How fitness affects your fertility
While you can be sure that a fitness-oriented life will deliver a wealth of health benefits, there are no definite answers when it comes to how your fitness level will affect your fertility. Find out how your weight or fitness level can affect your efforts to conceive.
If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, it’s only natural to want specific answers, such as “If you run the 5K in less than 20 minutes, you’ll easily get pregnant!” or “Once you lose those last 30 pounds, you will have no problem getting pregnant.” Unfortunately, such answers don’t exist.
There are no guarantees
Dr. Robin E. Cole, OB/GYN at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, and a fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, says, “I have worked with thousands of women in my career and while I want to give patients an answer that guarantees fertility and pregnancy, there are none. Pregnancy is a natural process [whether] you are the fastest woman on earth or an obese woman. There are no guarantees with body fat associations, age determinants or fitness levels. However, you can help your fertility by being as healthy and active as possible.”
OB/GYNs commonly deal with patients who are at opposite ends of the spectrum: Women who are too thin populate one category, women who are overweight are in the other category.
Women in the performing arts or dance arts who have very low body fat are at risk of having potential fertility challenges.
If they don't experience spontaneous menstrual periods, meaning periods when not on any form of hormonal birth control, then they may have a difficult time getting pregnant, says Cole.
She adds that the challenge is that women with very low body fat often don't have spontaneous menstrual cycles, thus they may not be ovulating normally. If they are on the pill, they think since they are getting their "period" each month, they are fine. However, it isn't a naturally spontaneous "ovulatory cycle" period.
The "female athlete triad" is a group of symptoms that often affect intense athletes. The triad is composed of amenorrhea, disordered eating patterns and bone loss. Amenorrhea is when you stop getting spontaneous periods. If you have gone for three months or longer without a menstrual period, you should see a gynecologist. Often the solution is to gain 5 to 10 pounds. You doctor will likely also have lab work done, to check your hormone levels to determine the potential hindrances to getting pregnant.
For women with eating disorders, the chronic damage to their body can cause fertility problems due to nutrient deficiencies and not enough body fat. Additionally, some extreme athletes may not eat properly or get enough calcium for bone strength and are at risk of mineral deficiencies.
While some women are too thin, more women are overweight and trying to get pregnant. Fitness activities are recommended for people women overweight and are trying to get pregnant, to help with fertility as well as prepare their body for the pregnancy.
There is a subset of obese patients who have metabolic syndrome, also known as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which can lead to hormonal changes potentially affecting fertility.
See your Doctor
Whether you are ultra-fit or overweight, if you are having fertility issues, see your OB/GYN to learn how changes in your lifestyle can improve your likelihood of getting pregnant.