Obesity is a major health concern in the U.S. The obesity rate for Americans ages 15 and over is a staggering 42.4%. Researchers predict that number will creep past 50% in the next decade. And with it any related and potentially life-limiting conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.
You already know the list of obesity-related health conditions is long and now you can add infertility to the list of those conditions directly affected by weight. Both underweight and overweight individuals struggle when it comes to trying to conceive, but the higher your body mass index, the more difficult it is.
Weight Classifications and Body Mass Index
Terms used to classify a person’s weight are “underweight”, “healthy”, “overweight”, “obese” and “extremely obese”. Physicians determine these classifications using the body mass index (BMI) calculation of height and weight. If your BMI isn’t in the healthy range your physician considers other factors such as age and genetics before making a conclusive determination. However, the BMI measurement is the standard estimate, or starting point, for determining your weight classification.
Being underweight affects your cycles in a way that disrupts ovulation and makes pregnancy extremely difficult. Overweight individuals may also experience difficulty with normal ovulation. When your doctor determines you are obese or extremely obese, it’s cause for concern on many levels, especially in how your obesity impacts your fertility. Obesity is the reason behind fertility struggles in six percent of women, who haven’t been pregnant before.
Moreover, according to the NIH, as your BMI increases your fertility struggles increase as well. Obesity not only interferes with your reproductive health, but makes pregnancy difficult for both you and your baby. Chances for miscarriage, stillbirth and preterm delivery go up with your weight. Your risk for blood clots, diabetes, preeclampsia (a deadly condition that threatens your pregnancy as well as your own health), cardiac dysfunction, sleep apnea and increases your odds for needing a c-section. Finally, if you do become pregnant, the risk of birth defects such as heart defects and neural tube defects increases significantly.
How Obesity Affects Your Fertility
Having a high BMI such as being obese or extremely obese inhibits normal ovulation. Your ovaries make estrogen and fat cells store excess estrogen. When your body recognizes the estrogen overload it reacts as though you are already pregnant and prevents ovulation. This is the same science behind estrogen containing-birth control, by the way.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is obesity related and anytime you gain excess weight it affects your PCOS and causes more hormonal confusion within your body. PCOS seems like a vicious cycle as the condition causes weight gain and weight gain increases the condition. About 80% of women who have PCOS are either overweight or obese.
According to the NIH and a related study, losing simply five to ten percent of your weight improves your PCOS-related fertility. Weight loss is difficult when you have PCOS, but it isn’t impossible. With the aid of your physician, you can improve your fertility through weight loss.
Obesity doesn’t just impact your ability to get pregnant the “old-fashioned way”. When you’re carrying excess body fat, it can interfere with fertility treatment such as IVF as well. Excess weight diminishes egg quality and viability. Obesity leads to less successful implantation of the embryo. Even with IVF the miscarriage risk for obese women is still there. Up to 10% are less likely to give birth to a live birth and healthy baby.
Obese women undergoing treatment for infertility also face risks from procedures. Sedation (used in procedures such as egg retrieval) is generally considered less safe for obese individuals. There are breathing concerns and the risk for a spike in blood pressure due to excess weight.
Women aren’t alone in obesity-related fertility issues. Excess weight in men affects sperm production, libido, testosterone levels and contributes to erectile dysfunction. A recent Harvard Health study found obese men are 42% more likely to have a low sperm count when compared to men of a healthy BMI and 81% more likely to produce no sperm at all.
What Can You Do?
If you suspect your weight is affecting your ability to conceive, contact LA IVF, so let’s find out. Sometimes the solution is a change in your lifestyle and more often, there are underlying conditions. It’s essential to your health and the health of your future family to get to the reasons behind your high BMI. Our supportive and compassionate staff are with you every step of the way. Contact LA IVF today and let’s make your parenting dreams come true.