As little as 10 pounds could make a difference if trying to get pregnant while overweight or obese.
The obesity epidemic in the United States continues. Currently, more than 35 percent of women are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This causes many problems in these women’s health including their chances of getting pregnant.
Compared with a woman of healthy weight, an overweight or obese woman will have a harder time getting and staying pregnant. Achieving pregnancy is not only harder for obese and overweight women who are trying to conceive naturally but it is also true for such women using in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Many overweight and obese women can get pregnant without any issues. But for others, the weight causes ovulation problems that can lead to fertility issues.
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), studies have shown that obese women have lower pregnancy and higher miscarriage rates. Obese women are three times more likely to experience infertility as are women of normal weight.
A woman whose BMI is in the obese range may experience irregular menstrual cycles and ovulation. In fact, an obese woman is three times more likely to experience anovuation (no release of an egg during her menstrual cycle) than a normal weight woman.
Obese women can also experience problems producing the desired amount of reproductive hormones. This can be reversed by weight loss. A 5 to 7 percent decrease in body weight, or about 10 to 20 pounds, by an obese woman will increase her chances of getting pregnant.
It takes longer for obese women to become pregnant, which can be a mentally debilitating factor. This can affect an obese woman’s sex drive resulting in less sexual intercourse and less chance of conception. Obese women also experience sexual dysfunction at a higher rate than normal weight women.
These are not the only issues that an overweight or obese woman can experience in getting pregnant. There are also a handful of disorders associated with obesity that can impact the chances of pregnancy such as insulin resistance, diabetes and thyroid disease. Obese women also are at a higher risk for developing pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure), gestational diabetes and sleep apnea.
Male obesity can also affect conceiving a child. Obesity in men has been linked to changes in testosterone levels and other hormones, which are important for reproduction. Low sperm motility (movement) and count are also more prevalent in overweight and obese men than in a man of normal weight.
The combination of an obese male and obese female in a couple further diminishes their chances of pregnancy.
First off, you need to determine how much you are overweight or underweight, as being underweight also affects fertility. The easiest way is to calculate your body mass index (BMI). You can determine this by using the BMI calculator provided by the National Institutes of Health and inserting your weight and height.
A woman’s BMI is considered normal if it is between 19 and 24. A woman under 19 is considered underweight. A woman between 25 and 29 is considered overweight and a woman with a BMI greater than 30 is considered obese.
For each BMI number over 30, a woman’s monthly chance for pregnancy decreases by about 12 percent. These numbers show that weight can really impact a woman’s ability to conceive.
If you are overweight or obese and looking to get pregnant, the best thing you can do for your health and your future child’s health is to set up an appointment with your doctor to discuss your options. Most of the time, you will be advised to begin to lose weight. This will increase your chances for pregnancy as well as decrease the chances of many other problems that are increased with women who are overweight.
We know that weight loss is hard and can oftentimes feel very frustrating. But even losing a small percentage of your weight can improve your overall health, help you get pregnant and help you have a healthy pregnancy.
It is important to make sure that you are losing weight in a healthy manner. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. You can do this by eating healthier food and getting regular exercise.
One simple way that we always suggest to my overweight infertility patients is cutting calories in drink options. Instead of drinking soda, sweet tea or coffee and juice, consider drinking water, which has zero calories. Of course, there are thousands of tips on weight loss, and it is up to each woman to find those that work for her. For more information about a healthy fertility diet, read our blog on just that topic.
This all being said, an overweight or obese woman can get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy. But if you are overweight or obese and experiencing difficulty getting pregnant, you should be evaluated by a fertility specialist to determine if weight loss alone is the solution. Other factors may also be contributing to your infertility.
We offer a holistic care approach, which means we take a person’s whole health into account when treating them. This includes his or her mind, spirit, body, emotions and lifestyle.
You can set up a meeting with us by calling booking an appointment online.
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