Another month wasted

I started my period last night – so that’s another month of nothing. Another month of futile hoping and trying. Another month to wait before another chance.

I cried again last night, even through I thought I’d feel less hopeless this month – for all my rationalisation and talk of silver linings, I was still hoping with my whole heart, still holding on for one more day to pass without my period starting, just enough to make it worth a pregnancy test. Just maybe it would be positive.

I was just deluding myself. I feel utterly barren.

I really, really need to get out of this habit of counting the days and weeks and months as if they’re wasted. It’s just so hard *not* to see them as wasted when I feel like all I want is to be pregnant again. It’s the purpose of my life, much as I might try to find purpose in other things – everything else feels like marking time.

And time feels like it’s slipping away. I know I’m still only 29 and it’s only been four months since my miscarriage, but most of the time I just can’t envisage ever having any good news again, ever being able to actually announce that we’re having a baby. I just feel like all I’m having is blood. Blood and blood and blood and never a baby. I’m so sick of bleeding – I just feel like I never want to bleed again.

But of course I have to do this, have to come to terms with my cycle and all the traumatic memories and feelings it brings, because it’s the only thing that can maybe bring me a baby one day. My cycle is back to being fairly regular (normal for me, anyway) which is a good thing. I wish I could muster up any genuine feeling of pleasure about that.

So off we go again. Another month. In the meantime I guess I have few days of being able to enjoy a glass of wine – I’m not a huge drinker but not being able to have a glass used to feel like a big sacrifice when I was pregnant. What I wouldn’t give to have to say no to a drink tonight.

I asked my husband today if he really, truly, from the bottom of his heard didn’t wish he’d married someone else, someone who could give him a baby easily and quickly and with none of this heartache. He said he didn’t feel that way at all – that it could happen to anyone and that it wasn’t my fault. I’ve asked him that so many times but I believed him a bit more tonight. I know he loves me and won’t leave me, and doesn’t blame me. I just need to find a way to stop blaming myself.

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Increased fertility after miscarriage – an old wives tale?

In my previous post I talked about the frustration and stress and uncertainty of trying again after a miscarriage. One of the things that makes this worse is the old wives tale that suggests that your body ‘knows how to be pregnant’ and so conception should be quicker second time round. I have heard this from a few different people, and it definitely made it worse when it didn’t magically happen for us the first month of trying again.

I thought I’d do a bit of research into the suggestion and see whether there’s any truth in it. Most of the more reliable websites seem reluctant to say more than ‘some evidence suggests’ and ‘some studies show’ that miscarriage could increase fertility – many don’t even mention the possibility at all, and I am inclined to think that Baby Centre’s conclusion is sensible (http://community.babycenter.com/post/a26307987/helpful_ttc_info):

After a miscarriage it’s difficult to determine what a ‘normal’ conception time frame is. Some women will get their period 28 days after their loss and some won’t get it back for 8 weeks[…]. Once your period returns you fall back under the standard conception time frame (in other words, already experiencing a pregnancy doesn’t give you a ‘headstart’). There is a lot of misinformation about being ‘more fertile’ after a miscarriage. There is simply no scientific evidence to back that up. In fact, after a miscarriage (especially after 8 weeks) your body will need time to recover and get back to normal. Many women do not ovulate for a few months. It’s totally normal to take 6-12 months to conceive after a miscarriage no matter how fertile you are.

OK. So I should probably expect to be in this for the long haul – no more naive expectation that we’re young and healthy and therefore should be pregnant instantly.

BabyMed has a view that supports the ‘more fertile’ idea a little more:

While doctors say there is a brief period right after a miscarriage occurs that a woman experiences increased fertility, this does not mean that her fertility will be increased for long. Experts report that a woman’s normal fertility level should return within four to six weeks after the miscarriage when ovulation starts and her cycle begins to function as normal again.

Anyone who felt very inclined to actively try again within four weeks of a miscarriage gets top marks for effort from me – I was still bleeding for most of that time let alone being an emotional wreck.

