How Weight Affects Your Fertility & Your Chances of Getting Pregnant

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For most couples, fertility is the last thing on their minds. Other issues dominate such as planning the honeymoon adventure of a lifetime or saving for a starter home. However, when the family planning starts in earnest and nothing happens, it can be the most difficult and trying of times.

As couples elect to marry later and have children later, there is a biological factor at play. The older you get, the less fertile you become.

It’s the natural ageing process.

However, there is also lifestyle issues at play that can have a profound impact on fertility. For many women and men, we lead more sedentary lifestyles and as a result fitness and mobility levels have reduced dramatically.

Add poor dietary choices and too much alcohol to the mix and fertility takes a further hit.

With so much at stake, it makes sense to explore your options to see what advice and help is available to help you achieve your goal of having children.

We are not a fertility clinic but as a result of helping many couples to lose weight and lead healthier lifestyles, they have progressed in a very short space of time to conceiving.

How Weight Is Linked To Our Fertility

Even just two decades ago, the role of diet and lifestyle was often overlooked in fertility issues. Now doctors believe that it’s a crucial part of our reproductive health. And, with one in six couples now experiencing fertility issues (according to the World Health Organisation), it can no longer be ignored. While, in many cases, individuals have no control over the factors that contribute to infertility, we know that there are modifiable factors (namely diet and exercise) that can play a significant role in getting pregnant. In fact, research suggests that diet and lifestyle changes can help boost fertility by up to 69%. Of course, being at a healthy weight doesn’t guarantee fertility, but it will certainly help. And isn’t it worth the effort?

*Note: being significantly underweight can affect fertility negatively also. The key is to aim to get your weight as close to ‘healthy’ as possible.

So What’s The Bad News

Unfortunately being overweight can alter hormones that control menstrual cycles and ovulation which, in turn, affects your ability to conceive? One study showed that, as a woman’s BMI went over 29, her chances of conceiving decreased by 4% compared to women with a normal BMI of 25. And each point over a BMI of 29 caused an additional 4% decline in success. The reason for this is that fat cells can produce and mimic oestrogen, preventing you from ovulating regularly (and this can even put you at a greater risk of breast cancer). Too much natural estrogen can actually cause your body to react as if you are taking hormonal birth control with estrogen (like the pill, shot, or vaginal ring) or are already pregnant. This can prevent you from ovulating and having a monthly period.

Obesity may also reduce your chances of getting pregnant with certain fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). According to a 2010 review in the Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences, women with a higher BMI don’t tend to respond as well as women with a healthy BMI to fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF). And obesity is associated with lower testosterone levels and impaired sperm quality, as well as a higher rate of erectile dysfunction (ED), all of which affect fertility in men.

More Bad News…But Read On For The Good

We now know that being overweight can also increase your risk of insulin resistance (leading to type II diabetes). When this happens, you can have a high level of insulin in your blood which can cause metabolic disturbances that negatively impact ovulation. Insulin resistance has also been associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which can also lead to fertility issues. The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but excess insulin might play a role. Having said that, not everyone with insulin resistance will have PCOS. Not only this but the research also shows that being overweight can increase the risk of complications both during pregnancy and at birth.

There appears to be higher miscarriage rates among obese and overweight women – the exact mechanisms aren’t yet known, but endocrine problems like PCOS and insulin resistance are thought to play a role. Obesity also increases the risk of pregnancy-related complications like high blood pressure, diabetes, and preterm birth. And according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG), American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Babies born to obese women [with a BMI of 30 or greater] have an increased risk of having birth defects, such as heart defects and neural tube defects.”

Finally…..The Good News!

So, although you can’t blame your weight for your infertility (as there may be other factors at play), it may be part of the picture – for both sides of the party, male and female. The good news is that losing as little as 5% of body weight can dramatically improve the chances of pregnancy – again this refers to both the male and female partners. Research shows that excessive hormone levels can drop to within the normal range when a patient loses weight and even bringing down your BMI by a few points can increase your odds of success in conceiving substantially.

At Motivation we strive to show the public how to shed excess weight for a better life and better health. But it’s sometimes hard to motivate people to take the necessary action and to take that first step into our clinic. What better motivation, though, than the desire to have a baby? For us, these clients are easy to work with as they can see a tangible, life-changing result that might hopefully occur during or at the end of their weight loss journey.

Evolving Technology

The other good news is that now is not a bad time to live in if you’re facing infertility. There’s an increasing number of options currently available when someone struggles to get pregnant. These include blood and hormone tests to establish fertility, surgery (eg, to treat ovarian cysts), drugs that can stimulate ovulation as well as in vitro fertilisation (IVF), intrauterine insemination (IUI) and ICSI where a single sperm is injected into the egg. If you have been trying to get pregnant without success for 12 months, then it may be a good time to consider seeking help. Make sure you do thorough research when choosing a fertility clinic that suits you best.

It’s also worthwhile to embark on a sensible weight loss programme in conjunction with your chosen fertility treatment to improve success.

We can show you the type of eating plan and lifestyle that can help maximise your chance of conceiving – please click here to download our free guide How Your Weight Can Affect Your Fertility. 

This guide shows you  how to make basic changes to your lifestyle that will increase your chances of conceiving.

Get your copy now!

Recent international research has shown that being overweight may reduce both the chance of conception and the response to fertility treatment.

Being overweight also increases the risk of miscarriage and pregnancy complications. Not forgetting, obesity can have an impact on male fertility also.

Am I Overweight?

That’s the all-important question and the BMI calculator is a really handy tool to help you figure out if you are overweight and if so, where you are on the spectrum.

BMI stands for ‘body mass index’, and is a number generated by dividing your body weight by your height.

A BMI calculator allows you to quickly figure out this number, giving you a general indication of whether your weight falls within a healthy range or not.

A healthy BMI is considered to be between 18.5 and 24.9. Having a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered ‘overweight’ and a BMI over 30 is considered ‘obese’.

To find out your BMI click on the following – find my BMI

Please note: the BMI calculator is only a guide but it is generally accepted as a reliable indicator for obesity.

My Weight And My Fertility

Assuming that the BMI calculator has indicated that your weight lies within the obese category, what next? It’s important to note that women who are overweight or have been referenced as obese on the BMI chart have a reduced chance of getting pregnant.

Not only that, the length of time to get pregnant can vary but more than a year and over is not uncommon.

Also, once pregnant, there is a range of medical conditions that may occur as a direct result of being obese; conditions that negatively impact both the mother and the baby she is carrying.

The good news is that weight loss has a hugely beneficial impact on both mother and baby and many of the conditions associated with being obese will not only reduce but in many instances disappear altogether.

Losing Weight – Next Steps

We’ve been operating weight loss programmes in Ireland for over 23 years. In that time we’ve worked with many women and men who’ve struggled to get pregnant but after completing one of our weight loss programmes have gone on to lose weight, conceive and start a family of their own.

Not only that, but by losing weight they have reduced and eliminated many of the medical conditions that prevailed while they were overweight.

1. We invite you to book an initial assessment with you local Motivation Weight Management clinic.

2. At the assessment we complete a full body composition analysis and take your measurements.

3. We explain our approach in-depth and recommend the programme we believe is best for you.  You’ll meet every week in one of our weight loss clinics for a relaxed one-to-one session where your compassionate weight loss advisor will help you work towards your goal of conceiving.

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