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Obesity Could Be Making You Infertile

It is linked to hormonal imbalances in men as well as women.

27/04/2017 5:04 PM IST | Updated 01/05/2017 9:03 AM IST
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Obesity is without a doubt one of the most common causes of infertility and miscarriage. It is a proven fact that women who are above a healthy weight tend to have hormonal imbalances, alterations in the ovulation cycle, and missed periods, all of which are linked to infertility and miscarriages. They are also more susceptible to cancer of the breast, cervix, uterus and ovaries.

A couple is said to be suffering from infertility when they are unable to conceive even after a year of actively trying to conceive. In today's fast-paced life, couples tend to adopt an unhealthy lifestyle and have an imbalance in work and life routines. Many consume an unhealthy diet comprising food items high in transfats and bad cholesterol. An unhealthy diet coupled with a sedentary lifestyle results in obesity, which in turn may lead to infertility.

Obesity not only makes conceiving difficult but also poses a major risk to both the baby and the mother during pregnancy and post delivery.

Studies show that many obese women suffer from hormonal problems and are prone to a condition known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOs) which is also linked to several other conditions like metabolic anomalies, chronic anovulation, and hyperandrogenism. This is due to the significant amount of fat that gets deposited in the abdominal region and causes the production of a male hormone called androgen. This hormone interferes with the female reproductive cycle and disrupts the production of the ova. Secretion of another hormone called leptin, which is responsible for the regulation of hunger and boosting metabolism, also gets disturbed. This, in turn, disrupts other hormones and may trigger infertility.

Obesity not only makes conceiving difficult but also poses a major risk to both the baby and the mother during pregnancy and post delivery. Obesity can cause gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, infections and even miscarriage or stillbirth. Babies born to obese mothers are also at a higher risk of inheriting their obesity and related health problems.

Infertility due to obesity does not affect women alone. Men who are obese often suffer from issues such as low sperm count, low libido, and erectile dysfunction. In some cases, men may also be diagnosed with reduced levels of gonadotropins and testosterone, alteration in androgen levels and insulin resistance, leading to diabetes.

Obese women who are undergoing treatment for infertility must always first be advised to lower their BMI. They can then be put fertility-inducing drugs or IVF techniques. The best part is that even a 5-10% reduction in BMI can significantly improve the chances of conception.

What can be done?

Basic lifestyle changes and improvement in one's dietary and exercise schedules can have a positive impact on a person's BMI. A healthy diet that has a low refined sugar and salt content and is rich in high fibre items like cereals, fruits and vegetables, can help lower the body mass. One must ensure to consume a minimum of two litres of water everyday coupled with a regular exercise schedule and walking regime.

Men who are obese often suffer from issues such as low sperm count, low libido, and erectile dysfunction.

While it is advisable for people to decrease overall body weight before going in for any fertility treatment, the same should not be considered after the woman is more than 35 years of age. This is because a woman's ovarian reserve declines drastically after 35 and the quality of eggs also becomes poor. This has an adverse impact on the woman's chances of conception.

In conclusion

Obesity has a substantial impact on a woman's chances of pregnancy and conception as it alters many hormonal processes in the body. It is thus essential for women to have a normal body weight for proper metabolism, fertility and overall health and well-being. The amount of weight reduction that is required and its impact would largely depend on how obese the person was at the start of the process. While a minor lifestyle change is sufficient for some, others may require serious a serious overhaul.

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