Being heavy can make it difficult to achieve pregnancy. Fertility tends to drop as a woman increases in weight. Elevated BMI may require more effort to achieve pregnancy once in treatment such as higher doses of medicine. However, in obese patients there is also less of response to the medicine as measured by less eggs produced and lower pregnancy rates. This may be related to the effects of obesity on Hormone production which can cause a lack of Ovulation and irregular menstrual cycles. In the arena of in vitro Fertilization (IVF), obesity has also been reported to have a negative effect. Some studies have shown no effect while others have shown a problem.
We found in our recent research done on this topic at Fertility Centers of Illinois that BMI impacts the success of fertility treatment with in vitro fertilization (IVF). This research was presented at the national meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. It appears that the heavier a woman is, the harder it is for her to get pregnant. However, for a woman who is closer to 40, it is harder for her to get pregnant because she is older; her weight is not as important as her age in her ability to get pregnant.
Once pregnant, complications of pregnancy increase dramatically. There appears to be a higher risk of miscarriage, higher chances of complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. There are higher risks of infection and cesarean delivery as well as risk of stillbirth with some of these additional morbidities. Anesthesia risk also rises dramatically.
The recommendations here are lose weight! If you have been trying for pregnancy for six to twelve months without success, a consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist or your ob/gyn is appropriate. But, if you are older, don’t put off the more aggressive fertility treatment while you try to lose weight because your eggs are rapidly aging.
With diet modification – eating less- and aerobic exercise where you sweat for at least 30 minutes 3x per week, you will start to see some weight changes. Even with modest weight modification, there is an increase in pregnancy rates. If you have other medical problems, consult your physician about helping you build a healthy road to weight loss. Some have chosen surgical assistance to weight loss and with gastric bypass-type surgery, there are new metabolic needs and changes. Generally speaking, delaying pregnancy for at least 1 year is recommended after surgery. There are other resources for weight loss including nutritional counseling and holistic approaches to health. We work closely with some of these centers that encourage healthy living like Pulling Down the Moon which offers yoga for fertility, and a nutritionalist specializing in fertility and weight loss. There are programs within some fertility clinics like ours at FCI that focus on weight loss like Fit and Fertile.
Whatever way you choose, weight loss may help you achieve pregnancy. It will make it more likely that you will get pregnant and importantly, more likely that you will have a safe pregnancy and delivery. Moreover, this will also reduce the chance of developing diabetes and heart problems later on in life. Get excited and get motivated to start off with a bang by dropping a couple of pounds …and getting pregnant!