What is considered a healthy weight?
Medical professionals use a tool called body mass index (BMI) to measure if a person is within a healthy weight range. BMI uses a person’s height and weight to calculate a number. A BMI of 18.5-24.9 is considered a healthy weight. A BMI of 25-29.9 is deemed to be overweight; anything over 30 is considered obese.
While healthcare professionals also consider waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol, and other factors in evaluating overall health, BMI is still a valuable tool. BMI can help inform if a person is at risk of other health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. Having a high BMI can also affect a person’s fertility.
1. Hormonal changes affect fertility
Obesity can interfere with a woman’s hormone levels, making the menstrual cycle irregular and unpredictable. Irregular periods often lead to difficulty getting pregnant. Additionally, these hormonal changes can affect the quality of a woman’s eggs, leading to further challenges with fertility.
2. Every pound matters
Obesity alone is also a risk factor for infertility. One study showed that women with a high BMI had a lower chance of getting pregnant. And every pound matters. For example, women with a BMI of 35 had a 26% lower chance of conception. However, women with a BMI of 40 had a 43% lower chance.
3. Once women get pregnant, complications can occur
When obese women are able to get pregnant, chances of complications are higher. Women who are obese and pregnant are more likely to experience preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, sleep apnea, a difficult delivery, and the need for a C-section.
Being obese makes getting pregnant harder. Many women who are obese are unable to get pregnant naturally. And when these women use ART techniques like IVF, miscarriage is a risk. Women can lower this risk by working to lose weight before pregnancy and practicing good nutrition and exercise habits during pregnancy.
4. Obesity affects both partners’ fertility
Men who are obese are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction, a loss of interest in sex, and a drop in testosterone. Additionally, overweight and obese men have worse sperm quality than those who are at a healthy weight. A recent study revealed men with a BMI of 25 or higher had a 22% lower sperm concentration and a 24% lower total sperm count. Additional studies have also shown that chances of IVF success are lower in couples with high BMIs.
5. Obesity can lead to insulin resistance
Obesity is a risk factor for insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is concerning simply because of the risk of diabetes. However, insulin resistance can also affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, leading to irregular periods and difficulty conceiving. Insulin resistance can also lead to anovulation, a condition where a woman does not produce eggs properly.
Having a baby is still possible
Many couples struggling with infertility can still have a baby with the help of ART procedures like IVF. For best results, couples undergoing fertility treatments should strive to get to and maintain a healthy weight. Couples can consult with a fertility specialist about treatment options and risk factors on an individual basis.