What Does Weight Have To Do With Fertility?

Medical experts agree that maintaining a healthy weight is essential for overall wellness and longevity. However, weight extremes are a rising concern. For instance, 42% of American adults suffer with obesity. Unhealthy weight seeps into all aspects of the body, and reproductive health is no exception. For a couple to conceive requires a delicate balance of hormones, healthy reproductive organs, and healthy sperm and eggs. One or all of these factors can be impacted by weight, leading to sub-fertility or infertility. Maintaining a healthy weight is critical for optimal fertility in both men and women.


Weight and fertility in women

Being overweight or underweight can significantly affect a woman’s ability to conceive. Weight plays a significant role in ovulation. Being overweight or obese may disrupt ovulation or menstrual cycles. Women can have hormone imbalances leading to irregular menstruation and possibly anovulation. These conditions lower the chances of pregnancy and lead to infertility. Weight challenges also increase the risk of thyroid diseases, diabetes, and autoimmune conditions, which impact fertility. Being underweight due to over-exercising, illness, and being naturally thin can also affect fertility. Women can stop producing enough estrogen, a hormone necessary for reproductive health. Women can also have irregular periods, repeated miscarriages, and premature births.

Men are impacted, too

In many cases, a man’s fertility is also impacted by weight. Excess weight lowers testosterone and increases estrogen production in men. Reduced testosterone may affect sperm production and libido and even lead to erectile dysfunction (ED) over time. Testosterone is also necessary for sperm quality markers, such as motility and morphology. Being overweight also leads to lifestyle diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which have been linked to infertility. Being underweight can lead to health issues, including those involving reproduction. Underweight men are at risk of developing sperm DNA damage, causing poor sperm quality.

Finding a healthy balance

The risks of being overweight or underweight go beyond conception. Women are more likely to have complicated pregnancies, miscarriages, or premature births. Achieving a healthy weight is essential to the entire family planning process. Studies show that weight loss in those with a high body mass index (BMI) can increase pregnancy outcomes. Even a slight reduction in weight for obese men can improve sperm health and fertility. Speak with a doctor or nutritionist for diet-based weight reduction strategies. Exercise, stress reduction, and reducing alcohol consumption can also help with weight management, thereby improving fertility.

When all else fails

Poor weight outcomes should not prevent individuals or couples from attempting pregnancy. There are options, like assisted reproductive technologies (ART), that can help. Strategies like in vitro fertilization (IVF) are fantastic for those with infertility challenges. IVF can create embryos outside the body by extracting eggs and sperm and then combining these samples in a laboratory. The best embryo is then transferred to the woman’s uterus after taking a series of hormone medications. Additional strategies like intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) can help men with weight challenges and infertility. A fertility clinic can discuss all the potential options to address individual needs.

Healthy weight management for a healthy baby

Being overweight or underweight does not mean pregnancy is impossible. Many couples with these obstacles can get pregnant and have live births without issue. However, the chances of conceiving are often lower, and the risks during pregnancy are higher. Women and men who are overweight or underweight are more likely to be infertile. A fertility specialist can provide further advice on how weight impacts fertility. Collaborating with a nutritionist and other medical professionals can help find the right balance for optimal conception