In any case, some research has shown that it’s better to wait even as long as sixth months after a miscarriage – in fact that’s still the World Health Organisation’s recommendation, even though more recent research has shown that it’s best just to go for it straight away (http://www.nhs.uk/news/2010/08August/Pages/conceiving-baby-after-miscarriage.aspx). Physical symptoms and the benefit of dating the pregnancy accurately aside, I’m not sure anyone would be ready emotionally straight away, but also six months seems like a long time in limbo.

I’m now three and a half months down the line from my miscarriage, and in my second month of trying – last month was very difficult and I found it traumatic and upsetting when I wasn’t pregnant straight away. This month I feel much better about it, and think I will cope much better with negative results this time round. Although I can’t say I won’t be upset, I think I will be more philosophical and accept that we really, truly are back to square one.

In some ways I’m glad I haven’t got pregnant again straight away. It would have been hard to separate the two pregnancies in my mind, and I want next time to be a fresh start. It will be better for our next pregnancy if I can see it with hope and optimism, and see our baby as an individual and not as a replacement for the one we lost. Plus, it will be better for our lost baby too – not just swept under the carpet by a quick ‘rerun’, but remembered and grieved for.

Trying again might be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do

Most of the time now I am well past the “spontaneous crying about my miscarriage” phase. I’m not randomly breaking into tears out of the blue like I was a few months back and I can talk about it fairly sensibly. Although I still feel so much grief for the baby we lost, I am managing to get out of the gloom sometimes and am counting my blessings that it wasn’t a later miscarriage or stillbirth, and that I am still happy and still rock solid with the best husband in the whole world. 

So the amount of crying I did two weeks ago, when our first month of trying again didn’t result in being pregnant, really shocked me. I couldn’t handle it at all.

I thought I was as ready as I’d ever be to start trying again – physically I’m pretty much OK and mentally I felt up to it. But what I didn’t expect was for my body to trick me so cruelly. From about three weeks into my cycle, I felt sick and a bit out of it, like I had when I was pregnant – I convinced myself that I was pregnant again and had gone through all kinds of imaginings, like laughing with the doctor about how stupid my fears about conceiving again had been. I had created a whole scenario in my mind about how exciting it would be to be pregnant again so soon. I many ways, I had thought that it was a re-validation of me as a fertile woman made for childbearing. 

I guess maybe the hormones produced during ovulation surprised my body after four months off them, and that’s why I felt ill. But even after two negative pregnancy tests I was still fooling myself. 

The day I started my period I cried like I haven’t cried since the day we found out we’d lost the baby. I felt like I had lost him all over again. It was so ridiculous, because I knew it was incredibly unlikely to be that first month – and yet it was impossible to be sensible about it, impossible to let my head rule my heart. I want to be pregnant again so badly, and yet I just felt like I was facing another unknown number of months where my entire life was centred on waiting and counting days and not knowing. I didn’t know how to face it. 

We’re in month two now, and I do feel a bit calmer. In some ways that’s down to this blog – I started it a couple of days after I started my period last time, and it has given me a focus beyond the counting and the waiting. I’m trying hard as well not to let it affect my relationship with my husband, and not to let ‘trying’ take over our love life. I’ve remembered that I want to be with him because he’s wonderful and sweet and sexy, and not just because I need his DNA!! 

Even though I’m filled with fear and worry, I also know that the only thing that can fix that is keeping trying and getting there some day. Somehow, that is making the trying again bearable. But only just. 

Was my miscarriage my fault?

After the scan showed that our baby had died, I sat with him still inside me desperately wishing I could go back in time and fix whatever it was that was broken and make my pregnancy successful.

I know that it probably wasn’t something to do with my body going wrong and the pregnancy ending because of that – I didn’t have a fall or trauma or illness and it all happened in a gradual way. Three different doctors told me that most first trimester miscarriages are caused by a chromosomal abnormality in either the sperm or egg, and the following article (really useful in general) puts the figure at 70%: www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book/excerpt.asp?id=80.

