How Can Weight Affect Fertility ?

04-May-2017 10:34

Women in this 21st century face as many problems as they did in the ancient age if not more. Balancing a job, a family and also expected to be in perfect health is a toll order. Weight has been associated with a lot of complications such as; Coronary heart disease, High blood pressure, Stroke among others. How does weight affect fertility?


Here in India, it is not uncommon to find a couple having problems conceiving and it is for that reason that the JJ Institute of Medical Sciences has made it their business to remedy this situation.


When women and couples who are experiencing difficulties with conception are overweight, they have generally already heard or read the notion that being overweight reduces their chance of falling pregnant. Seeing other women who have an equal or even greater problem with their weight conceive successfully and are happily pushing their strollers down the street, only adds to the frustration and disappointment they are already going through. 


Weight is an important consideration for both women and men in the preconception period; and if you’re significantly overweight or underweight, this can cause your body to produce more or less of the hormones that regulate ovulation in women and disrupt sperm production in men. 

Weight gain in some women can be an indicator of a hormonal imbalance caused by a condition known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) - affecting both your ability to lose weight and disrupt regular ovulation.  However the JJ institute of Medical Sciences has assured many through their research that, not all women with PCOS are overweight. 


While it is often assumed the negative effect on weight on fertility is associated with being overweight, women who are underweight (BMI less than 19) may not be getting enough nutrients, which can cause their bodies to ovulate infrequently or not at all.


In overweight women, an increase in insulin levels may cause their ovaries to reproduce male hormones and stop releasing eggs, which results in ovulatory dysfunction. 

 Men who are significantly overweight generally have poorer sperm quality than those within a healthy weight range. Often, when a man is extremely overweight he will also have a reduced sex drive and erectile difficulties.


Is my weight at a healthy level?


A common measure of weight is the Body Mass Index (BMI) which provides an index of your weight range in relation to your height. A healthy BMI is considered to be between 18.5 and 25. 


  • Having a very high BMI (greater than 30) may decrease fertility rates in some circumstances and may also increase the risk of pregnancy related complications. When women are under or overweight, their BMI has been found to impair successful outcomes for fertility treatment. Some of the complications that can arise as a result of a high BMI may include:
  • Lower response to medication used to regulate or initiate ovulation
  • Greater need for carefully titrated dosing of medication, especially in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • In response to medications used to induce ovulation, women who are overweight or obese have a greater frequency of over-response and a higher risk of overstimulation and/or multiple pregnancies. If a multiple pregnancy occurs, there are greater obstetrical complications in patients with high BMI than in multiple pregnancies in patients with a normal BMI.
  • More complications with in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment
    • Fewer eggs retrieved
    • Greater difficulty retrieving eggs with increased risk of bleeding or injury
    • Greater anesthesia risk at the egg retrieval, including maintaining adequate airway, hypertension, and aspiration
    • Greater difficulty with embryo transfer in visualizing the uterus and accomplishing the transfer effectively
    • Lower embryo implantation rates
    • Lower IVF success rates


For those women who are overweight and get pregnant, there are increased risks of complications during pregnancy, which may include:

  • Higher frequency of early pregnancy loss (miscarriage)
  • Greater anesthesia-related surgical complications if any surgery is required (i.e., D&C for miscarriage)
  • Greater frequency of hypertension, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, still birth, and other pregnancy complications


During this international women’s day, it is of significant importance that women here in India and all over the world be properly educated about how their weight can affect conception and what options they have when it comes to weight issues.

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