For many women trying to conceive a child, factors such as age, lifestyle choices like drinking alcohol and smoking, hormone balance, family history, and even exposure to certain chemicals can all affect fertility. One factor that strongly affects a woman’s fertility is her body weight. Many women struggling with infertility may be unaware of this until they have a consultation with a fertility specialist.
So how does being overweight affect fertility and pregnancy? The exact medical reasons for excess pounds’ effect on fertility and pregnancy is still being explored. However, what is clear is that being overweight can disrupt a woman’s entire endocrine system (hormones). The consequences of excess body weight range from missed periods to infertility, but can also include complications with assisted fertility treatments, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and even miscarriage.
During pregnancy and labor, obesity can also cause complications. Obese pregnant women are 8 times more likely to develop pregnancy-related (gestational) diabetes. In addition, they have a much higher rate of pre-eclampsia, which is a serious health condition in pregnancy for both mother and baby. Overweight women generally have longer and more difficult labors. Additionally, it may be difficult to monitor the baby during delivery, which increases the likelihood of a c-section. Problems for the child can also develop later in a life child’s all the way through infancy and adolescence. For example, children born to obese parents are much more likely to become obese themselves.
An overweight woman has a BMI between 25 and 30, and a woman is considered to be obese if her BMI is over 30. BMI, or body mass index, is simply a measure comparing your height to your weight. A doctor can easily tell you your BMI, or you can calculate it here. If you calculate your BMI and your result falls above 25, do not become discouraged. Consulting with a fertility specialist or holistic practitioner specializing in women’s health can provide you with some effective lifestyle options that will greatly improve your health and improve your fertility. Treatments may also include holistic nutrition counseling and fertility treatments.
The most important aspect of addressing infertility caused by, or exacerbated by, obesity is persistence. Avoiding feeling guilty or shameful about your weight and fertility can be difficult but is vital - negative feelings may discourage you from making the necessary diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes in order to boost your fertile potential.
With continued effort and patience, losing just 5-10% of your total body weight can greatly improve your overall health, not just fertility and pregnancy outcomes. Working with a holistic doctor who can direct you on a path that is right for you, and monitor your progress, will greatly improve your results. Strongly consider including your partner in on your lifestyle changes – support is key! Also, a higher BMI in males is directly correlated with poor sperm quality and infertility, so you can take steps together to address your well-being.