RUNNING AND FERTILITY – WHERE’S THE STARTING LINE?
Bye Bye Period
As anyone who has ever been part of a marathon group will tell you, the conversations quickly go south. Previously, you and your girlfriends might have talked about work, dating, and wine. But once you’re a “runner”, it’s all about your bodily functions—especially periods, or lack thereof.
While some women may love their newfound freedom from the crimson tide, many others find themselves seriously concerned about what it means for their fertility. They start to wonder, will their love of running interfere with having a baby?
Where’s The Line?
For many female runners, it feels incredibly unfair that something so good for you (that also makes you feel good) could interfere with your ability to get pregnant. And to make things harder, there aren’t any hard and fast guidelines on distance. Is 25 miles a week okay? 50 miles?
The majority of healthcare professionals in the field agree: if you’re a runner with regular menstrual cycles, you don’t need to worry about changing your routine, unless you find that you can’t get pregnant (which means something different for every woman depending on her age).
Women under the age of 35 should seek out medical advice after trying (unsuccessfully) to get pregnant for one year. Women between 35 and 40 should consult a doctor after six months of trying, and women over the age of 40, after three months.
Age is seen as a much bigger challenge in conceiving than exercise or mileage.
Finding a Balance
“Intense exercise and increased stress can throw off hormones in your pituitary gland,” says Dr. Peter Klatsky, the fertility preservation specialist at Spring Fertility. “Similarly, a woman needs to a body mass index of 18 or higher in order to continue ovulating and having regular menstrual cycles. Many runners lose their menses when the drop below this threshold.”
The extremes of exercise — too much or too little — are never good. Finding a balance between the two will help your body function optimally.
Running & IVF
If you’re undergoing fertility treatments, check with your doctor before stepping on that treadmill. Intense, vigorous, or high-impact exercise may cause ovaries (that have been enlarged by the use of fertility drugs) to twist — resulting in a medical emergency. You’re putting a lot of emotional and physical effort into your IVF process and it may even feel familiar to some of your fitness challenges. It’s best to make sure you’re wearing the right shoes while you walk or run through your IVF journey.
Ready, Set, Go
So where does this leave you? Consider your exercise regimen and how it relates to your fertility plan. Are you actively trying to conceive? Are your periods normal? How often and intense is your workout schedule? The answers to all of these questions will help you to make an informed decision on what the best next steps are for you.
Yes- it may mean cutting a few classes or miles. But it likely will result in a compromise more than a total lifestyle change. Be sure to seek out medical advice if you’re still unsure, and find a professional willing to support you as both runner and mama.