19 October 2017

Sport and pregnancy: Fit for new beginnings

Falling pregnant is the dream that many women focus on, especially when undergoing In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). Even when undergoing assisted reproductive treatment, such as artificial insemination, there are questions connected to pregnancy that any woman may have, and one of those is to do with sport. With a little forethought, it is possible to continue any sports and exercise that you enjoyed previously, and in fact, most doctors recommend continuing to participate to give yourself and the baby the best chance at remaining healthy. No matter if you are trying to conceive, have fallen pregnant, or are in the sweet time after giving birth, exercise is to be encouraged. There are just a couple of caveats that help to ensure you are participating in a way that is safe for yourself and for your new addition.

Trying to conceive

Medical professionals recommend that when trying to get pregnant, women stop smoking, limit their alcohol intake, and eat as healthily as possible. It is also important to maintain healthy habits, as much for the reduction in stress levels as for the benefit in physical health. Women who take part in sports such as running, yoga or team sports, often have a sense of belonging and a calm that comes from the regular release of endorphins. This is a fantastic way to deal with the uncertainty that comes from the period of trying to conceive, especially if there are worries about infertility. Women who do not already take part in regular exercise should consider taking up some form of sport at this stage, to get used to it before falling pregnant. Regular exercise is a necessary part of every person’s life, and creating good habits is never a bad idea! Even half-hour walks every day are a great place to start, and will help with keeping you healthy later on.

Men are encouraged to stop unhealthy habits at this stage too. Smoking and alcohol intake can affect the motility and quality of sperm, leading to infertility in men. Additionally, being overweight may have an adverse effect on fertility, for both partners. Taking up a new hobby, as well as quitting unhealthy habits, are great steps in the right direction towards becoming parents, and they are easier when you do them together. Quitting smoking together, in particular, leads to a higher chance of staying off cigarettes in the future. Now is the time to build a healthier lifestyle that you will be proud to welcome your child into.

Pregnancy

The first few weeks of pregnancy can be difficult, with the advent of morning sickness, aversion to food and bone-crushing fatigue. This is completely normal, and is actually a sign that the baby is growing well. For many women, especially those who have undergone IVF or other assisted reproductive treatments, these symptoms are a welcome indication that the pregnancy is progressing as hoped. However, symptoms that may leave you feeling tired and grumpy are unlikely to be a catalyst for exercise. Nobody wants to go for a run when they feel like they might lose their lunch. If this is the case, do not feel as though you must keep up with your regular schedule. It is important to take care of yourself first, and if that means going for a nap instead of to the gym, so be it. Gentle exercise, such as walking, cycling or even swimming may help with some of the symptoms of early pregnancy, but if you can’t face it, then don’t force it.

For those who feel amazing and can continue their usual workouts, it’s is excellent idea. There are just a few key points to remember: speak to a doctor and perhaps a professional in the field before continuing with heavy weights or martial arts; keep your heart rate at a steady pace; and now is not the time to start training for a marathon. If there are sports that you have enjoyed for a while, these are probably safe to continue doing well into pregnancy. If you have never gone for a run or to a yoga class before, now may not be the time to start. It is important to get the advice of your doctor, who will know your body best, and work together to determine what kind of exercise is suitable to take up when pregnant, if any, and to modify existing workout schedules to accommodate your new condition. As the pregnancy progresses, you may find that some exercises begin to be uncomfortable, or that you slow down, but there are many, many examples of women competing in professional sports at eight months’ gestation! The key thing is to listen to your body and stay comfortable.

First months post-birth

Giving birth is a tall order. It is a serious medical procedure that should not be taken lightly. In Europe, childbirth is safer than ever, especially in hospitals and birthing centres, where medical professionals are on hand for every eventuality. It is still a good idea to discount any plan to go straight back to the football team in the first few weeks post-birth. Your body will have been through a lot and needs time to recover. Additionally, life with a baby is very different, and you will be tired. Gentle walks with your new-born are the safest option, and provide an opportunity to show your new baby off to the world. Wait for at least six weeks before starting to think about incorporating exercise back into your regular schedule, and speak to your doctor before beginning to take up sports again. With a little time and patience, you will be back to your normal self, healthy, fit, and all the while with a gorgeous new child.

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