In the fast paced society of the 21st century, it is very critical to incorporate a healthy diet and exercise routine in your daily schedule. It is important to do so, not only to boost your immune system but also to maintain your reproductive health.
One of the factors that can affect a woman’s fertility is her weight. Being overweight, obese, or underweight can negatively affect your fertility.
It is not only female fertility that is affected though. Obesity can lower fertility in men as well.
The chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby can vastly increase if you are close to a healthy weight for pregnancy.
If you’re overweight, even a small amount of weight loss can tremendously improve your fertility and pregnancy health.
What is the ideal weight for women in India?
In India, the ideal weight for women and men at a height of 5 feet is 45 Kg & 50 kg respectively. Beyond a height of 5 feet, we can add approximately 2.3 Kg for every inch of the height to calculate the ideal weight for that height.
A healthy person’s BMI should be between 18.5 – 23kg/m2.
What is BMI?
Body mass index (BMI) is calculated by using a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his/her height in meters.
It is an inexpensive and easy screening method for categorizing the weight of a person.
Weight can be categorized into
- Healthy weight,
- Overweight, and
However, BMI does not measure body fat directly. A person with a very high BMI is likely to have high body fat but sometimes, it can be the result of either high body fat or high lean body mass (muscle and bone). For example:
At the same BMI, women tend to have more body fat than men.
At the same BMI, athletes have less body fat than do non-athletes, they have more muscle mass, rather than fat tissue, contributing to their overall weight.
Nevertheless, BMI is a good baseline method to gauge whether your weight is in healthy proportion to your height.
Check out our article on BMI to understand more about its implications.
The higher the BMI, the greater is the risk for complications in pregnancy. Some of the risks of raised BMI may include increased risk of thrombosis, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, need for induction of labour, caesarean birth, anaesthetic complications and wound infections.
Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly improves your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby.
What is the relation between Overweight and fertility in women?
Being an unhealthy weight can affect a woman’s fertility in various ways such as
- Hormonal imbalance.
- Problems with ovulation (release of an egg from the ovaries).
- Menstrual disorders such as amenorrhea, oligomenorrhea, dysmenorrhea.
Being overweight & obese can also affect your chances of successful pregnancy through Assisted Reproductive Techniques ( ART ) such as IVF, IUI, ICSI etc.
Obesity is also associated with PCOS & hormonal imbalance in women, which may adversely affect ovulation & your chances of getting pregnant.
Research indicates that women with a body mass index (BMI) above 27 are three times more likely than women in the normal weight range to be unable to conceive because of ovulation disorders. Women who are overweight or obese (BMI greater than 30) are much more likely to face difficulties in conceiving.
Overweight and pregnancy health
Losing weight to attain a healthy weight range before conception increases the chances of the baby being healthy at birth and into adulthood.
It is a given that during pregnancy a woman experiences substantial weight gain. This is due to the growth of the baby throughout the nine months of gestation and also because of the various changes in the woman’s body leading to water retention & fat accumulation.
However, excess weight gain and obesity during pregnancy is linked with a number of pregnancy complications. These include an increased risk of
- high blood pressure.
- gestational diabetes.
- caesarean birth.
- More backache & joint pain during pregnancy.
- Delayed recovery after a caesarean or vaginal delivery.
- Increased chances of poor healing of the stitches.
- Anaesthetic complications.
Babies who are born to very overweight mothers have an increased risk of childhood and adult obesity and other long-term health problems.
Excess weight, particularly excess abdominal fat, is correlated to insulin resistance (when the body has to produce more insulin to keep blood sugar levels normal) and decreased levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), a protein that is involved in the regulation of the sex hormones androgen and oestrogen.
This in turn increases the risk of irregular menstrual cycles, which can result in reduced fertility. According to a study, women who were obese were much less likely to conceive within one year of stopping contraception than women in the normal weight range.
The statistics showed that only 66.4% of obese women conceived within 12 months, compared with the 81.4% of women of normal weight.
Changes in the fine-tuned hormonal balance, which regulates the menstrual cycle, triggered by excess weight and obesity also increase the risk of anovulation.
Anovulation is an ovulation disorder where no egg is released by the ovaries. Women with a body mass index (BMI) above 27 are three times more likely than women in the normal weight range to be unable to conceive because they do not ovulate.
Nonetheless, the good news is
The facts and figures related to weight and fertility may seem daunting. But there is a silver lining in every cloud.
Weight-loss interventions, particularly those that include both diet and exercise, can promote menstrual cycle regularity and improve the chances of pregnancy.
In obese women with anovulatory infertility, where no egg is being released from the ovaries, even a modest weight loss of 5-10% improves ovulation & fertility as well as the chances of conceiving.
Improving your lifestyle can have an immensely positive impact on your fertility and protect you from harbouring obesity related lifestyle disorders.
Underweight & fertility
Just as being overweight or obese can affect your fertility, similarly, being underweight also adversely affects hormonal control, ovulation & fertility.
Being underweight affects the levels of estrogen in your body & also prevents regular ovulation, thus decreasing fertility.
Being underweight can also be a sign of nutritional deficiencies which may affect the quality of the ovum as well as increase the chances of complications in pregnancy.
Women who are underweight can have various complications during pregnancy & postpartum.
- Increased chances of anaemia & deficiency disorders.
- Poor weight gain in pregnancy leading to a general feeling of excessive fatigue & ill health.
- Increased chances of miscarriage.
- Poor weight gain of the baby & Intrauterine Growth restriction (IUGR).
- Preterm delivery.
- Certain birth defects in the baby.
- Poor wound healing & delayed recovery after delivery.
Little goes a long way
Incorporate metabolism-enhancing food items in your diet to accelerate the weight loss process.
Protein-rich diet ( meat, eggs, legumes, fish, dairy) enhances your metabolic rate while mineral-rich diet ( food rich in iron and selenium) keeps your thyroid in check indirectly influencing your metabolic process.
Exercising regularly, for at least 30 minutes a day can have a positive effect on your weight and fertility.
Brisk walking regularly not only helps in losing weight but also improves your cardiovascular fitness.
Yoga not only contributes to physical fitness but also improves your mental and spiritual health as well.
Practicing yoga has a positive effect on your mind and body.
Last but not the least, drink plenty of water.
So, to summarize, being overweight or underweight does hamper your chances of a healthy pregnancy but it is very much a manageable condition and even small efforts to change the diet & lifestyle on your part can have long-lasting benefits for your overall health as well as fertility.
The ideal BMI for achieving a pregnancy is between 18.5 to 24.9
Tomatoes are known to be rich in the nutrient Lycopene, which has been studied and found to improve infertility.
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