How Does Your Weight Affects Your Chances To Get Pregnant?

Weight management and fertility

What is obesity?

Obesity is defined by BMI (Body Mass Index) as it takes into account your height and therefore considered a more accurate indicator than weight alone. Overweight is defined as when your BMI  between 25.0 to 29.9 and obesity is characterized by BMI of over 30. Obesity is on the rise worldwide, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially deemed obesity an “epidemic”. According to WHO almost 40% of the world’s population is overweight. The prevalence is even higher in North America, according to Statistics Canada, 61.3% of adult Canadians are overweight or obese. These statistics are very alarming as obesity has a significant impact on many chronic physical and mental morbidities.

How does your weight affect your health?

Overweight and obesity lead to adverse effects on blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose metabolism. The result is an increased risk for coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. It is also associated with infertility in general but more specifically with anovulation (a condition where the ovaries fail to grow a mature follicle and release the egg) and increased risk for miscarriage as well as poor neonatal and maternal pregnancy outcomes. In addition, the combination of infertility and obesity poses additional long-term health risks and challenges for the patients trying to conceive. Obesity increases anesthesia and sedation-related risks and as a result, out of hospital procedures done under sedation (such as IVF) are limited to BMI of <40.

How does obesity impact your fertility:

1. Obesity affects your hormones  

Adipose tissue is considered as an endocrine organ producing several hormones. Among the hormones produced by fat cells are estrogen and leptin that may interfere with the initiation of the menstrual cycle and lead to anovulation.

2. Obesity increases insulin resistance

Excess weight, particularly excess abdominal fat, is linked to insulin resistance. Resistance to Insulin is a condition by a lack of tissue response to insulin, making it more difficult for the cells to absorb sugar and thus the body is not maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.  High blood sugar levels can inhibit ovulation, compromise egg quality, embryo development and later lead to the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

3. Obesity affects your partner’s fertility too

A recent study examining different lifestyle factors affecting male infertility has found that paternal obesity was associated with male infertility.  Overweight and obese men had poor testicular function causing poor sperm quality and low serum testosterone.

Furthermore, Obese men who were attempting IVF were less likely to have a successful pregnancy outcome. Weight loss may improve sperm quality and chances to achieve pregnancy, and live birth.

4. It reduces your IVF chances to conceive

A recent study found that obesity impacts fertility treatment success rates. Patients with BMI over 30 have significantly reduced rates of embryo implantation, pregnancy, and live birth. In addition, the amount of medication needed to stimulate the ovaries is higher.

5. It increases the risks during and after pregnancy

Obesity offers many health risks even after you eventually get pregnant:

Pregnancy-related complications:

  • The risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and recurrent miscarriage
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Preeclampsia (Pregnancy induced hypertension)
  • The need for a C-section and the risk of C-section complications.

Long-term complications:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Increase risk of all types of Cancer

What can you do to improve your fertility?

A study suggests that even moderate weight loss of only 5% weight may result in a resumption of ovulation. However the closer your weight is to the normal BMI range the safer your pregnancy and overall health will be. The take-home message from this study is quite encouraging as this weight goal is within reach and doesn’t necessarily means huge lifestyle changes. You will be surprised how small lifestyle changes can make a huge difference in your overall all mental and physical health. Here are few ideas to get you started:

  • Be mindful of what you eat and remember if you consume more calories than you spend you will gain weight.
  • Separate eating from other social activities (e.g. – watching tv) that may lead to unnecessary consumption of food.
  • Add 30 minutes of brisk walking to your daily routine. Use the stairs.
  • Replace sugary drinks and juices with water and make sure you drink at least 8 cups of water.
  • Eat your meal slowly.
  • Eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods.
  • Sleep – we tend to confuse the feeling of being tired with being hungry. Make sure you get enough sleep. It will help reduce your food craving.

Losing weight is hard to do on your own, you can try to do it together with your partner, join a weight loss support group in your community or online or just call us we can direct you to a nutritionist who can assist you with your weight loss journey. It all starts with a mindful decision to take back control of your life. Good Luck!

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