Obesity and Pregnancy

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Obesity and Pregnancy: The Effect on Fertility

Women who are trying to conceive should know that obesity and pregnancy chances are linked. Infertility is an issue for many women who carry excessive weight.

One main reason women who are overweight have trouble conceiving is because their weight causes a hormonal imbalance. Due to this imbalance, some women no longer menstruate. If they do have a period, they are not necessarily ovulating. Unless a woman ovulates and releases an egg, she will not get pregnant.

Another risk factor is that some obese women may have a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is related to irregular periods, increased male hormones, and obesity.

Thyroid problems in women can also cause problems with weight. This in turn may relate back to obesity and pregnancy in terms of conceiving children. If you suspect thyroid difficulties, mention it to your doctor for testing. They are often easily corrected and/or controlled once diagnosed.

Men, Obesity, and Fertility

Research shows that not just heavy women are susceptible to the effects of obesity and pregnancy. While it is often women who are concentrated on when it comes to fertility, male fertility also plays a role.

Reports show that obese and even overweight men have lower sperm counts and lower sperm concentration than men who are a healthy weight. This can result in problems achieving pregnancy for the couple.

Obese men, regardless of age, seem to have almost a 2-fold increase in infertility. This study adjusted for things like cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, exposure to chemicals, and the woman's health.

Hormonal changes in obese men may be related to the problem sperm count.

If both partners are obese, this would create double the struggle for those who are trying to achieve pregnancy.

Treatment for Obesity Related Infertility

Of course, not everyone who is obese experiences fertility problems. Many men and women get pregnant easily within the first six months or year of trying to conceive. However, if you or your doctor feels that weight may be affecting your fertility, reducing your weight can help.

Obese is considering having a BMI (Body Mass Index, a measure of height and weight) over 30; overweight is having one over 25. Healthy persons score in the range of 20 to 25. You can calculate your BMI here.

If you feel you need to reduce your weight, try some simple changes in your everyday lifestyle. Consider:

  • Taking the stairs instead of elevator
  • Parking further away from your destination
  • Getting 30 minutes of exercise at least three times a week
  • Eat a healthy breakfast
  • Do not skip meals
  • Keep healthy snacks on hand, like cut fruit and vegetables
  • Cut full calorie sodas and juices out of your diet
  • Eat smaller portions of your "binge" foods

Before taking on a vigorous exercise or diet program, talk to your doctor. A full physical may be needed to ensure you can undertake the necessary changes in your life.

After weight reduction is achieved, some women may still need to undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF). However, if the woman is still significantly overweight, the IVF treatments take longer for success. Obese women have a lower success rate of IVF treatments and a higher miscarriage rate once pregnancy is achieved.

Effects on Pregnancy

After a couple successfully conceives, an obese mother faces several risk factors due to her weight. According to the American Obesity Association, obese women are at a higher risk for the following complications:

Additionally, women may end up with babies overdue, resulting in induction. Vaginal labor may be longer for severely overweight women. Many obese women are at a higher risk for Cesarean sections and complications afterwards.

The American Pregnancy Association recommends that obese mothers and their doctors monitor their weight gain closely. More tests may be run during the pregnancy to check on uterus size and size of the baby.

Obesity and Pregnancy