If you’re researching tips for trying to conceive, odds are you’ve noticed lots of information about how diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits increase your chances of conceiving at home, as well as the success rates of IVF and other fertility treatments. “Losing weight” is one of those tips if and only if you are overweight or obese.
Studies show a direct correlation between fertility rates and weight (or body mass index, to be more specific). However, lowered fertility rates happen both above and below the healthy BMI window.
If you’re at a healthy or optimal BMI for your height, age, and body type – do not try to lose weight before trying to conceive. If, however, your BMI exceeds the normal range, losing weight may increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Aim for a BMI between 18.5 and 29 (the “Normal” range)
The first thing you should do is weigh yourself on an accurate scale and then determine your BMI. We like this BMI Calculator from the Mayo Clinic, which uses your gender, height, weight, and waist circumference to provide an BMI. If you are in the normal range, stop there.
While a healthy diet and exercise routine, as well as good sleep habits and stress management tools support overall wellbeing, there is no need to lose weight. In fact, trying to lose weight while in the “normal BMI” range can hurt conception, because being underweight is as detrimental to healthy conception and pregnancy as being overweight.
Are you considered overweight or obese?
Current BMI guidelines are:
- 25 to 29.9: Overweight
- 30 and up: Obese
If your BMI is 25 or higher, you fall into the overweight or obese category, and we recommend scheduling a pre-conception appointment with your OB/GYN or primary healthcare provider to discuss the best weight loss strategies for you.
Why does being overweight affect female fertility?
Being overweight compromises fertility in multiple ways.
- Excess weight is linked to insulin resistance. Because insulin is a hormone, this disrupts the body’s delicate hormone balance, which includes hormones associated with fertility.
- It can exacerbate underlying health issues such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, etc.
- Being overweight is often a factor in PCOS, one of the most common causes of infertility in the U.S.
- Women who are overweight or obese have higher rates of infertility and pregnancy complications
Weight impacts male fertility, too!
It’s important to point out that women aren’t alone in the connection between excess weight and infertility.
Men who are overweight are at higher risk for:
- Low sperm count
- Poor sperm motility/morphology
- Decreased libido and/or sexual dysfunction
Make sure to share the news with your partner, so you can work in tandem to create healthy lifestyle changes or adjustments that help you reach your healthy fertility BMI goal.
Get back to healthy lifestyle basics
Ultimately, it all goes back to the basics when you’re trying to conceive at home or when you’re using fertility treatments to help you conceive.
We recommend exploring anti-inflammatory diet options. These include things like the Mediterranean diet or the South Beach diet. If you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, you should speak to your physician about lower-carb diets, like Adkins, which balance blood sugar and can help manage PCOS with fewer medication interventions.
Read, An Anti-inflammatory Diet May Help Fertility to learn more.
Exercise each day (or at least five days a week) if you can
It’s not easy to fit exercise into the daily schedule, and that is especially the case if you’re overweight and haven’t exercised in a while.
Start out easy and give yourself time to ease into the optimal routine. Just a simple walk is a good place to start. Once you’ve made it a regular part of your schedule, and your body has gotten into the groove, you can begin to add other, appealing exercise options into the routine.
Practice healthy sleep habits
As with weight, too little or too much sleep compromises fertility. Sleep is integral to healthy hormone production and balance, so too much or too little is connected to weight gain as well as fertility complications. Read our post How Lack of Sleep is Hurting Your Fertility to see if it may be time to practice better sleep habits.
Would you like support from a Kansas City fertility specialist who has great success helping clients maintain healthier weight targets to get pregnant? Schedule a consultation with the Reproductive Resource Center.