Being overweight means that you have a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 25. To calculate your BMI, you divide your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. Someone with a BMI over 30 is obese.

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Impact of being overweight on fertility

Being overweight disrupts your menstrual cycle and hormones (namely LH and FSH). This can cause you to have irregular periods and not ovulate. Weight gain and obesity are linked to insulin resistance and can contribute to someone developing hyperandrogenemia (an excess of androgen hormones) and polycystic ovary syndrome, two conditions that reduce fertility.

Furthermore, having a higher BMI makes your body less responsive to fertility treatments and harms the quality of your eggs.

During pregnancy, being overweight raises the risk of complications such as miscarriage, high blood pressure and diabetes, blood clots, premature birth, stillbirth, and birth defects.

Potential causes of being overweight

Lifestyle factors (high-fat, high-sugar diet, and lack of exercise) are major contributors to weight gain, but they aren’t the only causes of overweight and obesity. Some women are genetically predisposed to having a higher BMI and find it more difficult to lose weight even when making changes to their lifestyle. Your environment can also have a big influence on your eating and exercise habits.

Besides that, here are several other factors that can cause someone to be overweight:

  • Lack of good-quality sleep
  • High stress
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Cushing’s syndrome (a condition where the body produces too much of the stress hormone cortisol)
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Certain medications (antidepressants, antipsychotics, high blood pressure medicine, birth control, insulin)

Symptoms of being overweight

Gaining weight can lead to certain other changes in the body, and the following things can happen:

  • Snoring (sleep apnea is linked with being overweight)
  • Acid reflux, leading to frequent heartburn, belching, nausea, and abdominal pain
  • Achy joints
  • Fatigue

Treatment to improve fertility

Getting to a healthy weight can greatly improve your chances of getting pregnant and having a successful pregnancy. It’s recommended to aim for a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 to boost fertility. If you have a BMI over 30, lowering it a few points can have a big impact on your reproductive health. Evidence shows that women with a higher BMI who lose weight need fewer fertility treatments to get pregnant and have higher success rates than those who stay at a high BMI.

The first step is to look at your nutrition. As much as you can, try to exchange fatty, sugary, and processed foods with fresh fruits and veggies and lean protein from poultry or plant-based sources. Check out our blog article for more advice on foods that promote fertility and weight loss.

In addition, move your body regularly to support your pregnancy goals and overall health. Research shows that exercise is a key ingredient to fertility and protects the quality of your eggs.

Beyond making important lifestyle changes, weight-loss medications are available to reduce appetite, block the body’s absorption of fat, and improve metabolism. But doctors aren’t clear on how these medications can impact fertility.

Finally, surgical operations may be recommended to people with a BMI over 35 who are at risk for obesity-related health complications. These procedures reduce the amount of food you can eat or implant weight-loss devices in the digestive system.

To read more in-depth about the impact of a higher BMI on fertility and healthy weight loss methods, check out our blog article.

This article has been verified by a medical professional

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