We just came back from a relaxing and fun week down south at the beach and I was settling back into the daily routine when my husband, Priyan, came back from walking the dog, Tyson, and asked me how I was feeling. I thought for a minute and realised how I was feeling in limbo. Not just because of the readjustment from the holiday vibe back to normal life, but because this is the first month we decided to try to conceive again after a 6 month break following two very emotionally and physically difficult miscarriages starting this time last year. Not being spring chickens (I turned 40 last year) we agreed we would give it one last shot.
Anyone who has actively tried to conceive might be familiar with the ups and downs of the two week ‘limbo’ window that falls just after ovulation and before the start of the menstrual cycle comes around again. Every twinge in your lower abdomen, a slightly stuffy nose, the tiniest wave of nausea or some sensitivity in your breasts might by a symptom of pregnancy, and the closer you get to the expected start day of your next period the more convinced you get. Then comes the disappointment when your period starts and you’re feeling a bit silly about the way you swore your body ‘just felt different’. Those two waiting weeks after ovulation are also paired with some major hormonal shifts leading to mood swings. Motivation and energy ebbs and flows.
After such a difficult year of COVID, unexpectedly relocating to a tropical country half way across the world with a toddler in tow, and recurrent pregnancy loss, the idea of getting pregnant is scary. It has an impact on everything I do; dietary habits, sleep prioritisation etc, but mostly it has an impact on how I train. There is no reason why I shouldn’t train the way I always have (I love deadlifts and chin-ups), aside from perhaps de-loading during the last week of the menstrual cycle to account for the hormonal shifts making me feel tired and sluggish. But now, after ovulation, I’m scared to lift heavy; scared that too much pressure on my lower abdomen might cause a potentially implanted egg to come away from the uterine lining. There is absolutely NO EVIDENCE to support the idea that exercise – even high impact movements – is related to miscarriage, but I’m taking a risk/reward approach and tone down to intensity for those two weeks – just in case. Emotions play a huge part in making your desires and beliefs come true*. I would not advise someone I am coaching that lifting weights poses any kind of risk when you are trying to conceive, because I know it’s not correct, BUT I would listen to her concerns and programme according to what she feels comfortable with. She really doesn’t have to be setting PBs at this stage in her life if she’s even questioning it.
So when you hear me say ‘it depends’ in response to a question on how to train after recurrent pregnancy loss when trying to conceive; that’s why. It’s not simply a case of there being no evidence that exercise can cause miscarriage. It’s unhelpful to be told that you can ‘do what you’ve always done’, or ‘listen to your body’. It’s goes far deeper than that; it’s facing the demons and listening to them and saying ‘OK, cool, you’re scared, let’s work around that and not give up doing what you love’.
If you have experienced/or are experiencing pregnancy loss, I’m so sorry – and please reach out to me if you would like some personal support. If you are looking to return to exercise, I can coach you in a 1-1 environment if being around pregnant ladies and babies is too difficult for you right now.
Here are some resources that have really helped me deal with the grief and recovery:
Maryam Refai , Psychologist BSC (Hons). MPhil (Clin Psych), CPD
Mama’s Mental Health Evidence Based Approach to empower and support Mama’s
Isik Tlabar, Empowerment Coach
1:1 Coaching & Breathwork
*Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr Joe Dispenza.