September 3, 2012

exercise + trying to concieve

Heads up to all males, family members and anyone else who don't want to know anything about my (not so) monthly cycle, now would be the time to close your browser window and move on for the day.  If you keep reading and come across something you deem TMI, you can't say I didn't warn you.

I've toyed with whether or not to write a post like this for a couple reasons.  One, obviously it is slightly personal.  Two, I'm no doctor and this is not medical advice or anything.  Simply personal experience I wanted to share because when it took me longer to get pregnant than I had expected, I was looking for answers and stories like mine.  So here you go, a post about me wanting to get pregnant and how I feel exercise affected it.

As I mentioned in this post, it took us seven months to see a positive pregnancy test.  I naively assumed that I could get pregnant whenever I wanted to.  With Ryann, it was literally maybe three weeks after we decided to 'see what happens' that I was reading 'pregnant' on the test stick.  Obviously we were meant for making babies, right?  I mean, unprotected sex =  you will get pregnant (and die.  man I love mean girls :o), that is pretty much what they tell you as soon as you start sex ed.  But the truth is that it doesn't always work like that.  In the grand scheme of things seven months is nothing in the world of fertility.  In the seven months we were trying I 'met' several women online who had been trying to have a baby for over a year, and had been through more than I could ever dream of.

So I tried to stay positive.  But I didn't understand why I wasn't getting pregnant.  After a while my gut instinct said it had something to do with my weight loss and increase in running.  My cycle got incredibly irregular when I hit my goal weight after losing 30 pounds in about 5 months (in August 2011), which also coincided with me starting to train for my first half marathon.  That month was also the month that I worked with a trainer, and dropped my body fat percentage from 20% to 17.5%.  Again, at the time I just thought my body was adjusting to some sort of new normal.  I think I had like a 45 day cycle, a 36 day cycle and a 35 day cycle.  Nothing insane, but definitely not my typical 30-31 day cycle.  Then we decided we were ready for baby number two.

The first cycle we tried last 55 long days.  I swear it seemed like torture.  I had no clue what my body was doing, I took so many pregnancy tests it was ridiculous.  I figured they had to be wrong, I had to be pregnant.  I even bought a big sister shirt for Ry so we could tell Chris when I finally got the positive test.  So the day my period finally decided to show up felt like a dagger to my heart.  It was then that I started to do a little bit of research (errr google search) the affects of exercise on fertility.  Everything I found said that for the most part, exercise would not interfere with fertility.  As long as you weren't exercising excessively more than seven hours a week, your body shouldn't be affected.  And even though I had lost a lot of weight, I was still at the high end of the normal BMI range.  So I figured my hunch was wrong, the exercise wasn't doing anything, my body was just being dumb.

I bought a stockpile of cheap ovulation predictor strips and spent roughly two weeks of the next cycle peeing in a cup twice a day, trying to figure out when I was ovulating (some people know a lot about conception, some people don't... you have about a 3-5 day window each month you can get pregnant, just before and on the day of ovulation, again I'm not a doc so I'm not going into detail, but google can tell you lots).  I did eventually get a positive ovulation test around day 19 of my cycle, so I was hopeful.  But that cycle ended after 35 days without a positive pregnancy test.  I went back to good old google to search about exercise and fertility again.

It was this time that I happen to come across a site that said women with a body fat percentage under 18% have a more difficult time conceiving.  Say what?  I mean I knew women with low body fat could have issues, but I didn't realize that I had made it into that possible category.  Again, I was still at the high end of normal in the BMI range.  The number on the scale was still more than I ideally wanted to see.  But yet, there it was written on paper (well, the computer screen), it was possible that I was causing my own difficulties in the getting pregnant department.

After that I stepped back some of my weight training, and tried to add more fat into my diet.  I gained back a few pounds.  It was tough, going against the current goals I had as far as strength and weight were considered, and not knowing if I was doing any good.  My cycles were still irregular (ranging 35-45 days), and I still felt like I was going month after month seeing negative pregnancy tests.  I was very discouraged.  I was sick of peeing in cups and having to worry whether or not Christopher would be off work or we'd be in the same city so we could time sex just right.  I poured myself into running to keep myself striving towards different goals, but even that was tough because I was worried if I did too much I'd be hurting our chances at another baby.  Yet at the same time I've read about/seen many women who seem to work out much harder/farther/longer than I did, and were still able to get pregnant.  I didn't know what to do.

In May I set up an appointment with my doctor, just to see if she had any suggestions or insight for me.  I didn't want any invasive testing, but wanted to know if anyone else thought that it was something I was doing.  Also in May I sort of cut way back on running, I'd just completed my second half marathon, as well as a 4 mile race at my fastest pace still to date, we went to Georgia, the weather got warmer.  I was more or less forced to take a break.  Just take a look at my monthly totals of running miles:

Screen shot 2012-09-02 at 10.01.28 PM

I never had to go to that appointment, because wouldn't you know I found out I was pregnant two days before it was scheduled.  But when did I get pregnant?  Most likely in the last two days of May.  Funny that my lowest mileage month coincided with a positive pregnancy test.

Now I know that this does not represent the scenario of every woman out there.  Most articles I read online said over and over again that exercise most commonly had a positive impact on fertility.  And it can take the average healthy couple up to a year to conceive.  But I personally think it was too much stress on my body too fast for all of it to function properly.  Is that a problem?  If we weren't trying to get pregnant probably not.  I was still taking care of my body and I was ovulating and having a period on my own, and my body would have most likely gotten used to it at some point.  But I don't think at the time the conditions were the best for supporting a pregnancy.

And honestly God works in mysterious ways.  I spent months wondering if He wasn't allowing me to get pregnant because I was doing something wrong, I wasn't a good parent, I wasn't being a good person, etc.  But had we gotten pregnant in the first couple of months we'd been trying, I'd have a newborn next to me right now.  I absolutely cannot picture our life with another baby right this very moment, and I think in another six months we are going to be in a much better place to add a second child to our family.  So it all may not have gone according to my plan, but I think His plan is going to work out just fine.

So that's my story.  Hope I didn't bore you to death, and if nothing else some other woman out there knows she isn't alone.


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Megan said...

I loved reading this, I am also wondering about how it will go when we try for another. I am not in the best shape of my life. I now crossfit, which I know will have to be scaled down a bit once I do. I love reading that you still run and stay so active pregnant. I think it helps so much! You always look so amazing as well!!

Jessica said...

This was really interesting and helpful to read, thanks for sharing your story! You know your body better than anyone, it makes sense that you would have a feeling what you needed to do for things to work the way they needed to. And you are right, His time is always better than ours. :)

Noe said...

Thank you so much for posting this!
I am doing a lil to non excercise and yet been on TTC for almost a year... and yes... it is disappointing.... so maybe my body fat could be the thing... maybe I should excercise more... oh well... this was really helpful!

Noe said...

ops! *none