How being overweight can affect fertility

A weight loss of as little as five to 10% can improve a woman’s chance of falling pregnant.

According to a recent study, weight loss following a lifestyle intervention improved conception rates among obese infertile women who experienced irregular menstrual cycles.

Obese infertile women who had just completed a six-month lifestyle intervention were more than four times as likely to naturally conceive compared with women who were given fertility treatment alone.

Obesity, which is defined as having a body mass index of over 30, can affect fertility by causing hormonal imbalances and problems with ovulation.

Insulin resistance, which usually presents with stubborn belly fat, is associated with poly-cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common hormonal condition especially in infertile women, affecting up to one in five women of reproductive age.

According to Sandton-based aesthetic and anti-aging practitioner, Dr Sly Nedic, ‘While obesity, hypertension and insulin resistance are a few of the symptoms of PCOS, it is also the leading cause of infertility… and has now become an epidemic.

‘In women with PCOS, the body manufactures more androgens than normal. Androgens are male hormones which females also produce. High levels of these hormones affect the development and the release of eggs during ovulation.

Increased levels of androgens in a woman’s body are responsible for the majority of symptoms, however many symptoms stem from an underlying insulin resistance,’ Dr Nedic explains.

Studies have shown that overweight and obese women with PCOS may have a greater chance of becoming pregnant if they lose weight before beginning fertility treatment.

In one study, 187 obese and overweight women with PCOS were immediately treated with a drug that induces ovulation.

In the other study, 142 women with PCOS began a weight loss programme which consisted of a lower calorie intake, exercise, and anti-obesity medication before starting the fertility treatment.

Women who were treated with the treatment alone had an ovulation rate of 44.7 percent and a live birth rate of 10.2 percent.

The women who received the treatment after the weight loss programme had a 62 percent ovulation rate and a 25 percent live birth rate.

Not only can it assist with possibly fertility issues, but a weight loss of five to 10 percent can also lower one’s risk of developing heart disease.

Modest weight loss can decrease blood pressure and has been found to decrease insulin levels.

Prescription medication, together with lifestyle adjustments such as a healthy eating and exercise plan, can help kick start a weight loss journey, or can help someone get back on track.

Speak to your doctor about options for weight loss management or go to or for more information.

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Mari Scott

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