The Link Between Weight Loss and Fertility
By Windy Rhoton, RN
Did you know that obesity is a major cause for many to have difficulty getting pregnant? That’s one of the many reason that some women and men seek to lose weight. They want to start a family, but they are struggling. In fact, if you are overweight it can affect your fertility and the future health of your child.
Obesity is linked to infertility due to ovulation problems. Many obese women or those who have a BMI over 30 do not ovulate regularly. If one is not ovulating regularly, then pregnancy is a gamble. Okay, so, you should lose weight so you can start ovulating regularly, right? Well, that’s a great idea because losing weight is not only healthier for you, but will also minimize pregnancy complications. When trying to make the connection, researchers found even women with BMIs less than 30 were having trouble conceiving. Infertility can be a result of many variables (genetic abnormalities, infectious or environmental agents, delayed childbearing and diseases); however, one of the more common causes is polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that causes hormones to be out of balance, making it difficult to become pregnant. Having PCOS also makes it difficult to lose weight. Women with PCOS have small non-harmful cysts that grow on their ovaries causing hormone imbalances. These hormone imbalances not only cause infertility they cause other symptoms such as, acne, facial hair, weight gain, trouble losing weight, irregular periods, depression and increased insulin levels resulting in diabetes.
Prevention of infertility is based on identifying the cause and treating it. Sometimes the cause may be untreatable or sometimes you may find that you are not just treating one variable. In any case, meeting with a physician and identifying the cause early could help prevent infertility. It also may help prevent further health related problems.
Keep in mind, women who lose a significant amount of weight, may become more fertile. Therefore, it is important for women of childbearing age who have bariatric surgery to use contraception after surgery and until it is time to plan a pregnancy. If you have had a malapsortive procedure, oral contraceptives alone may not work so two methods are important.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2008). A Public Health Focus on Infertility Prevention, Detection, and Management. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/Infertility/Whitepaper-PG1.htm
Gurevich, Rachel (2014). The connection between Fertility and Weight. Retrieved from http://infertility.about/od/researchstudies/a/BMIsubfertile.htm
Haelle, Tara (2015). Exercise, Weight Loss Improved Fertility in Women with PCOS. Retrieved from http://Medscape.com/viewarticle/852102