Exercise is a vital part of staying healthy during pregnancy and when preparing for pregnancy. However, there are two forms of exercise that I suggest staying clear of during these times. (I can only imagine the heaps of hate mail I am about to receive)
Okay, here it goes…
1. Hot yoga. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Yoga. Yoga is great! It improves flexibility, strengthens and tones muscles, relieves stress, and reconnects you with your body and breath. But when you are trying to conceive or pregnant, the problem lies in the HOT part.
Hot yoga in pregnancy: As most people already know, hot tubs and saunas are contraindicated to a degree in pregnancy (limited to under 38.9’C and for no longer than 10 minutes to decrease chances of hyperthermia). The reason for this is that hyperthermia in early pregnancy has been linked to birth defects and miscarriage. Pretty straightforward, right?
Hot yoga is essential, doing activities in a sauna-like room. The risk of hyperthermia is high, even in those who are seasoned practitioners. Although some people are able to ‘get away with doing hot yoga during pregnancy, it is highly advisable you don’t, because the risk is not worth it.
Hot yoga and fertility: The reasons for avoiding hot yoga while trying to conceive are a little less clear-cut, but just as important.
Firstly, the same rules apply in your luteal phase as I mentioned in the Hot Yoga in Pregnancy paragraph. If fertilization has occurred, it’s best to treat your body as if you were pregnant and avoid any risk of hyperthermia.
Secondly, doing activities in high heat creates stress on the body. Our bodies react to stress by creating a sympathetic (fight or flight) response, which shunts blood to what our body considers the most important organs, like the lungs, heart, and brain. This is where problems arise; we only have a finite amount of blood circulating in our body, if you redirect and increase circulation to the lungs, heart, and brains, you are taking blood away from somewhere else, in this case, the digestive system and reproductive organs. Do this over a long period of time and reproductive issues can arise. In extreme cases, even amenorrhea (absence of menstruation). Essentially, you are starving your uterus and ovaries of the oxygen and nutrient-rich blood supply they need to be most fertile. Dehydration is a whole other aggravating factor, but I assume that the person doing the hot yoga is replenishing all of the fluid they lost in class.
SO please, do yoga, enjoy yoga, be yoga…just do it in a normal temperature room.
2. Cross-Fit. I’m almost scared to say it… have you seen how fit they are?!!! Definitely not outrunning that mob. The essence of why I don’t like cross-fit for pregnancy and fertility is the same fight or flight response that is caused by any extreme activity.
Weight lifting is great, it helps regulate blood sugar levels and can be an integral part of someone’s fertility plan. Interval training is great, it is time-efficient and effective. Community and accountability are both great and can help someone stay in a healthy routine. What is not great is pushing at 80-100% intensity so that your body is putting all of its focus on building and strengthening muscles, when it should be emphasizing maturing beautiful, healthy follicles and a nice, juicy endometrial lining.
Cross-fit in pregnancy: Very high-impact activities and activities that require heavy lifting, increase the pressure on the pelvic floor. While in some cases this may not pose any problems, very often during pregnancy, when there is already increased weight and pressure on the pelvic floor, the added weight of a heavy lift or big jump can weaken the pelvic floor muscles and cause problems both during the pregnancy and in postpartum. (reading between the lines, if you don’t want to pee every time you laugh or sneeze, focus more on strengthening your pelvic floor rather than box jumps and deadlifts).
Exercise is vital for a fertile body and a healthy pregnancy, just remember my main rule; moderation is key. Moderate temperature and moderate intensity.