Are you too fit to get pregnant?

Exercising vigorously can create difficulties if you’re trying to conceive. Find out why and how to increase your pregnancy chances.

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You know it’s important to keep your body in tip-top condition when you’re trying to conceive, but is too much of a good thing, well, bad?

In some situations, being “too fit”, or pushing your body to extreme physical limits, in sports and fitness, for instance, can have a negative effect on your fertility.

Gynaecologist Dr Gordon Lim, of Gordon Lim Clinic & Surgery for Women, explains that higher-level exercises, like training for a marathon, may “cause the ovaries to shut down temporarily”.

“In other words, there is no ovulation, so her period will be delayed,” he says.

SmartParents expert and Gleneagles Hospital ob-gyn Dr Christopher Chong adds that a hormonal imbalance could be the cause. “Very strenuous exercise is linked to higher levels of endorphins, which can affect the luteinising hormone surge that is necessary for ovulation,” he notes.

It’s also not uncommon for some athletes to have low weight or low body mass index, and this, too, can affect ovulation.

“No one knows the threshold that affects ovulation and hence, fertility. The cut-off line is not fixed, it depends on the individual.”

Doctors blamed former tennis pro Gigi Fernandez’s infertility on her athletic career. Retiring in 1997 at the age of 33, she underwent seven rounds of failed fertility treatments before finally conceiving twins in 2008 when she was 44 years old. She told The New York Times, “I felt almost like I wished I would have never played tennis.”

Former American Olympic swimmer Dara Torres also spoke about the fertility issues she encountered before conceiving her now 11-year-old daughter, Tessa Grace.

Of course, there are super-fit women, including sports champions, who have children without any issue. After all, tennis champ Serena Williams won the 2017 Australian Open while in the early stages of pregnancy, and Gal Gadot was five months pregnant when she did reshoots for Wonder Woman, following an intensive training regimen.

However, there is no fixed criteria that affects a woman’s ability to conceive. Dr Chong explains, “No one knows the threshold that affects ovulation, and hence, fertility. The cut-off line is not fixed, it depends on the individual.”