Infertility impacts around ten percent of the population in the US. There are myriad reasons why those of childbearing age experience difficulties becoming pregnant. Both female factor infertility and male factor infertility stem from many different conditions and sometimes both partners contribute to infertility. Even more frustrating? A diagnosis of unexplained infertility.
Sometimes your fertility journey feels out of your control. There seems to be nothing you can do to make an impactful change in your own fertility. However, there are some conditions which may be in your control and one of them is your weight.
Weight-Related Infertility Isn’t Just for the Obese
It’s no secret (thanks to the storyline of a popular TV show) that being overweight, specifically obese, . The reason for this is that an excess of fat cells disrupts your hormonal balance which in turn causes a disruption in your menstrual cycle. You may cease to ovulate and without ovulation there is no egg.
Women who are obese (a over 30) and don’t become pregnant over the course of a year of trying regularly (or 6 months if you are over 35) are encouraged to contact a fertility specialist. But what about women who have a low BMI? Aren’t they considered healthy? Does their weight have any impact on their fertility?
Being Underweight Affects Your Fertility
The answer is yes. Women who are underweight may also experience infertility. Here’s why.
Generally speaking, you have a much better chance of conceiving with a BMI between 20 and 25. That means underweight women have the same hormonal issues as obese women, albeit not for the same reasons. Body fat plays a role in your fertility by regulating your hormones. When you are of a healthy weight, with no other issues, your hormones are fairly balanced to the point that doesn’t disrupt .
Women with too much body fat produce more estrogen than is necessary which halts ovulation just as estrogen-based birth control. When you are underweight (a BMI of 18.5 or less) you disrupt then balance of hormones in your body as well, causing it to stop making estrogen altogether. Many seriously underweight women cease to have periods due to the lack of estrogen.
Having periods when you are underweight isn’t a guarantee you’ll conceive. Because your blood sugar is off, your endocrine system is imbalanced and your periods are likely irregular ovulation. You are twice as likely to take more than a year to become pregnant, if at all.
Those underweight individuals who do become pregnant run the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and delivering low birth weight babies at a much higher rate than their healthier peers.
Why Are You Underweight?
There are a few different reasons your weight may fall below the normal range. You could suffer a thyroid disorder or diabetes, a digestive issue such as celiac or Crohn’s disease, or a serious illness. In some cases, your genetic predisposition contributes to being underweight. If your BMI is below the healthy range and you know your diet is healthy schedule an appointment with your physician so you can get to the bottom of your inability to gain or maintain a healthy weight.
Other conditions that might contribute to an unhealthy low weight are over training as for an athletic event and an eating disorder. If you are training for a marathon or a similar athletic competition you must make sure to do so under a doctor’s supervision. Eating too few calories while enduring grueling physical training leads to a slew of unhealthy conditions and outcomes. An imbalance of undermines your immune system, cardiac health and overall wellness. In any case it’s wise to pause your plans for pregnancy while ultra-training for an athletic event.
Individuals with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia must get it under control prior to trying to conceive. There are many fertility issues associated with eating disorders that cause long-term damage to your reproductive system. If you are or were previously diagnosed with an eating disorder and trying unsuccessfully to conceive, please speak with your fertility specialist.
Underweight Men and Fertility
Find The Answers
If you suspect you suffer from weight-related infertility, you should address your concerns right away. Lifestyle has a lot to do with your weight and overall health, but you need to also rule out any underlying conditions that may cause you to lose weight or fall below a healthy weight to the point that it impacts your fertility.