercise, check out our Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator to help you determine your current BMI to see if you fall into a healthy range.
(INSERT BMI CALCULATOR HERE)
Body mass index is calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. Underweight (18.5 and lower), normal (18.5–25.0), overweight (25.0-29.0), obese (30.0 and above).
HEALTHY WEIGHT IMPROVES ODDS WHEN TRYING TO CONCEIVE
A healthy weight for your height and stature may improve your chances of conceiving. Arriving at, and maintaining this weight, can be done through proper healthy diet and exercise. Being both overweight or underweight decrease your chances of getting pregnant substantially. For women, a normal BMI reading should fall between about 18.5-25.
That said, women with a BMI under 18.5 are considered underweight. This may cause hormone imbalance and irregular menstrual cycles, making it much more difficult to conceive.
On the opposite end of that spectrum, when a woman falls over the 25 mark many fertility experts suggest they lose weight until they are within the suggested normal range. During pregnancy, a woman gains an average of 25-35 pounds. So starting out at a healthy weight is very important since it will lead to a healthier and safer pregnancy and baby.
Moving a bit higher on the scale, a BMI reading of 30 and greater is considered obese. Women who are overweight not only decrease their chances of getting pregnant considerably, they also increase the many risks. These include doubling the risk of pre-eclampsia and miscarriage for those who are overweight. And this number triples in women who are considered obese (BMI over 30). Obesity can also result in lower in vitro fertilization (IVF) success rates. The risk for pregnancy-related diabetes more than doubles in women who are overweight, and multiplies to eight in those who are considered obese.
GET TO AN IDEAL WEIGHT WHEN TRYING TO CONCEIVE
So how do we get to our ideal weight? Many times, diet and exercise is the answer. We know diet has a direct effect on our weight, and making adjustments, like replacing ice cream with vegetables and sodas with water, creates positive results.
Think of yourself like an athlete. Athletes get their bodies conditioned before entering a game to assure optimum performance. Women wanting to get pregnant should do the same. While an athlete’s body performs best when their weight is in a specific range, the same is true for women trying to get pregnant. Get your body in game shape by keeping it in the most optimum performing range. Thus increasing your chances of conceiving and delivering a healthy full-term baby.
Exercise helps us reach these weight and health goals. Exercise also directly affects our hormones and reproductive systems. Working out increases blood flow to our sexual organs and reproductive organs helps to balance hormones and promotes a normal menstrual cycle in women, while increasing sperm cell production in men by improving the count, morphology, and viability.
Most medical professionals agree that moderate exercise, even in the beginning of pregnancy, including yoga, can be beneficial for everyone. If you are interested in adding exercise to your weekly routine, be sure to contact your physician to approve the routine you are considering, especially if you fall into the high-risk pregnancy category. After you and your doc lay out an approved program, you may want to consider hiring a certified trainer to maximize your workout and help avoid any potential injury risks.
HOW THE RIGHT BODY MASS EFFECTS SPERM
This BMI calculation applies to men as well. Why?
According to a study presented by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), male obesity is directly associated with an increase in male infertility and may affect the viability of sperm, including the morphology and overall sperm count.
Men with a BMI reading over 25 and under 18.5 lessen their chances of becoming a father. Just as with women, a man’s reading of greater than 30 is considered obese and the negative effects increase as well.
Unlike women who have a set number of eggs in their lifetime, men can actually increase the number and viability of their sperm throughout their lifetime. And diet and exercise play a key role.
Most people start out with a basic cardiovascular routine. Later they add machines, aerobic classes or spin class after settling into their new regiment. Consider speed walks in the neighborhood or the treadmill at the gym for 20-30 minutes, three to five times a week to get you on the right path. Monitor your pulse rate along the way to maintain a safe range.
Outside the gym, there are other exercises you may consider like moderate running, swimming or bicycling. Remember, everything in moderation. Over strenuous, vigorous or extreme levels of exercise or sports may have the opposite effect on conception and a healthy pregnancy.
And remember… stay hydrated! Always be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after workouts. A simple thing like lack of enough water can also lead to fertility problems in both men and women. Eight to thirteen glasses a day is ideal.