But why were the chromosomes abnormal? Is there something wrong with my husband or I? Another really useful although very depressing article puts the figure for chromosomal abnormalities at 50% of miscarriages, but explains what “chromosomal abnormalities” means really well: www.marchofdimes.com/baby/birthdefects_chromosomal.html.

Chromosomal abnormalities usually result from an error that occurs when an egg or sperm cell develops. It is not known why these errors occur. As far as we know, nothing that a parent does or doesn’t do before or during pregnancy can cause a chromosomal abnormality in his or her child.

In most cases, an embryo with the wrong number of chromosomes does not survive. In such cases, the pregnant woman has a miscarriage. This often happens very early in pregnancy, before a woman may realize she’s pregnant. More than 50 percent of first-trimester miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo.

Parents who have a late miscarriage or a baby born with birth defects can learn whether it’s likely that there’s a fundamental genetic problem, but for us it’s just a case of not knowing. Apparently if it’s your first miscarriage, they basically refuse to do genetic tests – I suppose I can see that it’s not a priority for health spending, but I would find it comforting to have some answers even if they were scary ones. Also then I would know if it wasn’t a chromosome thing. What could it be then? That’s almost scarier.

Some other likely causes are explained here: www.pregnancyloss.info/causes.htm. I have always been worried about hormonal factors, as I have pretty irregular periods, so I was glad to read that some hormone problems are treatable (although only in advance – you can’t save a pregnancy that’s already afflicted with a hormone problem). Since my miscarriage I’m ten times more worried about hormones, as my ovaries showed up on the scans as being polycystic – the doctors say this won’t make any difference to my chances of conceiving again, or of having another miscarriage, but it’s just one more scary things to worry about. It’s nice to see, though, that most of the problems listed on the Pregnancy Loss website – hormonal and more structural – have some kind of solution attached to them.

This is the truest statement of all:

The Unknown

The hardest thing to accept is no reason at all. You live in fear, wondering if the same terrible cause of your first baby’s death will cause another one to die. You scarcely dare to try again. I have been in this situation and I tossed my doctor’s statistics aside. I had already been on the wrong side of the statistics; I didn’t care for anymore. But I do know this. One miscarriage hardly raises your chances to miscarry again at all. You are simply back at square one. Try to put the risk as far back in your mind as possible and enjoy another pregnancy. But I understand if you can’t.

I am trying to put the risk to the back of my mind, and I hope that when I’m pregnant again I’ll be able to feel positive about that, and about being able to conceive, and not to worry too much about a second miscarriage. But I’m not sure I’ll be that pragmatic. If our chromosomes didn’t mesh the first time, who’s to say they will a second time? And if it wasn’t that, what frightening truths lie in store for us to discover?

Is there a “best time of year” to have a baby?

I did my second pregnancy test at the weekend – still negative – and then started my period pretty much straight afterwards. So doing the test was a big fat waste of money, and on top of that I had to endure the misery of a second purple line still not appearing. It wasn’t the best start to my Sunday morning!

One of the reasons that I hoped I would get pregnant in the first couple of months of trying is that I always wanted a spring baby. To me, it seems like there must be a reason that everything gives birth in the spring – lambs, chicks, even plants. In nature it’s because the world is getting warmer and the weather is getting calmer, so small, vulnerable things are more likely to survive. Imagine if a little lamb was born in the depths of winter – it would be impossible for its mother to keep it warm and well fed. And vice versa, if it was born in the height of summer, it would be difficult for the mother to keep it cool and well hydrated. I have all the advantages of civilisation to help me care for a baby at any time of year, but I still like to do things the natural way where I can.

So now here we are in the middle of August. If I get pregnant this month my baby will be born at the end of May – that’s perfect. For family reasons it’s perfect too, as my Mum is a sixth form teacher and by May she’s pretty much finished for the term. She and I would both love it if she could take some time off to come and be with us and our baby in the early summer.

But if it takes another couple of months then we’re well into June and July. I just want it to happen for us this month, really desperately.

