I had always had it in mind that engaging in exercise during pregnancy would have enormous benefits. So, as I entered the third trimester of my first pregnancy, I started to take daily walks for forty-five minutes. From what I had read, deliberate walking would improve the likelihood of a ‘supernatural childbirth’. Meaning my baby would arrive at the 37th week, after two hours of active labor. I also thought that there would be no pain; no need for meds or an epidural, no interventions. I would come strolling out of the hospital four hours after having my baby.
Thinking back now, I am amused by my naivety then. I actually believed that walking – which I had started in my 35th week – would carry all those benefits. Now that I am more informed, I can say for sure that exercise certainly has its place during pregnancy. It brings benefits we cannot ignore. While I intend to delve into some of these benefits later on, I want to start by addressing certain fears and myths people have about exercising while pregnant.
Does Exercise Have Any Effect on Fertility and Conception?
The simple and direct answer to that is NO. However, you may have heard that the presence or absence of body fat in women plays a role in their fertility. In Nigeria, it is not uncommon for people to advice women trying to conceive to stop any exercise or strenuous physical activity. It is considered to jeopardize their chances of conception.
Does Body Fat Play A Role In Conception?
The answer to that is YES. A woman’s body fat plays a role in her chances of conception. This is because sex hormones are fat soluble–they are stored in the body fat layers (adipose tissues). To put it in a more practical context: Have you ever wondered why the fat around the thigh, hip or butt area typically take longer to shed? That is Mother Nature’s way of aiding fertility, as fat stored around those regions have scientifically been proven to aid reproduction. So shall we all forgive the stubborn thigh fat? Amen! What I am saying is this: While exercise does not affect your chances of conception, body fat percentage can certainly have some effects.
How Can I Tell My Body Fat Status?
Even though body fat plays a role in conception and reproduction, it is NOT the sole indicator. Also, the amount of body fat needed is over estimated. At an ideal weight and BMI range (you can find simple BMI calculators online if you know your weight and height), you MOST likely have the right amount of body fat percentage needed for sex hormones to thrive. You need not be overweight to make that happen. If, however, you have a low BMI, your chances of conception may be at risk. In that event, work on gaining weight the right way: through a clean diet and moderate exercise.
What About The Effects of Exercise Related Stress?
Some women are concerned that exercising may precipitate stress in the body, and affect the body’s attempt to conceive. But if you exercise based on your normal current level of activity, physical health and wellness, your stress levels will not be affected by it. Normal exercising in the process of an IVF, or Intra uterine insemination, (including before the process and in the waiting period) won’t also have any adverse effects. Exercising in the period between ovulation and a positive pregnancy test will also not cause a termination of conception, if it occurs. The key is to exercise moderately based on your current health status.
But I Am Still Afraid…
In events where a negative experience has occurred in a woman exercising (taking all precautions into account), it often has nothing to do with the exercise itself. There are other lifestyle factors that might be responsible. However, I understand that there are a lot of fears related to the issues mentioned above, so usually, I advise my clients to not exercise if they are afraid because fear is powerful.
Of course sometimes, based on your medical history and current status, a doctor may advise a pregnant woman or one trying to conceive not to exercise at all. In that case, it is not because exercising is bad in itself, but because there are many more factors going on in the said woman’s body which may make exercise detrimental.
Think about Serena Williams who continued her regular fitness routine all through her pregnancy, adjusting as the bump got bigger. And then, there is my personal example. I had a miscarriage in my second pregnancy, yet I did not exercise before conception and up until the time I lost the baby. Meanwhile, with my third pregnancy, I worked out before I knew I was expecting, and continued to exercise all through the pregnancy. So, except expressly otherwise advised by a doctor, it really is okay to exercise before and during pregnancy. Do you have any interesting pregnancy and exercise stories to share? Please post them in the comment section. I would love to hear them.
If you haven’t yet done so, catch up on last week’s Fit Friday column.
Eziaha Bolaji-Olojo (CoachE’) is a Food&Fitness Coach, and is CEO at CoachE’Squad Ltd, where she helps women live optimised lives through a healthy food and fitness routine. She is a UK certified Personal Nutritionist, and a Prenatal & Postnatal Fitness Specialist. Eziaha is a Jesus Chick, enjoys godly friendships and adores her assignment as a wife and mom to two boys. When she is not coaching, you can catch her blogging atwww.eziaha.com