Pregnancy is not an Olympic sport, but maybe it should be. Here are some fitness and health challenges that women trying to conceive should know about and manage:
Make friends with your scale. Did you know that being either underweight or overweight can make getting and staying pregnant more difficult?
Your body mass index (BMI) is calculated from your height and weight and is used to determine if you are at an ideal weight. If your BMI is between 25.0 and 29.9, you are considered overweight. A BMI of 30.0 or greater is considered obese. Being either overweight or obese may cause challenges while you’re trying to conceive, making it harder for you to get pregnant and putting you at greater risk of complicatons during the pregnancy, such as high blood pressure (preeclampsia) or gestational diabetes.
Some fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), may be more likely to work for you if you are at a normal weight. Being significantly overweight is suboptimal for the best results from IVF. It may be more difficult for your fertility doctor to determine appropriate dosages of ovarian stimulation medications for you if you are severely overweight. Extra abdominal fat can make egg retrieval more difficult, by making the ultrasound images of your follicles blurry. Your doctor depends on these images to guide the retrieval needle into each ovarian follicle to recover each egg. In very obese patients, the ovaries are located higher and further away in the abdomen, making it difficult to reach the ovaries with the retrieval needle.
If you are extremely underweight with a BMI below 18.5, you may have insufficient energy reserves for pregnancy. Female extreme athletes, such as elite high mileage runners, often find that they no longer have periods if their body fat falls too low. No menstrual cycles or irregular menstrual cycles mean that the normal growth of follicles and release of eggs each month is disrupted, causing infertility. Being underweight during pregnancy also increases the chances of having a premature baby with abnormally low birth weight at greater risk of future health and behavioral problems.
While you’re trying to conceive, your doctor may suggest that you try to reach a more ideal weight before you begin trying to get pregnant. Bariatric surgery for weight loss is an increasingly popular option to reduce weight quickly, but also carries obstetrical risks so it is important to discuss any weight loss program you are considering with your doctor before you get pregnant. It is also important not to assume you need to lose weight before talking with your doctor about IVF. Taking the time to lose weight before IVF can compromise your overall IVF success. Factors such as your ovarian reserve can be more important than delaying treatment, so it is best to know your personalized chances of IVF success at your current weight, and then discussing with your doctor before delaying.
Prepare your heart. You already knew that mothers have big hearts, but their hearts literally increase in size as this muscle responds to the increased work of pregnancy. To meet new demands, pregnant women experience dramatic changes on their circulatory system. Blood volume and cardiac output increase 30% to 40% , so even when a pregnant woman is just resting, her heart is working as if she’s having a major cardio-fitness workout.
For these reasons, when you’re trying to conceive, it is important to have a pre-pregnancy appointment with your doctor to go over pre-conception health checklist and test for chronic conditions such as heart disease, thyroid disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes that can cause heart and circulatory system problems during pregnancy. If you have any of these conditions, you should control them with appropriate medications before and during pregnancy.
Review your medicine cabinet. While you’re trying to conceive, discuss with your doctor any prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements that you are taking to be sure that they’re safe during pregnancy. These also include any diettary and herbal products. In some cases, your doctor can prescribe alternative pregnancy-friendly medications. Don’t suddenly stop taking medications prescribed for you without speaking with your doctor as this can be very dangerous.
Visit Trying To Get Pregnant for more fertility health information and interactive tools to personalize your fertility path.