Fertility and Being Overweight: Can Weight Loss Increase Fertility?
Certain physical factors can have a profound effect on a woman’s ability to get pregnant. Some things, like genetic conditions that affect the reproductive system, are largely out of a woman’s control. Other factors, like weight, can be adjusted to improve fertility. Research has shown that having a medically healthy weight-to-height ratio improves the likelihood of ongoing pregnancy. For those trying to conceive, losing weight may allow them to actively boost fertility.
On this page, we’ll explore how a woman’s weight can have an impact on her fertility, take a look at some interesting research statistics, show you how to determine whether your weight might be affecting your ability to conceive, and explain what you can do to lose weight, improve your fertility health, and potentially boost your chances of getting pregnant.
How Weight Affects Fertility
Excessive weight is linked to a number of health concerns, including those of fertility and reproductive health. Studies have shown that overweight and obese women have a higher risk of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that causes fluid-filled cysts on the ovaries and often creates reproductive dysfunction.
Obese and overweight women tend to have lower estrogen levels than those with a normal BMI. As estrogen is responsible for triggering ovulation, a lack of it may lead to infertility. Insulin resistance, another obesity-linked condition, can also disrupt ovulation.
Even if you do successfully conceive without losing excess weight, it’s important not to underestimate the potential risks that overweight and obese women can face during pregnancy. Obesity increases the risk of complications like preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, birth defects, and even miscarriage. Even with the use of advanced techniques like in-vitro fertilization (IVF), being obese can drastically reduce the likelihood of a successful conception.
Interesting Weight and Fertility Statistics
- On average, fertility hits its peak in a woman’s early 20s and declines more rapidly after age 35. This means that losing weight sooner than later gives women the best possible chance of success.
- A study of women who had undergone various types of assisted reproductive technology (ART) found that the risk of miscarriage was 24.8% greater in obese patients than those with a normal BMI.
- In a study of women with a BMI over 29, the rate of pregnancy decreased by roughly 4% for every unit increase to BMI (that is, for every kg/m²).
- Obesity also has a negative impact on the fertility of male partners; in a 2007 study, researchers found, after adjusting for other factors, that the odds ratio for infertility was higher than normal for overweight men (1.20) and higher still for obese men (1.36).
- A 2014 study of overweight and obese women found that those who lost at least 10% of their starting weight had higher rates of conception (88% vs. 54%) and live birth (71% vs. 37%) than women who did not achieve this level of weight loss.
Am I Overweight? How Much Should I Weigh for the Best Fertility?
There is no objective number of pounds that a woman looking to have a baby should weigh, as every woman’s body is different. Instead, doctors look at the Body Mass Index (BMI), a common measurement of a person’s height-to-weight ratio.
The “normal” BMI range is 18.5-24.9, “overweight” is 25-29.9, and “obese” is 30 or above. In terms of reproductive effects, the average woman tends to be at peak fertility health when her BMI is considered normal. As the number climbs higher (especially above 28), pregnancy rates drop.
There are numerous BMI calculators available online, but you can do the math yourself by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters. For example: If you are 1.68 m. tall and weigh 68 kg. (5’6” and 150 lbs.), then 68/1.68² = 24.1. (You are within the “normal” BMI range.)
It’s important to note here that the BMI is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all measurement. A woman who is very athletic and especially muscular for her height, for example, might have a BMI that is considered overweight simply because it can’t discern fat weight from muscle weight. Despite this disclaimer, BMI is still a decent general guideline and an easy way to estimate a person’s weight category and risk factors.
If your BMI categorization doesn’t seem right, you might consider talking to a doctor or personal trainer about determining your percent body fat and getting the full picture of your fitness level.
If your calculated BMI falls in the “overweight” or “obese” range, it doesn’t mean that your weight is definitely the primary cause of your problems. There is an elevated chance, however, that your excess weight is a contributing factor. Regardless of whether or not losing weight will result in a successful pregnancy, working toward a healthier BMI is a positive change that will benefit your overall health and fertility in the long run.
How to Lose Weight and Increase Your Chances of Getting Pregnant
Losing weight for fertility is different for every woman, but it can usually be achieved through a healthy diet and exercise plan. Exercising for roughly 30 minutes a day, eating balanced meals, and minimizing trans fats are a few common recommendations. Talk with your doctor about your weight loss goals and work together to create a safe, healthy plan of action.
Questions About Fertility, IVF, and/or Surrogacy
If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, you’re likely feeling frustrated and confused. The good news is that modern fertility science gives families more options for having a baby than ever before. At 3 Sisters Surrogacy, we seek to educate women on the process of gestational surrogacy and its benefits as an option. We also help prospective parents understand the science of fertility and the use of assisted reproductive technology like in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Even if you’re actively working to lose weight and boost your fertility for natural conception, it’s a good idea to continue exploring your options. If you’d like to learn more about weight loss and fertility and/or discuss whether surrogacy may be a good option for you, Call 3 Sisters Surrogacy today at (877) 976-9483 or feel free to join our Low-Carb Surrogacy Facebook page!