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Healthy Weight and Your Fertility
a blog by Kim Griffiths, January 23, 2013
Healthy Weight Week, January 20-27th, encourages women to not only focus on losing weight and eating a healthy diet, but also to prevent over-exercising and calorie restriction.
Few people realize how overall health ties to fertility. What I’ve discovered through my own experience with infertility and through several interviews with doctors across the country regarding weight and ovulation, is that the right amount of diet and exercise are essential for cardiovascular health and anything that benefits your heart, also benefits your fertility.
In fact, twelve percent of all infertility cases are directly linked to a woman’s weight-- weighing too much or too little. Eric Silverstein, M.D., of The Fertility Center of Colorado, says signals from the brain and the resulting hormone, estrogen, play a vital role in how the reproductive system operates. “When a woman is underweight (BMI less than 18.5), or obese (BMI above 25), anovulation or irregular ovulation may result as messages from the brain to the ovary are altered. This can lead to low estrogen in the underweight individual. There is also evidence that a BMI within the obesity range can lower in vitro fertilization (IVF) success rates and increase rates of miscarriage,” he says. The infertility condition Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is associated with a higher BMI, while Hypothalamic Amenorrhea is linked to lower than normal BMI.
Obesity can be associated with insulin resistance, under active thyroid, and lead to type 2 diabetes. Each of these diseases can impact a woman’s ability to get pregnant and carry a healthy pregnancy, free of complications, to term. Women with a BMI above 25, particularly those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, should be screened for thyroid disease as it is linked to miscarriage. Dr. Silverstein advises: “Obese women who have regular menses will experience lower pregnancy rates than women with a healthy BMI.”
But women aren’t the only ones who should maintain a healthy weight, especially when trying to have a baby. Men whose BMI falls within the obesity range are at risk of abnormal testosterone levels, and male factor infertility conditions like low sperm count, abnormal morphology, and low motility. I was surprised to learn that many male factor infertility conditions are linked to weight in the same way women experience weight-related infertility.
In order to promote overall health and fertility, consult your fertility doctor about proper exercise and nutrition to regulate hormones, ovulation, and healthy sperm production in your partner.
To talk more about weight and your fertility, connect with Kim on FertileThoughts.com as KimAtFertilityAuthority.