According to an expert, here’s how your workout-obsessed lifestyle might affect your fertility.
We know that overdoing anything usually results in complications, so it should be no surprise that working out a lot can not only damage our muscle fibres, but also increase of risk of injury and suppress our immune system. And here’s the thing: overtraining can also lower your chances of getting pregnant.
“Strenuous exercises such as marathons and triathlons can cause a hormonal imbalance of ovulation in female athletes,” says Dr Christopher Chong, an obstetrician, gynaecologist and urogynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital.
“[Because of their demanding exercise regime,] these women are usually very high on endorphins. It’s postulated that endorphins suppress ovulation by suppressing the luteinising hormone surge, which is needed for ovulation.”
But it’s not only the hormonal imbalance that affects ovulation. Dr Chong says that having very low body mass index or fat, which is not uncommon in those who work out a lot, is another factor. Then there’s also the immense stress you put on yourself when you consistently push your body to achieve better results.
And if you take meds to delay your period whenever you need to, say, prepare for a competition or participate in a trekking expedition, it goes without saying that you also disrupt the regularity of your ovulation.
So how can you go about readying your body for pregnancy if you’ve always been putting your body through intense physical activity?
“To reverse the effects, the root causes of the problem must be reversed. For a start, the woman should have a minimum body fat of 22 to 25 per cent,” advises Dr Chong. “And to ovulate well, she should avoid strenuous exercise.”
Dr Chong also recommends having a balanced diet, getting enough rest and keeping stress at bay if you’re trying to conceive, and it’s equally important that you refrain from smoking during this time.
But that’s not to say that it’s because you work out a lot that you can’t get pregnant. If you’re having problems conceiving, there could also be infertility issues at play.
“[If you’re unable to get pregnant, it could also be due to] medical problems such as thyroid hormone abnormality and recurrent vaginal infections, just to name a few,” says Dr Chong.
Be sure to consult your doctor if you have any concerns. Better you address any issues you may have now than later.
A version of this article first appeared on www.cleo.com.sg.