Obesity is out of control in the United States, making us one of the unhealthiest nations in the world. According to the CDC, a study done in 2015 found 39.8% of American adults were considered obese, and 31.8% are considered overweight, including women of childbearing age.
If your physician has told you your weight is an issue that needs to be addressed, it may also have a bearing on your fertility, and your ability to carry a baby to term. Not only does being overweight cause problems with fertility and pregnancy, but being pregnant while not at a healthy weight can result in serious health problems that can threaten your life.
Are You Overweight?
In a country where excess weight is becoming more and more the norm, albeit an unhealthy way to live, it can be difficult to discern where to categorize your weight. Are you obese? Overweight? Normal? Your physician can tell you your status in a more exact way, however this BMI chart provides you with an idea of where you stand.
How Weight Affects Fertility
Many overweight and obese women are able to get pregnant easily, and deliver a healthy baby. But there are those who experience problems conceiving naturally, and there’s a very good chance it’s weight-related.
While obesity and being overweight can interfere with your menstrual cycle, making ovulation difficult to predict, irregular ovulation isn’t the only weight-related factor. When you’re overweight your body has an excess of fatty tissue. A hormone called leptin is produced in higher amounts than normal. This causes a disruption in the fine-tuning of your hormonal balance, which in turn, impacts your ability to conceive.
Additionally, those women who are overweight, particularly when the excess weight is carried in the abdominal area, are at greater risk for developing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance also disrupts hormone balances affecting everything from ovulation to the quality of your eggs.
Does Weight Affect IVF Success?
When couples use IVF to become pregnant their chances for success may be reduced when the mother is overweight. Women who are overweight have a 9% reduction in their odds of experiencing a live birth, and those who are obese face a whopping 20% reduction in their odds for the same.
Being Overweight Poses a Risk for Your Baby
Being overweight can put your baby at risk in ways you may not have realized. Excess weight increases your risk of miscarriage, and birth defects involving the heart, or neural tube defects (NTDs). These are birth defects of the spine and brain. Diagnostic tests used to determine the health of your baby, such as ultrasound, are impaired by excess weight.
Overweight mothers put baby at risk for a condition called Macrosomia. This occurs when the baby is considered large for gestational age, typically weighing over 10 lbs. at birth. A baby who is large can have complications during labor and delivery. And a mother who is overweight during pregnancy increases the chance for diabetes, heart disease, and obesity in their children, later in life.
A mother who is overweight, or obese, has a higher risk of stillbirth. Stillbirth occurs when the baby dies in-utero after 20 weeks gestation.
How Being Pregnant and Overweight Affects Mothers Health
Many women become so hyper-focused on conceiving and delivering that healthy bundle of joy, they forget how excess weight impacts their own health. Going into a pregnancy when you’re already overweight puts you at significant risk for conditions that may have long-lasting repercussions, leaving your own health in jeopardy, now, and for years after your baby is born.
If you’re already overweight, consider the toll pregnancy will further take on your body. You are at an increased risk for preeclampsia, which stresses your organs and can affect their function. High blood pressure puts you at risk for heart attack and stroke. Being overweight also increases your odds of developing blood clotting issues. Many of the medications necessary to normalize these conditions pose a risk to your unborn baby.
Gestational diabetes, or pregnancy-related diabetes, occurs more frequently in women who are overweight. While gestational diabetes usually goes away after delivery, it will make you more prone to developing diabetes in the future.
Other problems that can occur in mothers who are overweight, or obese, include the need for a cesarean delivery, an increase in infections, such as UTI, sleep apnea in which you cease to breath for long periods while asleep, and thromboembolism.
What to Do If You’re Overweight
Now is the time to confront your weight issues once and for all. You want to be the healthiest mom you can be for your child’s sake. Taking steps to lose the weight now, and keeping it off in the future, is essential to your good health, and the health of your baby, now and for years to come.
Discuss your concerns honestly and openly with your doctor. They are skilled at helping patients lose weight. Your doctor will likely recommend a weight loss program, along with some lifestyle modifications, to help you become the best mom you can be.