N.B This post was first published in this blog on July 2020.
It was some almost 4years ago I first encountered Nneka Kyari at a prophetic motherhood event I attended put together by my super mentor DDK. She had come to share her journey from infertility to fruitfulness. Having waited for some years and could not conceive. At some point, she decides she is going to give her all to fight this.
She resigned her job, cut back on too much church activities (but not on God, they are different), researched a whole lot, optimized her diet (hello healthy foods) and started working out. I was especially struck by the last two points as I had at the time just launched CoachE’Squad Ltd. and so my antenna was here for all things fitfam.
She had explained how her choice of meals and the exercises she engaged in were strategic to aid conception. I mean, sure she knew children would come from God but here she was doing what she had to do to ensure that her body was ready to receive this gift from God. I recall her saying something about some workouts increasing blood flow to the abdominal region and all that and even though I didn’t quite get it, I was intrigued. Now I know that she was talking about the endometrial blood flow and helping create the lining required for an embryo to implant in the womb. Sorry if I lost you there for a quick nanosecond haha.
Nneka would conceive a few months into her fight and give birth to twins but we are not here for Nneka’s story (You can check out my review of her book, Breaking through the haze, and how to purchase it on my personal blog here)
I shared her story to bring some human angle to the fact that when it comes to conception, in addition to our faith and prayers, what you eat and your physical activity level (PAL) matters. Do some chicks get away with eating crap and still go on to have even triplets?
But I have come to realize that we are all on individual life journeys and if your path calls for you to be more intentional about your health, coveting and comparing with another lady’s path will not help you get pregnant. You must go for knowledge and then apply that knowledge to do better on your own journey.
I love this scripture that encourages us not to compare ourselves with another but to the MEASURE OF FAITH we have each been given.
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
Romans 12:3 NLT
Let us start with workouts as that may be the one that you may need convincing on.
Street knowledge literally forbids exercising in pregnancy and those looking to conceive are almost physically banned from working out. And I even see it with my clients; once I have a TTC squaddie sign up, she lets me know she is TTC and usually thinks she doesn’t have to work out. Thank God for the reorientation and education we do.
When it comes to conception, among other things, it is a game of balance of hormones. Read this post I did on fertility and body fat here for some context.
If your PAL is too low (i.e. you are too sedentary) or too high (you over workout), it can disrupt your hormonal balance (Food too plays a part but we are starting with workouts) .
Research over and over again has shown that moderate (and I will define moderate later) exercising boosts fertility, increases the egg implantation rate and reduces the risk of a miscarriage.
Exercising on a regular has also been shown to reduce stress levels. This is very important as the body is smart enough to know that seasons of high stress is not a good time to carry a baby. In fact there is a level your stress will get to and it will affect ovulation, including delaying it or generally seizing it (stress-induced anovulation).
It can block the best conception methods whether natural or artificial insemination (like IVF). Which is why no matter how tempting it is to stress when trusting GOD for conception, please try not to.
Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.
1 Peter 5:7 AMPC
And hey, if exercising leads you to shed the excess fat if overweight, we are all here for it. Please read my post HERE on how excess body fat can block attempts at conception https://coache.ng/2019/09/26/body-fat-and-baby-fat-does-a-womans-body-weight-matter-for-fertility/
So yes to keeping your physical activity levels (PAL) high to help balance your hormones, control your weight (especially those overweight), and as mentioned earlier like Nneka said, it helps endometrial blood flow, creating the lining required for an embryo to implant in the womb.
Now before you start, you must keep it of moderate intensity and aim to be consistent at it for 30mins at least 6 times a week.
What does moderate exercise look like?
Brisk walking, jogging, running and even walking is great. Swimming and cycling (stationary or moving)?
Yes please. Let your heart rate soar but not to the point where you are literally gasping for breath.
Strength training workouts whether using free weights (like dumb bells), your body weight (like squats, lunges and push-ups), or resistance bands like the one pictured below are all welcome.
And if you are fancy and ajebo, yoga and Pilates also fly.
