Exercise and conceiving

Does exercise affect your chances of conception? Our exercise guru explains all…

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Q: I am trying to conceive and was wondering about exercise. I do a fairly strenuous workout three to four times a week, of 30 minutes to an hour. Will the egg be able to implant into the wall with all this activity?

A: If you are fit and healthy, you should be able to continue with your normal workout both while trying to get pregnant and during your first two trimesters. As long as you do not increase your weekly workouts, there is no reason why it should affect your ability conceive.

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A study at Columbia University in the US found that fit women in low-risk pregnancies, who exercised for at least an hour a day, three times a week, improved their pregnancy outcome and increased the birth weight of their baby by about five per cent. Studies also show that women who exercise both before and during pregnancy have half the risk of giving birth prematurely. They are also able to handle the rigours and stress of pregnancy a lot better, put less weight on (and get it off more easily!) and cope better emotionally and physically than those who don’t exercise.

Ask your GP to give you a clean bill of health to ease your mind. Listen to your body – if it is tired, don’t force yourself into vigorous exercise, or replace your fourth aerobic workout with yoga or Pilates.

Q: Is it true that you can be too fit to get pregnant?

A: Studies in the 1980s found that exercise might repress ovulation, but as Dr James Clapp, one of the leading researchers in the field of pregnancy fitness, points out, the intensity of the exercise carried out in the studies was unusual. He concluded that, “Most healthy women can exercise vigorously without it affecting their fertility” so there is no reason for you to not carry on exercising!

Keeping fit and stress free will be nothing but a positive advantage whilst you are trying to conceive. And during pregnancy itself, your levels of fitness will be a real bonus. Moderate exercise can help prevent pregnancy related high blood pressure and it has also been found that when pregnant women exercised, the placenta grew almost a third faster in mid pregnancy and had about 15% more blood vessels and surface area at full term. This is good news for your baby as the placenta is her substitute lungs, kidneys and liver, and transfers oxygen and nutrients from you.

You are also more likely to have a better birth since your heart and lungs will be more efficient than most so the more stamina you will have for the labour itself. Decent muscular strength will also help you maintain birthing positions such as squatting.

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Your baby is also more likely to be bigger. Women who exercise three to five times a week have babies who are heavier, longer and have an overall better weight and body fat than those born to mums who don’t exercise. Finally, another piece of research in the British Medical Journal found that the bigger the baby, the better the future exam results!

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