Is Your Weight Affecting Your Fertility?

Female stressed due to infertility

Here’s why being underweight or overweight may be affecting your chances of conceiving.

When people think about weight affecting you negatively, many people quickly think about being overweight. It may surprise you that the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) reported that the infertility cases are fifty-fifty between women being underweight and overweight. Out of the 12% of all primary infertility due to weight issues, 6% is due to being underweight, and the other 6% is due to women being overweight. It’s impressive how smart the human body is. It ensures that you are where you need to be to support your baby. It’s actually quite amazing what veering towards a healthier you can do. 

The Impact of Being Overweight 

Those who have a BMI (body mass index) of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight, and being 30 and above is categorized as obese. When it comes to being overweight or obese, people usually associate it with the health risks such as diabetes and heart disease, but it can also impact your fertility. Being overweight is linked to hormonal imbalances, and can also intensify PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). This can cause irregularities with ovulation. The great news is that even a small weight loss can help improve the symptoms of PCOS and can even help restore normal function in the ovaries. This in turn, can help bring your body towards normal hormone production. 

According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, studies suggested that “obesity in women increases the risk of infertility by impairing ovulation, oocyte quality, fertilization, embryo quality and implantation.” Because of this correlation between a higher BMI and infertility, many overweight and obese women resort to ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies). In 2007 it was reported that 40% of the women utilizing ART in the United States were either overweight or obese. It is also reported that women who weren’t at a normal weight experienced more issues with ART, while a normal BMI resulted in more favorable statistics. 

Being Underweight is Equally Impactful

Being underweight (BMI under 18.5) just like being overweight, can reduce a woman’s fertility by causing hormone imbalances that affect ovulation and therefore chances of getting pregnant. Compared to women in the healthy weight range, women who are underweight are more likely to take more than a year to get pregnant. When a woman is underweight, she may be more at risk of being nutritionally deficient and having osteoporosis. This combined with having an irregular menstrual cycle can increase infertility. Having a low body fat can also suppress hormones which interferes with ovulation or causes ovulation to not occur. Some women are underweight due to excessive exercise, which sometimes can cause irregular periods and may stop ovulation. If you are underweight, lifestyle changes can also make a positive impact. In a Harvard Study, women with irregular or absent ovulation reduced their risk of infertility by 80% after changing 5 or more aspects of their intake and output (exercise).

What can you do about your weight?

If you are in the midst of your fertility journey, starting a healthy plan with optimal food and exercise can be very impactful whether you need to lose or gain more weight. This is especially true if you are using ART during your journey. Taking supplements such as folic acid, having a balanced food diet while avoiding discretionary foods that are processed or full of sugar, and making sure that you keep your body moving daily, even if it’s just walking around doing errands, are all actions that play a part in positively affecting your fertility. 

If your weight or fertility has been a point of concern, the team at the Fertility Institute of San Diego can give you the support you need. They are a boutique San Diego fertility center that firmly believes that total wellness is an essential component during your fertility journey and pregnancy. Dr. Hosseinzadeh and her dedicated team of fertility specialists are here to help you throughout any part of your journey. Southern California residents can take advantage and book a free consultation with Dr. Hosseinzadeh, to go over nutrition or any other fertility related questions, by clicking here.

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