The journey to starting or growing a family looks different for every couple. Some couples conceive easily, and others try for months to years with no success. Infertility is an equally unique road to travel. Some diagnoses are easier to resolve than others.
Body weight is a definite factor in a woman’s fertility. Both obesity and being underweight impact your ability to conceive. Eating disorders also throw a roadblock into your path to growing your family. Here we take a look at the reasons behind weight’s effect on fertility and what you can do now to ensure your good reproductive and overall health for the immediate and distant future.
“Healthy Weight” Is Somewhat Arbitrary
A healthy weight looks different to most everyone. Societal influences as well as cultural norms have bearing on what you perceive as healthy. For many women the healthiest weight is found in the normal range of a BMI chart. That’s not to say the numbers on the chart are absolute. They are simply a guide. Many factors influence your weight including genetics, medical conditions and some medications. “Healthy” weight is about personal wellness and what keeps you feeling your best.
That being stated it is wise to know your BMI number as much of the medical research that goes into fertility uses these numbers to qualify weight category as severely underweight, underweight, optimal, overweight, obese and severely obese.
Just How Weight Influences Fertility
Your body produces hormones in order to create the right balance for ovulation. Too much or too little throws a wrench into the perfect machine of reproduction. Your body must produce the right amount of estrogen at the right time in order for your follicles to mature and release your egg. The same tissue that stores fat cells also produces some estrogen. When you carry more fat than is healthy you release more estrogen.
For women who are significantly underweight the body will produce less estrogen and other reproductive hormones. This can pause ovulation and cause irregular cycles or stop your menstrual cycles altogether. No menstrual cycle means no ovulation and no ovulation means there is no egg for fertilization.
Insulin resistance is another risk encountered by overweight women. Not only does insulin resistance lead to Type 2 Diabetes but it also impacts fertility. In the case of insulin resistance, your body loses the ability to detect insulin levels in your blood. Insulin, as you know, is necessary to control glucose the body uses for energy. When your body detects the glucose but not the insulin the pancreas releases even more insulin into your bloodstream.
Too much insulin in the blood adds to the vicious cycle of obesity. Your metabolism slows, and the slowed metabolic response negatively impacts ovulation. Insulin levels are also associated with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which causes a halt to ovulation due to the overproduction of androgens (male hormones). It is important to note, however, that insulin resistance and PCOS don’t always go hand-in-hand. You can have one without the other, but both have an impact on your fertility.
Your Weight and Fertility Treatment
Not only does your weight impact your fertility, but it can affect your success with fertility treatment, particularly IVF. Women who are not of a healthy BMI often have a poor response to treatment. Your odds for a successful outcome and healthy pregnancy increase when you are at an optimal weight.
Your weight not only affects your hormone production but also your overall health. A healthy lifestyle and normal BMI go a long way in supporting healthy function of your body and avoiding chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Going into fertility treatment in the best possible health is good for you and your future baby.
How Weight Affects Pregnancy and Birth
Both underweight and overweight women have elevated risks in pregnancy. For overweight women the chance of miscarriage and stillbirth increases. So do many pregnancy-related complications such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, cardiac dysfunction and large birth weight babies, which necessitate a cesarean delivery.
Underweight mothers-to-be have pregnancy-related risks and complications too. Among these complications are premature birth, low birth weight, premature rupture of the membranes (water breaking too early), anemia, bleeding during or immediately after delivery and cesarean delivery.
Weight Affects Male Fertility Too
For men the news is equally as dire when it comes to fertility and weight. Men with a higher BMI are shown to produce fewer quality sperm and have low testosterone levels. Overweight men suffer from erectile dysfunction more often than their healthy-weight peers.
What You Can Do
Obviously getting to and maintaining a healthy BMI is key to ensuring your weight has little to no impact on your fertility. While diet and exercise are the surest route to achieving your weight and overall health goals it’s wise to check with your physician to rule out any health conditions.
If you suspect your weight is causing fertility issues for you or your partner contact LA IVF today. We understand the confusion and the frustration that can come with your inability to conceive. We will address all your concerns and help you get the answers — and solutions — you need.