Part of it is selfish, I have to admit. Even though English summers are hardly renowned for their balmy sunshine, sometimes it gets really hot and humid, especially down here in the South-East. I hate being hot – I’m definitely a winter person – and I don’t want to stagger about, nine months pregnant, feeling miserable and sweaty in July or August. I’d much rather be heavily pregnant in the cool of spring.

But is there more to it than that? Is there a ‘best time of year’ to have a baby in terms of optimising education and development? Articles like this one in the Daily Telegraph make me stressed out – August is apparently the worst month to have a baby because the child will always be the youngest in the year, and will therefore lag behind his or her peers both intellectually and physically. There are even scary statistics about August babies being 4% less likely to go to University.

I try to rationalise this by telling myself that it does seem very subjective, depending on the child in question. My husband has pointed out that, as a September baby and the eldest in his year (and a total swot, it has to be said) he sometimes felt like he was held back by some of his classmates – maybe if he’d been young in the year instead he would have been more stretched and challenged.

Added to the issue of subjectivity is the fact that I’ve found lots of other articles which say entirely contradictory things: for example inThe Independent (“Babies born in winter are bigger, brighter and more successful“) and Metro (“Winter babies ‘face a sadder life’ as adults“). None of the research is very conclusive, and most makes only vague attempts to explain the findings in terms in terms of socio-economic factors or seasonal changes in diet and the mother’s mood.

When it comes down to it, I think that beggars can’t be choosers. I desperately want a baby, and if it happens this month that will be wonderful. But if I can have a healthy child, I don’t think I’ll care in which month he or she is born. Whichever one it is, it’ll be the best month for us.

How much fish should I eat during pregnancy and conception?

I’m a pescatarian, which means I eat fish but no other kinds of meat, and I would hate to give up eating it. For a start, it’s delicious! But more importantly, it’s really, really good for me, especially as I don’t get protein from other kinds of meat.

Eating more fish is one of the NHS website’s top eight tips on on eating healthily – as well as lean protein, fish contains lots of vitamins and minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and fish oils which help brain and eye development, reduce inflammation and help prevent cardiovascular disease. It’s just a great source of so much good nutrition.

As is so often the case, however, we humans have managed to mess things up by polluting the world around us – in this case we’ve polluted the seas with mercury and other heavy metals, mainly (according to Wikipedia) from coal power stations and chlorine production plants. The Wikipedia page on Mercury in Fish has a comprehensive table on which fish absorb the most mercury – tilefish, swordfish and shark are the worst and luckily they’re not commonly eaten in England. In general oily fish are higher up the table, and white fish are lower (but that’s only a rough guide).

The human body is usually able to eliminate this mercury, but it can be toxic to foetuses, damaging their nervous systems. This is a deeply horrible thought, and when you consider that raw fish such as shellfish are also not recommended as they can cause food poisoning, I imagine most people’s first reaction (and mine too) is to steer miles clear of anything that’s been anywhere near the sea.

We need to be really careful about having that reaction, though, because when I read more about it, omega-3 is really important for a developing baby – according to a 2007 study (summarised in lots of news articles at the time including on the BBC and Guardian websites) it boosts intellect, improves social skills and even benefits eyesight, among lots of other things. Plus, there are all the vitamins, minerals and proteins to consider – all of these are good for nourishing a baby, and we all know that it’s much more effective to get them through diet rather than supplements.

All this conflicting information might seem very confusing, but actually it’s in line with what the usual sources of information on diet during pregnancy recommend – you should carry on eating fish, but in moderation. The brilliantly thorough NHS webpage on fish and shellfish sums this up, and I’m going to paste a big chunk of it here so you have it to hand:

“Eating fish is good for your health and the development of your baby. But pregnant women should avoid some types of fish and limit the amount they eat of some others.

