Whether you have a standing pick-up basketball game at your local park each week or you belong to a beach volleyball league your sports participation may concern you regarding your fertility. Here we take a look at how playing sports impacts both male and female fertility.
Participating in sports is a great way to get your exercise and, for many people, a little friendly competition ups the fun factor. And even when you’re concerned about your fertility, engaging in a moderate amount of sports play is just fine with most doctors.
When Too Much is Just Too Much
The trouble arises when you take it to the highest level. Intense sports, frequent workouts, restricted diet and engaging in a demanding training schedule will absolutely impact both men’s and women’s fertility. The intensity surrounding any sport may affect your hormones and putting yourself at high risk for injury may even have a more permanent repercussion.
The hormonal impact comes from trading body fat for lean muscle mass, among other things. When women decrease body fat in exchange for muscle the loss interferes with regular menstrual cycles. If you don’t have regular periods it’s possible you aren’t ovulating. And, moreover, the odds of pregnancy diminish if your periods are irregular. Depending on how long you’ve been training at full-throttle your periods may stop altogether.
A Norwegian study found that of women under 30 who trained to exhaustion (no matter frequency or duration of that training) 24% developed fertility issues. When compared to a group who trained more moderately researchers found the group who trained to exhaustion were three times more likely to experience compromised fertility.
And it’s not only team sports that complicate fertility. Ballet dancing, distance running, gymnastics and even competitive swimming are among some of the sports that train intensely enough to disrupt your fertility. And women who participate in these types of sports often fall into the underweight category on the BMI charts, further complicating fertility.
How Playing Sports and Training Hard Impacts Men’s Fertility
Just as with women, the intensity, duration and type of training and athletic activity directly affects male fertility. Playing certain sports to the extreme affects male fertility in a negative way. Sports-related clothing that’s confining (think protective gear and bike shorts) raises the body temperature, especially in the testes. When the temperature goes up sperm production goes down.
And speaking of bicycles, riding more than 20 hours per week lowers sperm count in most men. Any contact sports may result in an injury to the groin which may cause damage to the testicles which disrupts sperm delivery. Weightlifters often accelerate their bodybuilding with anabolic steroids. Unfortunately so-called doping shrinks testicles and may prevent normal sperm production. This condition may cause severe male factor infertility so approach your bodybuilding wisely.
There Are Still Many Benefits to Regular Participation and Moderate Training
Given the many benefits of regular exercise it’s no surprise that a moderate amount improves your overall wellness including fertility. Exercise reduces stress, improves circulation and provides a boost of feel-good endorphins. Exercise, in general, is a wonderful antidote to the trying-to-conceive blues. But moderation is key. Listen to your body. If you feel exhausted, experience regular dehydration, begin losing weight or notice a disruption of your menstrual cycle tap out for a bit and see your doctor.
The good news? This negative impact on your fertility isn’t typically permanent. When you stop the intense training hormone levels return to normal and ovulation usually resumes. The best thing you can do as a female (or male) athlete is make an appointment with your physician and begin fertility testing. Once your doctor finds the cause of your fertility struggles, you’ll begin treatment.
The Best of Both
So how do you ensure your fertility even while being involved in a sport you enjoy? Train moderately, eat a healthy diet, avoid contact sports and use common sense when it comes to your level of intensity. Riffing on the slogan of a certain sports shoe company we say “just don’t overdo it!”
If you or your partner suspect your involvement in intense sports play compromised your fertility contact LA IVF. Our skilled team, led by highly experienced physicians, helps couples and individuals realize their dream of growing their family and we’ll help you too.