Because diets usually start on a Monday (right?) and because it’s January, the month of life changing resolutions (right?), today we are going to discuss one of the most common New Year resolutions of all: losing weight.
The link between fertility and Body Mass Index (BMI) has been long established and very often, the first medical advice for couples trying to get pregnant is to lose weight.
Furthermore, there are fertility clinics that have a specific BMI threshold for patients waiting to start fertility treatments. In the UK, for instance, one cannot qualify for refunded IVF unless their BMI is in a range of 19 to 30 (www.nhs.uk).
When doctors refer to your weight, they usually refer to your BMI. According to the World Health Organization, the normal Body Mass Index range is 18.5-25, with >25 being overweight and >30 being considered obese. (Here is a little calculator if you want to know where you stand in terms of weight: http://www.calculator.net/bmi-calculator.html.)
It’s no secret that obesity has detrimental effects on overall health and this includes the reproductive system as well.
For overweight and obese women, the risk of primary infertility is higher (mainly in regards to ovulation issues) and miscarriage rates and pregnancy complications risks are also increased (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4456969)
Possibly the best example in this case is represented by the PCOS (Polycystic ovarian syndrome) patients. For years, the best way to boost the fertility of these patients was losing weight.
But it has been observed that even overweight women who don’t present any hormonal imbalances could benefit from weight loss and improve their chances of conception.
And there’s good news! You don’t have to look like a lingerie model in order to optimize your fertility (not that looking like a lingerie model is bad, I mean I wouldn’t mind it 🙂
Studies have shown that up to 10% decrease in body weight may improve your chances to conceive. This is a study with very optimistic numbers, and it’s just one of many (https://www.fertstertdialog.com/users/16110-fertility-and-sterility/posts/9073-a-retrospective-cohort-study-to-evaluate-the-impact-of-meaningful-weight-loss-on-fertility-outcomes-in-an-overweight-population-with-infertility_)
Weight appears to be an issue for women undergoing fertility treatments, too.
With IVF costing an arm and a leg, and with couples very often paying procedure and treatment out of pocket, you totally want to do everything in your power to optimize your chances and get the best response. So far, studies show that being overweight puts you at risk of not responding well to stims, but also of yielding a lower number of mature oocytes (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21071489)
Your male partner is not in a much different situation either. HIS weight matters too. Studies show that men with a BMI higher than 30 are often confronted with lower sperm counts. When both partners suffer from obesity, the situation becomes even more complicated.
Fertility clinics sometimes offer weight loss programs and free counselling for those who need it and ask for it. So, ask for it! As long as you are going to pay for treatment, make sure you receive the best service.
I personally have a hard time following diets, but I try to remember to eat healthy and exercise moderately. Lately, I have found this fertility diet list from Harvard, that I am sharing with you, in hopes it will inspire you (https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/follow-fertility-diet)
What I like most about it, is that it includes ice cream J
But most of all, whatever your weight is, remember to not feel guilty about it.
Yes, medically speaking, a healthier BMI increases your chances of conception. That doesn’t mean overweight women can’t technically conceive: because they can, and you all sure have examples all around you.
The idea is that losing weight helps improving fertility, and in a journey like ours, frustrating and exhausting as it is, we grasp at straws and are willing to try anything that might help us perform better and/or give us the feeling that we did our best.