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Houston Fertility Journal

    Obesity and Infertility: What You Need to Know

    February 9, 2017 / by Center of Reproductive Medicine   

    Center of Reproductive Medicine

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    According to a recent CBS report, 50% of Americans are overweight and 30% of them are obese. Most people are aware of obesity causing hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. A less known fact is that it also causes ovulation problems and contributes to infertility in women. A study in 2007 revealed that women who are majorly obese were 43% less likely to be able to conceive than those of a normal weight. Many doctors do not consider the weight of their patients who are struggling with infertility.

    Yet, according to these numbers and the effect it can have on the reproductive system, it should be taken a lot more seriously. “Awareness of the importance of body weight on reproduction enables couples to maintain appropriate body weight or to correct a bodyweight disorder before subjecting themselves to expensive, time consuming infertility evaluation and treatment.”

    If you or your partner are overweight, there me be another approach you can take to cure your infertility. Little did you know, you may have been barking up the wrong tree. Below we will address the way obesity can affect the body’s fertility and what can be done to treat it.

    Bodyweight & Infertility

    The body’s sex steroid hormones actually dissolve in fat and not in water. Once the body’s fat stores are filled to their maximum of sex steroid hormones, “they reach equilibrium with blood.” This can be an overload for the system and ultimately impair reproductive function. If you consider young girls of a larger size, they tend to start puberty earlier than others. This is an example of how excess fat in the body can speed up the reproductive process.

    “Reproductive function may begin as a normal physiologic event and progress to impairment of reproductive function within a few years as the body approaches obesity.” There have been many scientific publications about the relationship between body weight and infertilIty, but the accumulation of knowledge does not seem to be spreading quickly enough.

    Abnormal Reproductive Signs

    In order to detect an issue in a woman’s reproductive system one would begin by monitoring her menstrual cycles. The normal cycle occurs in 26-32 day intervals. During ovulation a woman may experience mucus secretions from the vagina mid-cycle, breast tenderness, and bloating prior to menstruation. If these symptoms do not occur, it may indicate an irregularity. In addition: obesity can cause prolonged cycles and increased estrogen production resulting in hair growth on the lower abdomen, face, and between the breasts.

    Risks To an Unborn Baby

    In addition to infertility, maternal obesity has been known to have a wide range of detrimental effects on fetal development. Fetal issues due to obesity include:

    • cardiac defects
    • neural tube defects
    • macrosomia (an infant who is larger than average)
    • miscarriage
    • stillbirth
    • preterm birth


    The treatment for obesity requires a commitment to a weight loss program. This is not an easy task. Most obese people have made attempts at dieting and exercise to achieve weight loss and have not succeeded. Being told to lose weight by one’s doctor often seems like an easy thing to say, but the amount of work to put into it just seems too daunting to most. The right doctor will recommend counseling and guidance. It must be understood that weight loss will not occur immediately, but requires patience and determination.

    Understanding that this could be the deciding factor between a healthy pregnancy and no pregnancy alone should be enough encouragement for those looking to conceive. Realistic expectations in the beginning should start at losing no more than 1 pound a week. Unreasonable expectations can lead to quick disappointment and the unwillingness to continue the program.


    Body fat plays an important role in human infertility. This is an issue existing in the body that, if addressed correctly, can be fixed. A woman’s body weight should not be less than 95% of the ideal body weight or more than 120% of the ideal body weight. If you think this may concern you, see your doctor today. You may be on the way to discovering something new about your body, and could possibly fix the thing keeping you from being able to conceive. 

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    Topics: Infertility, Health

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