Medical professionals usually rely on body mass index (BMI) to determine whether an individual is overweight or obese. Adults with BMIs under 18.5 are considered underweight, while 18.5-24.9 is normal. Individuals with a BMI of 25.0-29.9 are deemed overweight, and a BMI of 30 or above is considered obese. BMI guidelines are the same for both men and women.
Reduced success in obese patients
For both men and women, obesity can make attempting natural conception difficult. Often, women and men that are obese are encouraged to lose weight before beginning a round of IVF to boost success rates. For women, tracking ovulation can be more complicated as excess weight can cause irregular periods. Meanwhile, men may struggle to achieve and maintain erections. Research shows that for obese couples that attempt IVF, success rates and live births are 20% worse than couples in the overweight cohort.
How to improve the odds
A wide range of factors can impact fertility. Weight alone may not be the single factor that causes a woman or couple to struggle with infertility. However, combined with other issues such as sperm and egg quality, or hormone levels, carrying excess weight can make conception a harder goal to achieve. As such, most obese individuals planning IVF will usually find that a specialist will encourage weight loss before starting treatment. In most cases, the goal will be to reduce the BMI to at least the overweight range. People who can achieve a normal BMI will have an even better chance of success.
Tips to lose weight
Rather than focusing on drastic weight loss, consider a plan that can be incorporated for the long term. For example, swap out empty calorie snacks for protein-rich alternatives to feel full longer. Also, consider cutting back on sugary drinks and instead reach for water. Engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week. Options such as walking in the park or dancing can count towards calorie burning.
Goal weight for conception
A person’s weight alone isn’t the sole determiner of fertility. However, research suggests that being overweight or obese can reduce IVF success rates significantly. Likewise, carrying excess weight can create symptoms in both men and women that make natural conception difficult. Before starting IVF, both members of a couple should prioritize weight loss to achieve a normal BMI. Doing so not only boosts fertility treatment success rates but also can reduce the risk of future pregnancy complications in women.