Is your weight affecting your fertility?
The psychological pressure of thinking that your weight may be a barrier to conceiving can have the opposite effect, hindering your own weight loss
It’s all too easy to gain weight; a little less exercise and a few more puddings or snacks between meals and you can soon see the pounds start to pile on. When it comes to losing weight, it’s a very different story and it usually takes much longer to lose those extra pounds than it did to gain them.
We know that weight can have an impact on fertility problems. Of course, if you’re just on the curvy side your weight is not going to stop you getting pregnant – women need a certain level of body fat to ensure that they ovulate regularly and being very underweight can be just as much of a problem as being very overweight. However, if your weight starts to creep into unhealthy levels, the medical team looking after you may suggest that you should try to get to a target weight before having treatment.
Why weight matters
Your weight really can make a difference to your fertility, and not only to your chances of getting pregnant but also to your chances of having a healthy pregnancy. Being very overweight can lead to hormone imbalances which affect ovulation, making it harder to get pregnant naturally. The drugs used during fertility treatment may be less effective and the chances of successful implantation may also be reduced for women who are obese. If you do get pregnant despite being very overweight, there is a higher risk of miscarriage and of pregnancy problems such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia and blood clots. You are also more likely to need an induced labour and to have interventions during the birth.
Knowing all this might appear to be a great incentive to lose weight, but sometimes the added psychological pressure of thinking that your weight is a barrier to conception can have quite the opposite effect, making it harder to approach the problem in a calm and rational way.
If you’re told to lose weight before you can start treatment, it can be tempting to embark on a crash diet to ensure you can reach your target in the shortest possible time, but sticking to this kind of regime is difficult. You may find that you feel permanently hungry and miserable, which makes it easy to give into temptation. Breaking a strict diet can be so disheartening that you end up giving up entirely and rather than having one biscuit and knowing you’ve gone a little over your calories for the day, you may find yourself eating the whole packet because you feel you’ve ruined your diet.
In fact, the best way to lose weight is not a fad weight reduction plan, but rather aiming for gradual loss by eating a healthy, balanced diet and by making sure that you are more physically active. It is important to be realistic about your expectations, and it is never a bad idea to have a chat with your doctor if you are finding it hard. Going along to a weight loss group can be beneficial as there is a sense of camaraderie in embarking on a programme together and support can make all the difference if you are flagging or feeling demoralised.
Embarking on a sensible healthy eating and exercise plan won’t just help you to lose weight but will also find help you to start to feel fitter too. The impact will be psychological as well as physical, and will enable you to go into fertility treatment with a more positive sense of wellbeing.
Writer and journalist
Kate Brian is a journalist, writer and author of four books on motherhood and fertility, including The Complete Guide to IVF. Kate started writing about the patient perspective on infertility after having IVF herself.
Currently, she contributes to various types of media as an expert on fertility and writes her own blog, where she gives all the latest news and views on fertility issues, as well as useful advice and links for anyone trying to have a baby.
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