Oh and just for effect, take the stairs. A LOT.
Be like one of my intermittent fasters who ditches the lift, gets to the 12th floor, take a pix and sends to me and says, STAIRS CONQUERED!!!
If already underweight, please reduce time, frequency and duration of workouts.
Please do not overdo it as studies have shown that fertility declined when exercising was too much.
You can always work with an expert to help determine what works for you. Do me an email if you need my help at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I already mentioned not to overdo it as you do not want your body interpreting intense workout as stress. Of course, every wise TTC woman knows to check with her Doctor before beginning any new routine both of food and exercises.
Once cleared, keep going mama, and when conception happens, take that workout groove into pregnancy and continue to rock that bump with some discipline.
Ok so hopefully I have convinced you that working out is fine even when TTC. Now let us look at our diet.
One word: MEDITERRANEAN DIET aka MD
Kai, you will say we have come again with another diet. Which one is this one now?
Simples. Don’t block it out just yet…
The Mediterranean diet is really a clean diet.
Minimal to NO junk, lots of fish and sea food, fruits, veggies, whole grains, tubers, nuts and seeds, legumes and all other good stuff. The MD also calls for use of extra virgin olive oil to cook as opposed to our regular oils. And I don’t mean deep frying.
This diet would help control your weight and is also super heart healthy, lowering the bad cholesterol in the body. With all that fibre, your digestive health is also boosted and then fish, means it is also brain healthy. Though we cannot go crazy on the animal protein too. There are other plant sources of protein like soya beans, mushrooms, chick peas (you can find this in any big super market) and more.
This diet has been proven to even boost your chances at IVF, and if weight loss is the goal (being at an ideal weight is best for conception), the MD is actually more effective than any low fat/carb diet.
The MD, with history dating to the 60s in Greece and Italy also promotes such values as eating with family as opposed to this western style of eating in front of a screen, mindless eating (popping stuff, especially junk, into your mouth without paying attention). Of course eating with family means that hubby gets to eat the same thing as you and is also eating healthily as a good number of fertility concerns stem from the man and his lifestyle. Read my post on male infertility here https://coache.ng/2019/09/26/body-weight-obesity-and-how-it-affects-male-fertility-too/
Funny thing is if you are a clean eater and are particular about your diet, and not under that unhealthy pressure to lose weight (which can cause you to start taking those funny teas, pills. and stuff), chances are high that you are on a Mediterranean diet already. Just read all I have mentioned above and you will see the simplicity of this diet.
Nothing over fancy and everything practical and traditional so there are no excuses. I mean, we are talking a healthy lifestyle here and any investment we make in our health is really for US and no one else so it is worth it. In fact I like the way I heard it one time… ‘Invest in yourself, you DESERVE IT’
And if I can talk to you like a sister, let’s face it babes, some of us, overweight or not, eat way too much crap and junk and trust me when I say it is doing more harm than good. I cannot mention the number of Squaddies trusting God for kids who come on board my program, clean up their diet, lose weight AND GET PREGNANT!!! So yes, the MD is a super healthy diet we should all be on anyways, especially my sisters in faith for their babies.
Which is why we recently launched the MEDITERENEAN DIET for my TTC sisters on my weight loss program.
Yes, we pray together but I also wanted to be sure that their food and lifestyle were also optimized to carry the blessing when it comes. For now, we are not selling the plan ‘outside’ except you come on board our program as we would like to work closely with you as you begin the diet and lifestyle.
Speaking of lifestyle, while PAL and diet play a major role in fertility, other lifestyle factors follow too…
Alcohol, smoking, drugs, and the likes are better off exempted from the lifestyle of a woman going to conceive. I mean, is it not better we err on the side of caution?
So I hope with these few points of mine, I have been able to convince my TTC sisters to be more intentional about leading a healthy lifestyle both with their diet and PAL, keep stress and stressors low, and of course avoid such unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive alcohol intake.
And don’t forget prayers mama. But let us not neglect others too.
In faith with you Sis