Your weight matters when it comes to your fertility. Being overweight or underweight can make it harder for you to conceive because excess fat or lack of fat can cause an imbalance in the reproductive hormones that make it possible for you to conceive during your menstrual cycle.
The good news is that even if you have weight-related infertility, you can actually get pregnant without the need for fertility treatment as long as you reduce your weight to a manageable level.
All you may need to do may be simply adjust your diet and activity levels. However, if there are more serious issues, you may need to consult a doctor or specialist.
If you are obese and have trouble getting pregnant, it’s often because you’re not regularly ovulating. Estrogen is naturally manufactured in the ovaries, but fat cells also make estrogen, so if you have an excess of fat cells, your body will make excess estrogen, and you might stop ovulating as a result.
Fertility treatments can make conception easier, but obesity can lower your odds of conceiving even with Assisted Reproductive Techniques such as In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).
Your weight has a profound effect on your fertility. Being underweight tends to cause fewer fertility issues than being overweight or obese; however, both can disrupt your ability to get pregnant.
If you are underweight, your body makes less estrogen and this also hampers conception, so it is advisable that you gain a healthy amount of weight before trying to conceive.
Sometimes, a hormonal imbalance leads to a weight problem, rather than the other way around. In these cases, treating the cause of that hormonal imbalance may make it easier to control your weight and boost your fertility.
Diagnosis with common conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can cause ovulation dysfunction. For those who are overweight or obese, losing just five per cent to 10 per cent of body weight may help restore regular ovulation.
When you have an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism, you don’t make enough of two hormones, known as T3 and T4. These hormones play a role in metabolism—which is linked to weight control—as well as ovulation. The good news is that you can take medications to help your body more effectively release an egg each menstrual cycle.
Having a high Body Mass Index (BMI) can reduce your chances of getting pregnant. The ideal or healthy range BMI for getting pregnant is between 18.5 and 24.9. If you have a high BMI, bringing it closer to the healthy range before trying for a baby will help you get pregnant as well as improve the health of your future pregnancy and child.
Having a high BMI gives you more risk of problems in pregnancy. The higher your BMI, the greater the risk, so bringing your BMI down by 1 or 2 points before pregnancy can really help. For instance, if your BMI is over 30, bringing it down to 28 or 27 is beneficial.
Once you are pregnant, it is not recommended that you go on a diet that limits specific types of food. That is one of the reasons why it is better to lose weight before you get pregnant if possible.
Men that have weight issues can also have fertility challenges. Having a high BMI can also affect the quality and quantity of sperm, which can also contribute to fertility problems.
Male obesity is linked to poor sperm quality and motility—the ability of sperm to move easily and swiftly in the female reproductive tract. Interestingly, a low Body Mass Index (BMI) is also associated with poor semen quality.
In at least half of cases when a couple can’t get pregnant, male fertility is a factor, and weight issues are a major contributor. If you are obese as a man, the excess weight can throw off the healthy balance of your hormones similar to the way it disrupts female hormones.
Many people who are underweight, overweight, or obese have no trouble getting pregnant. However, if you have weight issues and want to get pregnant very soon, or have been trying to conceive for six months or more without success, it’s worth checking it with a doctor.
A doctor can do a complete physical examination and advise you about whether losing or gaining weight may help your chance of conceiving. They can also do certain tests to see if conditions such as PCOS or thyroid issues may be affecting your weight and odds of conceiving.
One thing to avoid, at all costs, is an extreme diet. There are many “fertility diet” plans, but don’t go on any specific plan without talking to your doctor first.
Losing weight slowly, while nourishing your body in satisfying ways, is best for your fertility and your overall health. Certified nutritionists or registered dietitians are in the best position to guide you.
If you’re significantly overweight or underweight, don’t feel like your situation is hopeless. Losing or gaining even small amounts of weight when you’re outside a healthy zone can be helpful for reproductive, physical, and mental wellness.
If you have a very high BMI, say above 30, you may feel like it is an impossible task to reach the healthy range and you may have been struggling with your weight your whole life. Do not lose hope or give up. You are not alone.
– Dr Abayomi Ajayi (Gynaecologist/Obstetrician)
@ Punch Newspaper