Exercise May Help You Overcome Fertility Issues


By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder


It can be a physically and emotionally taxing as well as an expensive journey for women who are struggling with infertility and doing everything in their power to get pregnant. I’m talking about women who choose the route of undergoing fertility treatments. 

One of the most common types of fertility treatments is called in vitro fertilization (IVF). Basically, “IVF is the process of fertilization by extracting eggs, retrieving a sperm sample, and then manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish,” according to the American Pregnancy Association. The embryo is then placed in the woman’s uterus, in hopes of having a healthy and successful pregnancy.

Penn Medicine states that between 1987 and 2015 one million babies were born in the United States with the use of IVF or “other assisted reproductive technologies.” On average one round of IVF costs $12,000 and this does not include the fertility drugs that accompany the treatment which can run from around $3,000 to $5,000. More often than not, insurance does not fully cover these costs. And some women go through several rounds of IVF before they have a successful pregnancy which, as you can imagine, really racks up the bill. Take, for example, the story of a woman in this report named Shelynda Brown. She and her husband spent $63,000 out of pocket for their fertility treatments (which included IVF).

And although it’s probably safe to say that many can afford these costs, there are many celebrities, including Gabrielle Union and Chrissy Tiegan, who have been open and honest about their fertility issues and journeys with IVF. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about six percent of married women aged 15 to 44 years in the United States are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying. And about 12 percent of women (regardless of marital status) between the ages of 15 to 44 have trouble getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.

Although IVF and other fertility treatments may be viable options to some women and lead to successful and healthy pregnancies, a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland suggests that exercise may improve a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant just as effectively as fertility treatments.

One of the doctors involved in the study analyzed research on reproductive health and exercise from the last two decades.

"When physical activity was compared with standard fertility treatments, such as IVF or ovulation induction, there was no difference in pregnancy rates and live births between women exercising and those undertaking fertility treatments," said the doctor, in this report discussing the study.

"This suggests that physical activity may be as effective as commonly-used fertility treatments, and could be an affordable and feasible alternative or complementary therapy to these very expensive treatments.”

The study also showed that there were higher pregnancy and live birth rates in women that participated in physical activity compared to women just undergoing fertility treatments and women who did not exercise.

There was not one specific type of exercise, such as running or lifting weights, that proved to be most effective. And, “...even moderate increases in physical activity—such as increasing the step counts—seemed to improve reproductive health outcomes," said the doctor. 

More research is needed, but the doctor advises incorporating both aerobic and resistance training into your workout regimine. But keep in mind that if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, it is imperative that you speak with a competent healthcare professional about what exercises are personally best for you.

Even though more research is needed on the topic of exercise and how it may combat infertility, there is evidence that exercise can help combat excess weight or obesity. And being overweight or obese may make it more difficult for a woman to get pregnant by preventing ovulation.

“Your ovaries make the female hormone estrogen. Fat cells also make estrogen. As you gain weight, your fat cells grow and release more estrogen. Too much natural estrogen can cause your body to react as if you are taking hormonal birth control with estrogen (like the pill, shot, or vaginal ring) or are already pregnant. This can prevent you from ovulating and having a monthly period,” reports the Office on Women’s Health.

Furthermore, if you are overweight and undergoing the IVF process, your chances of it being successful decrease.  

So if you are having issues conceiving naturally and currently do not exercise or have weight issues, address this now and talk to your doctor. Once you get on a good workout regimine, be mindful of the nutrients you need, such as B vitamins, selenium and vitamin D, to fuel your workouts and recover post workout.

(Keep in mind that being underweight or exercising excessively may make it more difficult to get pregnant. So a healthy balance is key).

Also know that eating healthily is extremely important when it comes to boosting fertility. You want to make sure you are getting adequate amounts of essential nutrients, including folate, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. 

Take routine nutrient tests to help identify and address any nutritional imbalances or deficiencies you may have. Preconception nutrition is important for both women and men. For example, “There are several studies that indicate that deficiencies in zinc affect both male and female fertility. Maintaining the recommended dietary allowance of zinc (15 mg a day) can help keep your reproductive system functioning well,” reports the American Pregnancy Association.

The Association recommends making healthy changes three months to a year before you conceive. Not only may this make conceiving more easy, but it may also make a healthier baby. We previously blogged about this as it pertains to the health of the man getting a woman pregnant.

So eat healthily on a consistent basis and if your nutrient test reveals an imbalance or deficiency, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making the necessary dietary changes and recommend quality supplements you can take if necessary.

The journey to getting pregnant can be tough, but along with proper exercise and diet, manage stress levels, get good quality sleep, do not smoke and drink very little alcohol if you drink. We may not be able to control everything when it comes to conceiving, but there is a lot we can control in regards to our health if we are proactive everyday. And a healthy body is key for a healthy pregnancy.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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