Obesity & Fertility

Obesity & fertility overview

  • In women, obesity is a serious risk factor for irregular ovulation and infertility (inability to become pregnant).
  • In men, obesity is linked to impaired semen quality, decreased libido and erectile dysfunction.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight (BMI of less than 24.9) will enhance fertility.
  • If you are struggling with a weight disorder, consult a doctor for a treatment plan.

What is obesity?

Obesity is a disorder where a person has an excessive amount of body fat. It increases the risk of health problems such as heart diseases, high blood pressure and diabetes. It can also have a negative impact on fertility.

Obesity can greatly affect a woman’s chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby. If a woman is overweight and planning to get pregnant in the next year or so, she should start eating healthier and exercising properly. Losing even a few pounds can make a difference.

A man’s weight can also affect the chances of getting pregnant. Being overweight or obese can affect sperm quality, sperm health and sexual function.

What causes obesity?

When a person takes in more calories than what they burn through exercise and normal activities, the body stores the excess calories as fat. Common reasons why obesity occurs include:

  • Unhealthy diet: A diet that is lacking fruits and vegetables, is high in calories, is full of fast food items, has oversized portions and doesn’t include breakfast contributes to weight gain.
  • Inactivity: If you don’t burn as many calories as you take in and aren’t very active, you are likely to gain weight.
  • Pregnancy: During pregnancy, women may gain more weight than what is necessary, or have a hard time losing the extra weight after the baby is born.
  • Medications: Some medications cause weight gain, such as antidepressants, diabetes medications, anti-seizure drugs and beta blockers.

How does obesity affect fertility?

Couples trying to conceive may face an extra challenge when either the man or woman is overweight.

Obesity & infertility in women

Obesity is a serious risk factor for irregular ovulation and infertility. Even with no other obvious fertility problems, studies show women still have a hard time getting pregnant if they are overweight.

Obesity & infertility in men

For men, obesity is linked to impaired semen quality, decreased libido and erectile dysfunction. Not only does obesity make it much more difficult to conceive, but it also exposes the infant to a number of health risks before and after birth. 

How can I tell if I’m ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’?

A common weight measure is to calculate your BMI (body mass index) by dividing your weight by the square of your height. A normal weight is considered to be between a 18.5 to 24.9 BMI; a 25-29.9 BMI is considered overweight, and a 30 BMI or higher is considered obese.

Check your BMI with the NIH calculator

Treating obesity-related infertility

Most women struggling with body weight disorders will conceive spontaneously with proper therapy. Diet and lifestyle changes are often the first treatment plan.

Women with more severe obesity may be candidates for medical therapy or weight loss surgery. However, even a moderate weight loss can have significant benefits.

If you are struggling with infertility and obesity consult a doctor about whether you should lose weight before trying to get pregnant.

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