How Your Weight May Affect Your Fertility

August 15, 2022

woman on scale with appleWeight management is healthcare because being overweight or obese directly increases the risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and various other health risks. However, women interested in getting pregnant are wise to adopt a “healthy weight lifestyle” because weight also affects fertility rates. Here are five ways your weight negatively impacts fertility.

5 Ways Being Underweight, Overweight, Or Obese Threatens Fertility

Here are five ways your weight negatively impacts fertility.

1. There is a direct relationship between BMI and pregnancy rates

Beyond some of the more layered reasons we’ll go into below, the black-and-white statistics indicate a direct connection between body mass index (BMI) and pregnancy rates. Women with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 have the highest conception rates and the lowest risk of pregnancy complications

Women who fall outside of that range are at higher risk for:

● Struggling to conceive
● Infertility diagnosis
● Failed fertility treatments
● Miscarriage
● Gestational diabetes
● Preterm labor/delivery
● Giving birth to babies who are under or overweight

Use an online BMI calculator and see where you land. If you’re in the normal range, fantastic! If not, schedule a preconception appointment with your OB/GYN and create a personalized lifestyle plan focusing on weight management.

2. Being underweight is as risky as being overweight

Our culture over-emphasizes thinness. The idea is that the thinner you are, the healthier and better you are. Of course, this is not true in any case, but being underweight threatens your ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby. First and foremost, women with eating disorders or participating in extreme sports/athletics are more likely to experience irregular periods, preventing them from ovulating. 

Then, if they do get pregnant, they risk malnourishment, poor development of the baby, and increased chances of miscarriage or premature delivery. If you fall below the 18.5 BMI level, schedule an appointment with your General Practitioner to look at your diet and workout levels. Then, make the changes necessary to remain active but get your BMI into the healthy range.

3. Diet affects fertility

There is a range of reasons why people are overweight or obese (a BMI of 25 is considered overweight; a BMI of 30+ is obese). Some are medically related, such as PCOS or hypothyroidism. However, by and large, diet and exercise habits are driving factors. Most patients who fall above the 24.9 BMI range have a greater intake of:

● Processed sugars and carbohydrates
● Processed foods
● Foods high in saturated fats and salt
● Calories per day

The word “diet” is understandably a trigger. We know many women have yo-yod all over the place with their weight, never finding the diet that works. Instead of dietary restrictions, consider your goals centering around a weight-friendly nutritional plan. First, rule out any medical issue or medication contributing to weight gain or difficulty losing weight. 

Then, create a nutritional plan with lots of colorful, flavorful, and nutrient-rich foods like a Mediterranean diet. Food choices in nutritional plans like the Mediterranean or South Beach diet are anti-inflammatory and support health conditions like type 2 diabetes, PCOS, Endometriosis, and high blood pressure.

Balanced blood sugar is a place to put your focus. There is a correlation between insulin sensitivity and infertility, believed to be the result of the complex relationship between insulin, weight, and reproductive hormone levels. We promise there are so many snacks, treats, and desserts you will enjoy once you learn to modify and swap out unhealthy ingredients for their healthier counterparts.

4. High-risk pregnancy

If you are pregnant and obese, your pregnancy is considered “high-risk.” That makes it harder for you to enjoy being pregnant because much of the focus is on keeping you and your baby safe. Two of the most significant risks are gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, which are as dangerous for your baby as they are for you. And, babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

5. Fertility treatment failure

If you wind up going down the infertility treatment road, weight still matters. All the data shows that women who are notably under or overweight have a longer road to full-term pregnancy than our patients who fall within the normal range. One reason is that it’s more challenging to accurately prescribe healthy fertility medication doses, especially for overweight or obese women with PCOS.

Overweight and obese women also experience:

● Fewer eggs retrieved
● Greater difficulty during embryo transfer for IVF in addition to lower embryo implantation rates
● More IVF or fertility cycles before they are successful

Work with Healthcare Providers Who Take a Big Picture Approach to Health

Here at Women’s Health Associates, we understand that female health – and reproductive health – through the ages requires a big picture and long view approach. We a passionate about partnering with our patients, listening deeply to their stories, and then creating personalized health plans that support the well-being of their bodies, minds, and spirits. Contact us to schedule your first appointment.