How Being Overweight or Underweight can Effect Fertility

Jamie Dunkleberger By Jamie Dunkleberger, 9th Jul 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>General Health>Fertility & Reproductive Health

Many women do not feel that their weight has any bearing on whether or not she can conceive. The truth is, weight significantly affects fertility for both women AND men. Losing or gaining weight to get into a normal BMI range will increase your chances of getting pregnant.

How Being Overweight or Underweight can Effect Fertility

There are many studies that connect obesity to an-ovulation which is the inability to ovulate. Women who have regular ovulation patterns and menstrual cycles can experience issues with fertility if your mass body index (BMI) puts you in the obese category. Women who are considered overweight or obese will have much more difficulty getting pregnant than women who are of normal BMI although obese women could still become pregnant. Women who have regular cycles with no other problems with fertility may still have difficulty getting pregnant if you are overweight. The more obese a woman is the higher the chance of experiencing unexplained fertility.

The Correlation between Weight and Fertility

Women who are given the label of being “sub-fertile” due to being obese or overweight must understand that she can still become pregnant regardless of her weight although it may take a lot more time. A woman’s mass body index plays a large role in her chance of getting pregnant and increasing her fertility. Knowing where your BMI lies is important to ensure that you are taking the right steps towards building your fertility and getting your body ready for ovulation and more importantly, pregnancy. Normal BMI should range between 18.5 and 24.9. A BMI over 25 falls in the overweight category while a BMI over 30 falls in the obese category.

Overweight and Obesity in Pregnancy

Many research studies have been done regarding the connection between weight and fertility. According to a recent study (Gurevich, 2010) it was found that for every BMI point above 29 the change of becoming pregnant dropped by 4% when it was compared to women with a normal BMI that falls between 21 and 29. Women who are considered severely obese have a BMI between 35 and 40; these women have up to a 43% chance of getting pregnant when compared to women who had a BMI of 29 and under.

While it hasn’t been proven that an overweight or obese woman’s chance of becoming pregnant will increase if she loses weight, it does help significantly. Getting pregnant while at a normal weight is, to no surprise, much healthier than becoming pregnant when you are overweight. Becoming pregnant when your BMI is within a normal range significantly reduces a woman’s risk of experiencing complications during pregnancy including gestational diabetes. By having a BMI of between 25 and 29.9 doubles the risk of pregnancy complications while having a BMI above 30 triples this risk.

Underweight in Pregnancy

Your weight has an effect on the level of hormones needed for pregnancy in your body. If you are overweight and especially underweight or if you have experienced significant gains or losses in weight it can significantly impact how your major organ systems work. If your major systems aren’t working together or aren’t working properly the chances of getting pregnant become less and less. Being underweight can really throw off the chemicals in your body that affect ovulation and pregnancy. The most important of these chemicals and hormones is progesterone.

Being underweight while trying to get pregnant poses the same risks associated with being overweight. Having a normal amount of fat in your body ultimately balances out your hormones. It stores energy and key hormones and nutrients that are released later on. If your body isn’t holding enough fat your system won’t get the energy it needs to function. At the same time, your ovaries will not get the right amount of hormones that ultimately regulate your menstrual cycle.

If you are underweight and want to gain weight to increase your chances of becoming pregnant, you are taking a huge risk. Your body is used to being at this weight. By gaining weight for the sole purpose of getting pregnant at a healthier weight you could do significant damage to your reproductive system. To bring yourself to a healthier weight you should do so under the supervision of a licensed dietician or your doctor so you are eating the right foods and gaining weight in an appropriate way.

Gaining Weight the Appropriate Way

It is important that you gain an appropriate amount of weight when trying to get pregnant if you are underweight. Knowing what your BMI should be as opposed to where it currently is and eating a well-balanced diet is a key factor when trying to get pregnant if you are underweight. A woman should have a BMI of about 19 to 25 which takes your body frame as well as weight into account.

Positive ways to gain weight when trying to conceive may include increasing your caloric intake and how much you exercise as fat and muscle both contribute to healthy production of hormones and chemicals in your body. Any changes in diet and weight should be closely watched by a medical professional, especially if you are trying to conceive. Adding healthy fats to your diet such as red meat, whole milk, fatty cheeses and other foods similar will help you store more fat to increase your energy and the production of hormones. Changes you make to your diet should be closely monitored by a dietician.

Correlation between the Man’s Weight and Fertility

While a woman’s weight is an extremely important thing to consider when you are trying to get pregnant, so is the man’s weight. Men who are underweight or overweight will experience difficulties with sperm count. Just a woman’s menstrual cycle and ovulation are regulated by specific hormones, a man’s level of testosterone may be too low if they weight too much or too little. This can affect the amount of sperm he produces as well as how mobile his sperm are. Having lower levels of testosterone will lead to a lower sperm count. Not having an abundance of sperm decreases the chances of getting your partner pregnant.

There is a solid foundation that states weight does in fact affect fertility. Whether you are overweight or underweight, it is best to seek the help of your physician or a dietician to go over your options should your BMI not be within a normal range. If your body isn’t producing enough hormones to stimulate the production of progesterone in women and highly mobile sperm in men your chance of getting pregnant will decrease.


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Meet the author

author avatar Jamie Dunkleberger
I am a married mom to 3 handsome boys who decided to leave the workforce and do what I am passionate about: writing.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
10th Jul 2013 (#)

It saddens me to see overweight people. They need to find the strength to resist the food temptations and improve their health.

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author avatar Jamie Dunkleberger
24th Oct 2013 (#)

Thank you Mark for your insight but you do have to remember that not all people are overweight due to the inability to control their food intake. My sister is overweight and considered morbidly obese because of a thyroid problem and, even though she has lost weight and eats very healthy with the help of medication, she is still considered severely obese. That's not the case for all people because some it is by choice while others have a legitimate health problem.

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