Two of the most popular new year’s resolutions are, unsurprisingly, to exercise more and eating healthier. In true new year fashion, many of the people who make these resolutions are focused on an extreme change in their lifestyle, committing to marathon runs and low-carb diets in an effort to lose weight or tone up. Though most people don’t maintain their resolutions through the third week of a new year, it can be tempting to jump on the bandwagon.
But if you’re trying to conceive, you may want to think twice about committing to a hardcore workout or diet plan. While being active and eating well can help you on your conception journey, too much strain on your body (or not enough nutrition) can result in a disrupted menstrual cycle and can even stop your ovulation altogether. Not ideal circumstances for making a baby.
Here’s how to set a different kind of healthy living resolution that will work to enhance your likelihood of getting pregnant without putting undue stress on your body.
Exercising to Support Fertility
Regular physical activity while trying to conceive is one of the best things you can do for your body while trying to conceive. Not only does exercising help reduce your stress levels, keep your weight healthy, and even help you sleep better—all of which can make it easier to become pregnant—it also helps prepare your body for pregnancy.
However, exercise, if done too frequently or too intensely, can put a strain on your body. In fact, one study found that women of a healthy weight who were trying to get pregnant and exercised vigorously for 5 or more hours per week were 42% less likely to get pregnant each month. Working out too intensely can cause your body to shut down all non-vital systems—like your menstrual cycle. Since reproduction isn’t necessary to keep you alive, it’s one of the first things to go, which is obviously bad news when you’re trying to get pregnant.
You don’t have to (and really shouldn’t) give up exercise entirely, though. Moderation is the key. Instead of doing HIIT workouts or training for a marathon, opt for more low-impact activities like swimming, yoga, or lifting light weights. The optimal time to exercise each day is about 30 minutes and building it into your life (like taking the stairs, parking further away from a store, etc.) will make it so much easier. Women who are trying to conceive can really benefit from exercise—as long as it doesn’t become excessive.
Your partner’s fitness habits matter, too. Sperm takes about 90 days to become mature and the development of healthy sperm is largely impacted by his lifestyle choices. Make taking a walk around the neighborhood or going hiking a part of your routine and encourage him to work out on his own, as well.
When it comes to exercising while trying to conceive the most important things to do are listen to your body and consult with your doctor about a recommended exercise plan. In moderation, an exercise routine will help to support your fertility.
Eating Well for Conception
The other side of the puzzle, your diet, is equally as important. In order for your body to support a pregnancy, you need to have the proper nourishment. And no matter what anyone says, cutting out an entire food group (like carbs) is not ideal when you’re trying to conceive. Your body pulls nutrients and energy from all of the foods you eat, so cutting out entire food groups can create a lack and make it harder to get pregnant.
Instead of going on a diet and restricting yourself, commit to eating well-balanced portions of all types of foods:
- Protein — According to a study presented on Newsweek, “Ovulatory infertility was 39 percent more likely in women with the highest intake of animal protein than in those with the lowest”. So opt for plant-based / vegan proteins like beans and nuts when possible.
- Carbohydrates — The same study found that eating carbs like white bread, pasta, or potatoes could increase the odds of infertility. Since carbs affect your blood sugar and insulin, which play a role in fertility and a healthy pregnancy, opt for “slow carbs” that contain fiber, like beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Fats — Unsaturated fats are a key part of any diet and can help improve fertility, according to the study. But trans fats (like the ones in fried foods, butter, and even coffee creamer), cause many problems in your body and could make it harder to get pregnant.
Like with exercise, consulting with your doctor is important. If you focus on eating a lot of vegetables, plant protein, and healthy carbs (all in moderate portions), you’ll find that your body can perform at a more optimal level, increasing your chances of becoming pregnant.
Whether you’re the type to set new year’s resolutions or you prefer a more “one day at a time” approach, knowing how to exercise and eat well to support your fertility is invaluable. Scale back on intense workouts and eat a well-balanced diet, along with monitoring your fertility and you will be one step closer to a pink line on your pregnancy test.