The number of overweight individuals has increased sharply in our country, with statistics showing that 68% of our population is overweight (body mass index is greater than 25) and around 36% of our population is considered obese (body mass index is greater than 30). This is a real and growing problem for many of our patients who are trying to get pregnant.
What is BMI?
People oftentimes think that being overweight means you weigh above a certain number of pounds. Within medicine, a formula is used that looks at both height and weight. This formula is known as the body mass index, or BMI. What is your BMI?
BMI and Infertility
Research strongly shows a correlation between higher BMI and lower pregnancy rates. In other words, being overweight may lower your chances of achieving pregnancy.
It has long been known that being overweight makes it difficult for many women to effectively ovulate, or release an egg. This failure to ovulate can cause infertility. Recent studies have shown, however, that even when successful ovulation occurs, pregnancy rates are lower in overweight individuals. The effect seems to be on uterine receptivity, not some genetic or autoimmune disorder.
Most studies show a decrease in pregnancy rate of 1 to 2 % per BMI unit over 30. Similarly, studies show an increase in pregnancy loss and complications of 1 to 2 % in women with a BMI over 30.
Studies looking at overweight women who have gone through IVF also show significantly lower pregnancy rates in overweight women as compared to normal weight controls. In addition, overweight individuals are more at risk for pregnancy complications, such as pre-eclampsia or diabetes during their pregnancies. For this reason, many infertility centers encourage patients to lose weight before attempting assisted reproductive technologies.
Women who struggle with being overweight have often tried for years to lose unwanted pounds. In many instances, family history or a patient’s genetics makes it difficult to lose weight. At Fertility Associates of Memphis, we perceive being overweight simply as a medical risk factor that puts our patients at a disadvantage for achieving a family. Our practice has relationships with nutritionists and weight loss experts who proactively help our patients achieve their weight loss goals.
Current scientific data suggests that weight loss is one of the biggest modifiable factors that can be addressed in women seeking pregnancy. At Fertility Associates of Memphis, patients are counseled that to optimize pregnancy potential and outcome, BMIs less than 30 are encouraged.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our board certified reproductive endocrinologists at Fertility Associates of Memphis, please contact our office at 901-747-2229.