When pregnant, you can reduce your risk of food poisoning by avoiding raw shellfish. Below is advice from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and the Committee on Toxicity about eating fish when trying to get pregnant, or when pregnant or breastfeeding:

  • Shark, swordfish and marlin: do not eat these if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. All other adults, including breastfeeding women, should eat no more than one portion per week. This is because these fish can contain more mercury than other types of fish, and this can damage a developing baby’s nervous system.
  • Oily fish: if you are trying for a baby, pregnant or breastfeeding, you should have no more than two portions of oily fish a week. A portion is around 140 grams.
  • Canned tuna: if you are trying for a baby or are pregnant, you should have no more than four cans of tuna a week. This is because tuna contains higher levels of mercury than other fish. If you are breastfeeding, there is no limit on how much canned tuna you can eat.

Even though I’m still not pregnant yet (*sob*) I’m trying to get into these good habits now so I’m ready to enjoy a healthy and safe pregnancy diet.

My first proper pregnancy test – and it was negative.

For the last couple of weeks I have been watching entirely too much TV – I live near London and I’ve been totally absorbed by the Olympic Games. As a result I have been appallingly neglecting this blog, but I’m back up and running now!

I did my first real pregnancy test yesterday – and it was negative. Last month I started my period so I didn’t have to do one then. As I’ve mentioned, my periods can be very irregular so it’s pretty difficult to tell the best time to do a test – the packet says the test works from the first day of your missed period. If I had “normal” 28 day cycles my period should have started yesterday, but to be honest it could be anything up to six weeks.

Now I’m in a weird limbo state where I haven’t started my period, but the test was negative – I don’t know whether it was just too soon for the test, or whether my period is just being its normal unpredictable self. I really envy women who are regular, and for whom being two or three days late is exciting. For me it’s just tiresome – and also expensive because I’m inevitably going to waste lots of pregnancy tests. I’m going to wait a week before I do another one otherwise I’ll be bankrupt rather than pregnant!

The whole process of doing the test was very odd. Exciting, but also disconcerting. If you’ve never done one before, tests come in lots of varieties – there are cheap and cheerful ones, right up to amazingly complex digital ones. I have bought a bunch of the cheap ones, and one expensive digital one which I’m going to save until one of the cheap ones says I’m pregnant. Then I can use the expensive one to make sure! With the cheap ones, you have to wee on the end of a little stick – the part you have to get wet is ridiculously small! Then you leave it for three minutes – a little purple line appears to show that the test is working, and then if you’re pregnant a second purple line appears between three and fifteen minutes later.

The most reliable time to test is meant to be the first time you go to the loo in the morning, because then the concentration of the pregnancy hormone that the test detects – hCG – is higher. Inevitably I forgot first thing in the morning, but I couldn’t resist taking the test that day – I don’t want to find out I’m pregnant on a weekday morning and then have to go to work and pretend that everything’s normal! So I just went ahead and did the test – it wasn’t exactly a vary reliable attempt. Hence the weird limbo – I could still be pregnant. I just want an answer one way or another!

Waiting to see whether the little purple line would appear was bizarre. You have to keep the test still while it’s working, so my husband and I leant over the side of the sink where it was sitting and just watched it. I felt really excited at the possibilities, but also I didn’t feel like it was going to be positive – maybe my body knows that it isn’t pregnant. Or maybe I was just feeling pessimistic that day. Either way I am second guessing my every feeling, even though I know stressing about it is going to make conception less likely, not more.

After three minutes we went away, assuming it was negative – I checked again at 15 miniutes and then threw it away, but I had a final peek hours later while it was in the bin. I can’t help but wonder which test will be the one that brings the good news.

The worse thing is, if I haven’t started my period by then, I’ll have to go through the whole emotional palaver again in a week.

“Trying for a baby”: the most unhelpful term ever

My husband and I are into our second month of trying for a baby. The longer it takes us to get pregnant, the more I hate that term – to me, trying without succeeding equals failing.

The fact that you have to “try” for a baby makes it seem like like hard work, rather than something exciting with a lovely outcome to look forward to at the end of it. It puts the emphasis on the negative rather than the positive. If you’re an athlete at the start line of an Olympic race, the last thing you want is someone saying: “Right, you’ve done all this hard work and preparation, and now all you have to do is start trying.” You’ve been trying all along – trying to get your body in the best shape, trying to break bad habits, trying to keep your relationship on the strongest footing, trying to get as much from your pre-baby career and life as you can. And now the trying really starts, with the possibility you might not succeed at the end of it? How depressing. The word “trying” is a synonym for tiresome, difficult and stressful (eg “it’s been a trying time”) – and it still has that connotation even when it isn’t used as an adjective.

