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Why over-exercising could be making it hard to get pregnant

Exercise is good for us, right?

It gets drummed into us from an early age that playing sport, being active and staying within a healthy weight range, are all great things for a healthy body and lifestyle.

But certainly for women trying to get pregnant, too much exercise could be making conception harder. It’s something that has become more widely known for professional female athletes, but applies equally for all women wanting a baby.

According to fertility specialist Dr Vicki Nisenblatt from Fertility SA, the main issue for women who are professional athletes or who exercise heavily is the impact on regular ovulation and menstruation.

“Women who are excessively exercising or working as a professional athlete are much more likely to have irregular periods or to lose their periods altogether. It’s generally a combination of both the exercise and not eating enough,” Dr Nisenblatt explains.

“Of course when you want to fall pregant, a regular period is a sign of regular ovulation, which is what is required to conceive. Most of the research shows that fat mass is quite important, and for the majority of women, this isn’t an issue. But for athletes and women who exercise too much or take part in extreme events like ultra marathons, the weight loss reduces the overall fat mass which can stop or interrupt menstruation.”

The good news however, is that these issues can be reversed reasonably quickly, by reducing exercise and eating more.

“Exercise is definitely good for women who are trying to get pregnant. But the key is moderation, so we’d tend to suggest no more than about four or five hours a week of strenuous exercise like jogging or running for women who don’t need to lose any weight.

“Heavy weight training can also impact the endocrine system and the hormones needed for conception, so again if you are planning to get pregnant, the best option is to just reduce the level of training to give yourself the best chance.

“The other really simple thing is to change diet, both increasing the overall consumption, and also ensuring the body has foods with healthy fats in them.

Dr Nisenblatt says these lifestyle changes over about 3-6 months will often lead to regular menstruation and ovulation returning.

“The message here is simply to understand the impact of heavy exercise on the ability to get pregnant. It’s important for women to know their own bodies, and what will help them if they want to have a baby.”

Creating South Australian families
If you haven’t been successful in conceiving naturally, or you would simply like to find out about your fertility health before you start trying to conceive, we’re here to help.

Call Fertility SA on (08) 8100 2900 to make an appointment with one of our specialist doctors.

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