January 4, 2018
by
in Fertility

How Does Weight Affect Fertility?

Ever wondered what more you could be doing to increase your chances of getting pregnant?  Did you know that your weight can have a significant impact on your ability to conceive a baby?  Whether underweight or overweight, not being in the best health can hinder your fertility efforts, and here we will look at why this happens.

Overweight

Being overweight is not only dangerous for your health, but it can impact negatively on your chances of conceiving a baby. For women, this is because being overweight affects your hormone balance, which in turn can impact ovulation.  Specifically, being overweight has been linked to Poly-Cystic Ovary Syndrome, where the ovaries continually have cysts, and this has been known to affect fertility and the healthy, regular production of the ovum (eggs).  Menstrual cycles are affected by the weight of a woman and being overweight can cause irregularities in cycles which makes it hard to know when ovulation occurs.  This is due to the excess of estrogen levels due to increased fat cells in the body.  In extreme cases, obese women may cease to ovulate or menstruate at all, and then conception cannot happen.  Additionally, studies have found that women who are overweight tend to take more than a year to get pregnant, mostly due to hormonal imbalances, whereas women within a healthy weight range were more likely to conceive faster.

For men, being overweight can result in low sperm quality, which means that the sperm is not always strong enough to reach the ova, or penetrate through.  This results in the sperm dying before it has a chance to go where it is needed.  Furthermore, the sperm count in overweight men is predominantly lower, meaning there are less sperm available to get the job done.  Obesity can also impact the male’s ability to gain and maintain an erection, which is a crucial element in the baby-making process.

The hormonal imbalance associated with being overweight, in both men and women, has also been linked to depression and a lack of libido, which hinder the conception process.

Underweight

Just as being overweight can hinder the chances of conceiving a baby, so too can being underweight.  For women, a low level of fat cells produces a hormone called 2-hydroxy estrone, which is an anti-estrogen.  This hormone causes the reproductive organs to shut down, so ovulation and menstruation do not occur.  Sometimes women may be menstruating but not ovulating, or the cycles are so irregular it is too hard to accurately gauge when ovulation is occurring. Similarly to overweight women, those who are underweight can also take more than a year to get pregnant, compared to women within a healthy weight range.

For men who are underweight the issue of sperm quality comes into question again.  A reduction in testosterone levels (due to low-fat cells) causes a poor quality of sperm and therefore hinders fertility.

How To Help?

Eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and aiming to be at a healthy weight will assist with the chances of conceiving a baby.  If you need to lose weight doing so slowly will be best for body and if you are underweight, speak to your health professional about safe options for achieving the weight you desire for the best chances of getting pregnant.

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