My Mum and Dad tell an awful story about some friends of theirs who had been trying for a baby for about a year, when they were all in their twenties. Mum and Dad asked them sympathetically how they were doing, whether they’d had any good news yet, and the man said, “No, we’re still slogging away”. Slogging away! Everyone was embarrassed and upset when he said it, but in lots of ways I understand him – I don’t see it like that myself and I’m lucky that things are so great between me and my husband, but society makes us all feel that trying for a baby is a “slog”, a protracted and difficult process. And a lot of that feeling comes from the word “trying”.

It’s not that I resent that you have to be committed to it, or the fact that “trying” for a baby might take some time. All that is part and parcel of the experience, and if it was easy and required no sacrifices or fears it wouldn’t be such an exciting and life-changing adventure.

Maybe it should be called “waiting” for a baby, or “hoping”. That’s a bit more how I want it to feel. My husband and I understand all the days when we could be most fertile, and all the reasons why we might not conceive in a given month, and so really we’re just waiting for exactly the right combination of timing and circumstance. We’re waiting for everything to be just right. And isn’t that a more positive attitude? You’ve done all the preparation and hard work, and now you’re waiting – like waiting for Christmas with an advent calendar. It’s exciting and fun and you’re filled with anticipation of good things. Not bogged down in “trying” hard work.

Anyway, back to the practicalities of the matter – my husband and I are still waiting. My cycle has never been particularly regular, so it’s hard for us to know exactly the most fertile days – maybe there’s a bit more of an element of chance for us than there is for a couple where the woman operates like 28 day clockwork. So we have a period of about a week mid-month where we’ve got even more motivation than normal to be ridiculously in love with each other. We’re in that period now (woohoo!) and I’m hyper-aware of every single thing going on in my body – is it a sign? Has it happened? Has a little egg been fertilised? I know there’s no way I’d be able to feel anything or know anything within one or two days of conception, so it’s purely in my over active imagination.

For now, then, we’ll keep on being excited, and try not let the process feel stressful and strewn with obstacles. And I’ll tell people that we are waiting and hoping for a baby.

Conception support vitamin supplements: yes or no?

We all know that taking a folic acid suppliement is really important as lots of folic acid helps babies to develop healthy nervous systems. But what about other vitamins and minerals? Should I be taking a special conception support supplement?

I am a fish-eating vegetarian (my parents stopped eating meat when I was a child, so it’s mainly habit rather than ethics) and I’ve always taken a multivitamin just in case I’m missing anything important in my diet. But I had no idea that specific supplements existed for conception support – for men as well as women – until I stumbled upon them in Boots.

As part of our slightly paranoid desire to do everything possible to make a healthy baby, my husband and I thought we’d better get dosed up. He ordered some Conception for Men tablets from Healthspan – http://www.healthspan.co.uk/pregnancy/pregnapure-conception-for-men/productdetail-p3197037-c3167.aspx – and I bought some Conception Support tablets in Boots – http://www.boots.com/en/Boots-Pharmaceuticals-Conception-Support-30-Tablets-_1161201/. Today I had a good look at the ingredients on both packets.

The men’s supplement is full of crazy stuff that you’ve never heard of. What on earth are Maca and L-Arginine? (Answers: Maca is a South American plant that enhances ‘endurance’ and acts as an aphrodisiac (!) and L-Arginine is an amino acid that’s supposed to combat erectile dysfunction.) I’m not trying to boost my husband’s ego, but he’s a normal healthy 31 year old, and he just doesn’t need these things to fulfill his part of the baby-making process! The other ingredients are standard multivitamins and minerals, so he’s going to go back to his normal tablets when he finishes this box.

