When the World Health Organization declared overweight and obesity as a “global epidemic” in 1997, it was only then that both medical experts and ordinary individuals alike realized the serious repercussions these conditions had on health. While the effects of obesity on the heart and brain have been documented and much publicized, there is now an increasing need to inform couples desiring to have children about the effects of being overweight and obesity have on fertility.
How Obesity Affects Fertility
Generally speaking, obesity decreases your chances of pregnancy. But how does this condition specifically affect your fertility?
1) Induces hormonal imbalance
Being obese causes an imbalance in your sex hormones, resulting in menstrual cycles that are irregular and infrequent so the normal ovulation phase gets disrupted. In addition, as you accumulate fat in your abdominal region, you produce more testosterone which prevents maturation of the follicles in your ovaries, resulting in anovulation (total absence or decrease in ovulation).
2) Development of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Obesity not only causes an imbalance in sex hormones; it also leads to an overproduction of insulin. Through a mechanism, the imbalance of sex hormones and insulin causes small cysts to develop inside the ovaries, the cysts then cause further sex hormone imbalance that leads to irregular menstruation and anovulation.
3) Increased risk of miscarriages
Obesity increases the chances of having a miscarriage and stillbirth by threefolds. If you don’t lose weight when trying to conceive for a second time, the more difficult it will be for you to have a child.
4) Increased risk of lifestyle-related conditions that will aggravate infertility
Obesity increases your risk of lifestyle-related conditions that will only make your infertility worse. These lifestyle-related conditions include diabetes, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol levels – all of these conditions will make it difficult for you to conceive a baby.
5) Decreases success of IVF treatments
IVF treatments rely mostly on maintaining a normal hormone balance, being obese during these treatments will upset this delicate balance, making conception very difficult to achieve.
What To Do
If you are determined to have a child, it is vital that you take the necessary steps to address your overweight and obesity problems.
These steps include the following:
1) Losing weight
Part of your pregnancy plan is to lose and/or control weight before you even make the attempt to conceive. A weight loss by as much as 15 percent will already be very helpful in achieving conception without having to undergo any medications or treatments. Even women diagnosed with PCOS only have to lose a certain amount of weight and would not require medication to have a baby.
2) Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Rather than eat three big meals a day, overweight/obese individuals are better off dividing breakfast, lunch and dinner into 5 or more small meals per day in order to stave off hunger pangs. Reduce intake of foods rich in refined sugar, carbs and fats. It is best to increase your intake of fruits and green leafy vegetables whenever any cravings arise.
3) Consult with your IVF specialist
If you are planning to undergo IVF treatment, seek consultation with a specialist. He/she will advise you on an effective weight loss regimen, including diet changes and exercise, before you start treatment.
4) Have your partner get a check-up
If your spouse or partner is also overweight or obese, hormonal imbalances are also taking place inside his body which may be affecting his health, particularly his sperm production. Convince him to go for a medical check-up so that his doctor can similarly advise him on a weight loss regimen as well as other lifestyle changes.