I was in complete shock after attending my 36-week midwife appointment last Tuesday. Fortunately, everything is perfect with Bump and myself, but it all started when I had to be weighed for my referral for the Birthing Suite at the West Suffolk Hospital … Can you see where this is going yet? I’ve sustained a healthy weight of 57kg (just under 9 stone) for about 4 years now, so when a new number popped up on that scale 3 stone more than I was 8 months ago, I suddenly felt a massive lump in my throat and walked out the surgery venting my frustration to friends and AP. I mean; it’s not like I’ve stopped exercising or even eating poorly – so why the hell have I put on three stone!? Then I thought to myself, hang on a moment, how much of this is actually baby, water retention, placenta, amniotic fluid, and increased body fat specifically being stored to create another human and potential breast feeding!? Some women would kill to be in my position and go to great lengths to even conceive. Rewind nine years ago, I myself, suffered from secondary amenorrhea for a few years, which meant my body wasn’t in a position to ovulate or even have periods, which meant back then, I too, didn’t think I would be able to have children. However, when my nutrition bettered and increased, my periods started flooding back in my early twenties which of course lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. This leads me on to this week’s Rev blog regarding how diet and even exercise can affect your fertility…
As we all know too well, hormones are extremely sensitive and complex within the body. If we’re too overweight; we disrupt our reproductive system by producing too much Oestrogen veering our way to an early menopause, yet on the other side of the spectrum, if we’ve got a very low body fat percentage; our Luteinsing hormone which triggers Oestrogen, isn’t produced causing the standstill of ovulation and even the production of the hormones Oestrogen and Progesterone all together! Now, this blog isn’t about being underweight, it’s actually about taking the ‘Strong-not-Skinny’ aspect to a whole other level, longing for that desire to get incredibly lean to a point where a women’s body is under 17% body fat. When following a strict diet and extreme exercise regime, the body perceives us to be in a stressed state and decides that we’re not in a position to reproduce any time soon, so effectively shuts down the signals from the brain to the ovaries.
Like I mentioned before, I’m not just focusing on undereating, the problem can also arise when nutritional variation and BMI (Body Mass Index) comes into play. We all know that BMI doesn’t take into account muscle mass, which compared to fat is 80% water instead of the 5-10% that is in fatty tissue. What I’m getting at, is that even an incredibly lean athlete with very little body fat, can actually be placed in a normal range within the BMI method due to their weight being increased via the amount of muscle they have compared to their fat … Crazy isn’t it? So, hang on, this doesn’t seem to be fair, does it? To be the best at something takes dedication, commitment and time, yet by doing this it can also affect a women’s natural ability to conceive. According to the Female Athlete Triad, 65% of female long distance runners have irregular cycles, yet with the training they need to do to become the best it clearly impedes the gain of body fat. We can’t bloody win by the sounds of things…
Nowadays, women in their early twenties are thought to be the main concern in regards to being too lean to support pregnancy. Why? Well, with partying, bikini’s and white skinny jeans, the last thing on their minds is motherhood! For those young women who do endure intense training and not enough nutrition to support their energy expenditure, their body fat will significantly decrease affecting menstruation and like anything, the longer that they’re in this ‘stressed state’, the longer it will take to rectify itself, or in some sad cases in even rectify at all.
So, when is getting too lean a risk even before menstrual cycles become irregular or even non-existent? Well, the body is an amazing thing. If it doesn’t think we have enough body fat, it creates a little more body hair in places for insulation, drop in sex drive, and even scheduling your whole entire life around exercise and meal prep, are also mental traits that shows someone is too focused to get unhealthily lean for future developments. However, like most things, loss of periods through too little body fat IS reversible. You just need to catch it in time – I did, and here I am three stone heavier at 8 months pregnant, excited to get down to my healthy and optimum weight the healthy way … The Rev.Way!
Female Athlete Triad; http://www.ivf1.com/female-athlete-triad/