Infertility: Could Your Weight Be to Blame?


Fertility or infertility and pregnancy typically involve a complex dance of hormones, biology, timing—and no small amount of good luck. And with so many factors influencing a person’s ability to get pregnant and deliver a healthy baby, it’s easy to start casting blame when things go wrong. For those with obesity, that pressure can feel exacerbated.

That’s because research has shown that obesity is often linked to infertility. And while many overweight and obese people have no problem conceiving, obesity is the cause of fertility struggles in about 6% of women who have never been pregnant before, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Obesity can also reduce semen quality, affecting men’s fertility levels.

There are two types of factors that contribute to infertility: things you cannot control and things you can. One of the factors you can control is your weight. And that’s important because too little or too much weight can upset the balance of the hormones that help you conceive.

i. Underweight

When you are underweight for whatever reason (an illness, an eating disorder, or you are a hard-core runner or athlete who has no body fat), you may have irregular periods or no period at all. That’s generally a sign that your hormones are out of whack, especially estrogen and progesterone both of which can affect ovulation. If you’re not ovulating you’re not going to get pregnant.

ii. Overweight

When you’re carrying too many extra pounds, your body starts over-producing estrogen in the ovaries and in your fat cells. With all that estrogen flooding your system, your brain instructs the ovaries to shut down ovulation. And even if your body does ovulate, there might not be enough progesterone to create a uterine lining healthy enough in which a fertilized egg can embed.

To increase your chances of conceiving, you need to be at a healthy weight. To get that process started, ask your doctor for a blood test to check your hormone levels, and talk to a nutritionist about an eating plan that will help balance your hormones.

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