Are your Exercise Habits ruining your chances of Conception?


It was a race to the gym every morning for Misan* and Matthew*, both fitness buffs, who actually met in the gym. Although, now married, they were still totally into building muscle mass, and hard core insanity work out sessions. Not only that, it had become a mini competition between them every morning to see who could go for longer, and burn more calories. It did not matter to Misan that she was competing against Matthew, a man, whose build was different from her own.

But, it was a good thing. They both enjoyed the same thing, and that was all that mattered for a long time. However, by the time, they had been married for three years they became worried that all their pregnancies had not ended in a baby. They had suffered three miscarriages, since they got married. These miscarriages often happened before the 8th week of the pregnancy.

When another pregnancy was not forthcoming, Misan finally paid a visit to her long time gyneacologist, who knew her history with scanty menstruation, and even how she could go for months without period. And he confirmed what she also suspected. Her exercise routine had made her body uncomfortable for a baby to grow to term. In fact she was lucky that she was able to conceive at all.

Her body had started to respond to the presence of a baby and its effect on the body, the same way it reacts to stress exerted on it by exercise. Her body did that by flooding itself with the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which killed off estrogen and other hormones that not only aid conception, but help to carry baby to term.

As if that was not enough, her habit of still frequenting the gym even after she had a positive pregnancy test, was not helping matters. For her, it was her way of relaxing and calming herself, and also getting a head start on maintaining a healthy weight during her pregnancy, and, of course, being able to spring back to shape easily after birth. While she claimed her exercise routines while pregnant were not strenuous, her body was used to the standard she had set, hence it reacted with the stress hormones in high dosage, which led to the miscarriages.

The confirmation dealt her a heavy psychological blow, and it was a sad Misan who went home with her husband. She sobbed, as the guilt over her fitness obsession wracked her, and she mourned the fact that she had dashed their hope of having a baby three times. She hoped that her husband would be able to forgive her.

Together, the sat and tried to work through their emotions, in light of this revelation. Truth be told, Matthew had no problem with his wife exercising, in fact, it was one the things that attracted him to her. And he had never stopped her from exercising, even in the early days of the pregnancies. Now, he wished he had. Although the exercises she had done during those times were not as strenuous as other times she had not been pregnant, but they had obviously been bad enough to cost them a baby.

Finally, they agreed that there was not much they could do about the babies they had lost, but there was definitely something they could do about the ones that would come. Together, they decided it was time to focus on their baby dream, and temporarily suspend their buff bod quest. Even though he didn’t have to, Matthew decided to also skip the gym, as he knew that if he didn’t, it would be too much of temptation for his wife.

So, for starters, they cancelled their gym membership. And for months afterwards, they had withdrawal symptoms, like waking up early as usual, to head to the gym, and then remembering that they were no longer members. The slight softening of body parts where before had only been solid muscle also caused some grief, which was hastily quenched with the knowledge of the more important thing to come. A baby!

Because their doctor had advised that they wait a while to get pregnant again, they waited for six months, and by the ninth month into their quitting exercise, they finally got pregnant. Misan became extra careful with anything that resembled exercise. Even if, she had decided to be reckless, her husband wouldn’€t have allowed her. It was that simple.

When they passed the eight week mark in the first trimester, their joy was unspeakable. And they celebrated it with an appropriate meal, healthy but none of those lean cut, low fat stuff that used to fill their freezer. And by now, they had gotten used to the sight of their new bodies and Misan actually looked forward to when she would become curvier and rounder with their baby.

Thankfully, she was able to carry the baby to term and they had a healthy baby girl at the end of the day.

According to scientists, there is a strong relationship between strenuous exercise routine and conception. Scientists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that women who performed high frequency, high-intensity exercise had a lower rate of fertility, because too much physical exhaustion saps the body of the energy it needs for a successful pregnancy.

Exercise can also play havoc with your estrogen levels, the female hormone that plays a huge role in ovulation and menstruation. But there is good news; it is reversible, just as the case of Misan. She was able to boost her fertility by ceasing with the constant and often strenuous exercise she was putting herself through.

And when a woman is able to conceive, while pursuing a strenuous exercise routine, she puts her baby at risk. Because her body ejects natural stress hormones like, cortisol and adrenaline into her body system, which do not work well with the hormones needed for the growth of the fetus in the womb.

While, not discounting the value of moderate exercise during pregnancy, it just has to be moderate so as not to jeopardize the life of the baby.

You might need to take a look at your exercise routine and ensure it is baby-friendly, both before getting pregnant and afterwards.

Baby dust to us all!




Oluwakemi is a member of The Fertile Chick family, and she is a writer, dreamer and mother of two sets of twins. She is passionate about issues that concern women, and does not shy away from airing her views. And words are her weapon of choice! She is reachable on her handle @oluwakemine

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  1. Naa Kaay

    Hmm @Oluwakemi I have thought about this over and over again. I had discovered my love for the gym about a year pre trying for a baby. I loved weight training and insanity etc. Of course, I stopped at the first sight of a positive pregnancy. Post miscarriage, I have been toying with the idea of going back to the gym to lose a few pounds but I can’t bring myself to. I am afraid of exerting too much pressure on my body before I find out I am pregnant again hence leading to a miscarriage. So I have become a couch potato whilst waiting for my baby with the excuse that I will hit the gym after I have my babies. I have been doing minor walking, skipping etc but my body craves the intense workout I used to do in the gym. Thanks for this beautiful write up.

  2. Oluwakemi

    Hi Naakay @kaay. Did you just use the word ‘intense’ in relation to work out? Hmm, your idea of exercising after the babies come might just be a good one, since the temptation to over board in present. The walking and skipping should suffice in the main time. But couch potato, no! Thumbs up.

  3. Paula

    @oluwakemine I also suspected that exercise had something to do with miscarriage. Although doctors always say exercise is good and doesn’t. My spotting started a day after jogging in my first miscarriage and the second one the same day I jogged for just a few seconds. This time around no walking talkless jogging for me. I will be a couch potato and eat healthy,

  4. Oluwakemi

    Hahaha @paula, you have been there and know exactly how your body reacts to any form of exertion from exercise. You can become a couch potato for the first few months and then you might want to talk to your doctor about walking. Did you mentions the incidents of the jogging to your doctor by the way?

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