After a few weeks of lighter workouts to ease you into a new routine, add more machines to your regimen, again maintaining a safe pulse rate throughout the workout.
MACHINES VERSUS FREE WEIGHTS
Machines have a huge advantage over free weights because the weights are on pulleys and cables, allowing a smoother movement and reducing the chances of muscle, tendon or ligament injury.
It is also very advisable to keep reps high on all machines when starting out. Meaning 20-25 reps per set. Applying less weight and high reps will minimize the risk of injuries and tone muscles as opposed to building them.
After working your way up to a three times per week 45-minute cardio and weight machine routine, you may consider changing it up by adding classes to your workout. One thing for sure, being surrounded by a group of other people sweating it out, can motivate you to reach your goals.
When setting up your workout routine, keep in mind, the simplest starter exercises may be the treadmill, elliptical or a brisk walk. The more intense cardio exercises including spin classes, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and circuit training classes (CTC). These offer a great cardio experience by interchanging aerobic moves and strength training movements, but they may be considered too strenuous for those trying to conceive or already pregnant.
EXERCISE TOGETHER TO INCREASE FERTILITY
Many couples have busy schedules, so finding time to add an exercise routine to your schedule may be challenging. However, the benefits of working out will definitely pay off in the long run. Working out is not only beneficial to our overall health, it is also a great way to spend time with your partner, and even improve a relationship. Many couples experience a strong increase in energy and stamina and feel invigorated after settling into a steady workout routine. Many also experience an increase in libido, which of course leads to, well… you get it. So get out there with your partner, get your blood pumping, and reap all the benefits of exercise together.
While moderate exercising can increase your chances of conceiving, over strenuous, or extreme exercising can actually decrease your chances of getting pregnant by disrupting your menstrual cycle. This is more common in long distance runners, professional athletes and women hitting a vigorous cardio workout five times a week, or more.
YOGA AND FERTILITY
I mentioned yoga earlier. Originating in ancient India, the physical, mental and spiritual practice of yoga is not only known to increase muscle tone and concentration, but it’s a stress reliever that reduces anxiety and excitability, and can actually help to balance hormones. A couple dealing with an infertility diagnosis often have the same amount of stress, anxiety, and depression as an HIV or cancer diagnosis. Practicing yoga will help reduce these pressures and help you get back on track and find relief.
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a natural inhibiting neurotransmitter, is released during this practice. It is a natural relaxant known to create a euphoric feeling of peace and contentment.
There are numerous types of yoga practices, like Hatha and Vinyasa that are considered safe while trying to get pregnant. There is, however, one form of the art that most fertility doctors prefer their patients avoid while trying to get pregnant or while they are actively pregnant. This is Bikram Yoga or Hot Yoga. Bikram yoga is generally practiced in room heated up to 104 degree Fahrenheit (40 Celsius), an environment most fertility experts consider too extreme. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), there is an increased risk of neural tube defects or other malformations of fetuses exposed to excessive heat.
HORMONE YOGA THERAPY
There are newer yoga techniques that are receiving a lot of attention lately,especially from women looking to stimulate and regulate their reproductive hormones. A renowned yogi authority who coined the phrase Hormone Yoga Therapy (HYT), Dinah Rodrigues, offers a new approach to women dealing with fertility issues among other things. One of her unique programs consists of fourteen exercises that claim to stimulate the ovaries, thyroid, parathyroid and pituitary glands naturally through her yoga technique, ultimately increasing the production of hormones in these glands.
She says that after four to six months of practicing her Hormone Therapy Technique for thirty minutes each day, 85% of the women who suffer from fertility issues like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) became pregnant.
With so many opportunities to be active, from walking, jogging and swimming to routines at the gym and numerous yoga classes available, there is no excuse to not get in shape while trying to get pregnant.
Quit being a couch potato or the person who says “I don’t have time for exercise”. Exercise is a step in the right direction for a heart healthy mind, body and spirit and may lead to a healthy reproductive system in both women and men, a healthier relationship, and ultimately a healthy baby.