Management of Chronic Medical Conditions
Exercising for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week is a great place to start. It doesn't really matter how you exercise, as long as you find something that moves you and gets your heart beating faster. Ideally exercise should rotate among four types of activity: aerobic exercise, strength training, stretching, and the activities of daily living.
There are two aspects of exercise that do present well-documented challenges to parenthood: heat and too much exercise. Raising your core body temperature above approximately 102 degrees Fahrenheit has been linked to birth defects, miscarriage, and low sperm counts. Use your judgment and take it easy on hot, humid days when the body has a tougher time staying cool, and avoid hot tubs and saunas.
Long distance runners, swimmers, dancers, and other competitive female athletes may have varying degrees of menstrual dysfunction: Some do not menstruate, some have irregular cycles, and others may have regular cycles but have hormonal imbalances that impair fertility.
There appear to be three primary causes of exercise-induced effects on fertility:
- A critical level of body fat: It has been estimated that approximately 22 percent body fat is necessary to maintain normal menstrual function.
- Energy expenditure: Fertility problems can result even when resources are abundant, but food intake fails to compensate for increased energy demands. Restrictive eating behaviors practiced by women in sports or physical activities that emphasize leanness are of special concern.
- Stress: Exercise represents a physical stress that challenges the delicate mechanisms that regulate fertility.
The good news is that the ill effects are reversible once body fat is increased, calorie intake is increased, and exercise intensity is decreased.
To function optimally, both male and female reproductive systems rely on an exquisite balance of precisely timed hormonal messages and the peak performance of the reproductive organs. Unfortunately, a chronic health condition in either partner can sometimes cause an imbalance in these intricate reproductive works. Aggressively treating conception-threatening conditions before you're ready for a baby is your best insurance against infertility.
Some medical conditions can directly affect fertility:
- sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- being overweight
- polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Other medical conditions are treated with medications that make it difficult to conceive or may harm the fetus: high blood pressure, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, pain management, epilepsy.