More Proof that Too Much Weight Can Keep You from Having a Baby

Every day I see patients who are experiencing infertility that is caused or exacerbated by excess body fat. And I am often asked why being overweight matters and why a patient should try to lose weight before trying to get pregnant or undergo a fertility treatment such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Here’s why: There are several adverse effects associated with excess body fat that inhibit conception and a healthy pregnancy.

  • Overweight women often have hormonal imbalances and abnormal endocrine function, which results in a disruption of regular ovulation. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one specific type of endocrine condition that is generally associated with obesity.
  • Insulin resistance (a condition that can develop into type 2 diabetes) is a common problem for overweight or PCOS patients and further interferes with ovulation.

Being overweight can also inhibit your chances of success with a fertility treatment.

A recent study by researchers at Michigan State University examined information on 150,000 fertility treatment cycles done in 2007 and 2008 at 361 different clinics. On each IVF cycle, the reporting system included data on whether they cycle was canceled, if it led to pregnancy, whether the pregnancy ended early in miscarriage or stillbirth, or if the woman gave birth to a live baby. Most of the data included information on a woman’s height and weight before starting treatments.

Simply put, heavy women had less successful IVF treatments.The researchers found:

  • Approximately 9 percent of IVF cycles in normal weight women were stopped early compared to 16 percent of cycles in women with a BMI over 50.
  • Normal weight women had a 43 percent chance of getting pregnancy during each IVF cycle using their own fresh eggs for IVF, compared to 36 percent for very heavy women. Rates for overweight and less obese women fell in between.
  • For women who did get pregnant, the heaviest women were twice as likely as normal weight women to lose the baby.

There are many factors that contribute to infertility and fertility treatments that a woman does not have control over — weight is one that do. With my patients, I have found that a weight loss of as little as 5 to 10 percent, can normalize hormone function, cause ovulation to resume, and result in spontaneous pregnancy, as well as improved pregnancy rates with ovulation induction and IVF therapies.

My "Fit and Fertile" program combines practical exercise options with sensible, healthy changes in diet. Patients have been able to shed excess fat, increase lean muscle tissue, and dramatically improve their ability to conceive and carry a pregnancy. Check out these videos below, and if you have questions, please contact our offices, and we will be happy to answer them!