Although problems with obesity and infertility are as well documented as other chronic diseases, they aren’t as well known. The risks from obesity are usually focused on chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.
Obesity and infertility means a reduced ability in men and women to conceive a child spontaneously without medical intervention. But as the percentage of overweight people increases, there is increasing concern about obesity and its effects on infertility.
Infertility among women is greater when they have 30% or more of their weight in fat tissue. As the US obesity rate rises so does the infertility rate. These two rates do not correlate completely, but obesity and infertility appear to be linked.
The US Women’s Health Study concluded that even a slightly elevated BMI (Body Mass Index – ratio of height to weight) at the age of 18 became a later risk for female infertility. Women with an elevated BMI also face a rougher time with assisted fertilization methods.
Obese women may display the same symptoms as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, but these symptoms disappear spontaneously along with weight loss.
Obese women who stop ovulating sometimes restart ovulation with just a 15 to 20 pound weight loss.
The risks from obesity don’t end at conception. Obesity may also have some adverse effects on both the mother and the baby after conception. For the mother, risks include a higher incidence of hypertension, miscarriage, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, sleep apnea, and caesarean section births. Babies are also more likely to need hospitalization beyond the normal post-natal hospital stay of the mother.
In a 2001 obesity and infertility study in Greece, researchers found that women with upper body obesity have insulin resistance and increased risk of peripheral aromatization (hormones that leach into the fat tissue yet are not available to the body).
There were several other hormone-related issues that influence or disrupt the ovulation process. A 2005 study in Poland on obesity and infertility confirmed these factors and also linked cigarette smoking to infertility. Medications may further complicate any infertility treatments.
Another infertility and obesity study performed in Kuwait and published in the Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics in 2004 stated that the most effective treatment for infertility in obese women is simply weight loss. This research was confirmed in Italy in a 2006 Maturitas report. Sometimes weight loss leads to improved conception because ovulation tends to resume.
Losing weight in order to conceive should be a gradual lifestyle change rather than a sudden desperate rush to resume ovulation. With a sudden weight loss, there is the risk of gaining the weight back after conception.
If a woman is already obese and continues to gain unnecessary weight after conception, there is an increasing risk to both the mother and the unborn child. Yet attempting to lose weight loss during pregnancy is at best difficult and at worst dangerous for both the mother and child.
Always consult with your doctor or a certified professional trainer before undertaking any exercises, treatments, or dietary supplements.