Yes, the holidays are a joyous time, but the stretch from Thanksgiving to New Year's actually encourages two things that can wreak havoc on your fertility or fertility treatment. What are they? Stress and overeating.
Let's look at the first: stress. The shopping, the decorating, the parties, the family events — even if it's fun, it can be stressful. The relationship between stress and fertility treatment is confusing. Some studies, including a recent meta-analysis, have found that there is no significant relationship between stress and the outcome with in vitro fertilization (IVF). However, other studies have found that stress relief programs can improve IVF pregnancy rates.
In my practice, I have noticed that patients who are in optimal health and are best able to manage the stresses of life and infertility have better success with treatment because they are able to persist during a difficult journey.
The optimal health part is important, too, which brings us to the second factor that can cause problems with fertility and fertility treatment — overeating. According to the National Institutes of Health, less than one-third of American adults are considered to be at a healthy weight — less than one third! And more than 35 percent of American women are considered obese, which is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of over 30.
The adverse effects of obesity on fertility and pregnancy outcomes are overwhelming and indisputable. In obese women with excessive adipose tissue, abnormal hypothalamic and pituitary hormone secretions are common, leading to anovulation. Obesity is strongly related to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and obese women are particularly susceptible to diabetes and insulin resistance. Even with fertility drugs or IVF, pregnancy rates are adversely affected by obesity, and obese patients are at more risk for complications during egg retrieval and pregnancy, and at an increased risk of adverse perinatal outcomes. In my practice, a woman with a BMI over 35 must get medical clearance from a primary care physician before proceeding to IVF.
Many studies have demonstrated that in obese women, as little as a 5 to 10 percent weight loss can improve ovulation and increase pregnancy rates with fertility treatments, while also reducing the risk of pregnancy complications and adverse perinatal outcomes.