As for my Boots tablets for women, they look much more sensible – 200% RDA of folic acid, plus all the other standard vitamins and nothing I haven’t heard of! The great thing about them is that they don’t contain anything that would be bad if I did get pregnant, like Vitamin A. Pregnant women shouldn’t take Vitamin A supplements as too much can cause birth defects, and the damage is often done in the early weeks or months of pregnancy when you might not even realise that you’re pregnant. My conception support tablets don’t contain Vitamin A or retinol (another form of the vitamin) so this isn’t an issue. I think I’ll definitely carry on taking them.

What about the benefits of other vitamins and minerals in the conception supplements? A study in December 2011 suggested that conception multivitamins do boost fertility amongst women with fertility problems – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8928234/Women-trying-to-conceive-should-take-vitamins-researchers.html.- but there’s no evidence to say that they’re helpful for normal conception. I get the impression that the best conception support supplements are just normal multivitamins that we’re encouraged to take now because nutrition is particularly important when you want to conceive. Unless you’re a man with an actual sexual dysfunction – in which case I’d drop the Maca and L-Arginine and get to the doctor – you should probably just eat healthily, and take a folic acid supplement and a multivitamin without Vitamin A.

And when I’m actually pregnant, I’ll have to do all this research all over again for pregnancy vitamins! It’s a pretty busy and confusing market.

How hard should you exercise when trying for a baby?

Over the last six months we have been seeing a personal trainer once a week – his name’s Jim and he used to be an army physical instructor. He’s so fantastic – he really keeps us motivated. We do circuits that combine strength training with lots of running for cardiovascular fitness, and I am fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been in my whole life. It’s awful and painful, but no pain no gain and all that. I also play tennis and go to a pilates class once a week and walk to and from work (a mile each way) every day – so I’m pretty fit.

I have been worrying about whether doing this high intensity exercise with the trainer once a week could be damaging my chances of getting pregnant – I know that being fit boosts fertility, but am I risking an embryo not implanting properly if I’m straining around? Plus, lifting anything heavy is supposed to increase the risk of miscarriage, isn’t it?

Well, I’ve done some research today and it sounds like it’s OK to carry on with proper exercise whilst pregnant – and that exercise is in fact a good thing. Here’s the NHS website on this: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-exercise.aspx#close. I found the following three points to be the most useful advice from this page:

  • don’t increase the intensity of what you’re used to – so carry on with the level of exercise you were doing before pregnancy;
  • you need to be able to hold a conversation while you exercise, otherwise it’s too strenuous for when you’re pregnant;
  • you shouldn’t lie on your back after 16 weeks as it can make you feel faint.

There are also some good suggestions for exercises to do – lots of them seem to be pilates based. In general I would recommend pilates to anyone, pregnant or not – it has changed my life and helped me cure a back problem. More about that in a later post! But it seems that, for pregnancy, pilates also really helps to stabilise the pelvis and can help avoid Pubic Symphysis Disfunction. My pilates teacher has written a great article on this, and on exercise in general while pregnant, called Pilates 4 Pregnancy: http://www.pilates4life.co.uk/is-pilates-for-me/pilates4pregnancy – it talks about being careful with posture and lists a few exercises that can be really dangerous to do, like sit ups.

No more sit ups for me then. What a tragedy…

The What to Expect website has some good information about strength training: http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/keeping-fit/options-for-everyone-strength-and-toning.aspx. Again this suggests that I can carry on with weight training as long as I’m not straining or holding my breath.

I’m concluding that I can carry on exercising with my trainer, Jim, but that I should lower the intensity of what I’m doing. He suggested that lots of brisk walking, swimming and tennis would be good. Sounds perfect!

I’m still not sure about exercise during conception. Am I going to ruin my chances for a successful implantation? Everything I’ve read so far suggests that only excessive exercise would have a negative effect, and only then because it might reduce body fat so much that foetal and placental growth are affected. I can’t find anything about impact or stretching affecting conception, so I’m going to try not to worry and carry on exercising – I’ll just make sure I’m not pushing myself to the limits.