Weight and Fertility

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It has for many years been well documented that being underweight or overweight can reduce fertility and make it difficult to conceive.

Obesity Causes Infertility:

The medical journal “Human Reproduction” published important results of a study by Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Center; which connected obesity to fertility problems. The study found that obesity is an additional risk factor for infertility in women who have regular menstrual cycles.

It is not clear how obesity affects fertility in women who ovulate normally, but it has some negative effects on factors for fertility, for example the number and health of ova. It has been observed that obesity is associated with polycystic ovary syndrome which decreases fertility.

Problems during Pregnancy and Delivery:

Being obese also puts women at risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. In later pregnancyor at the time of delivery this can lead to preeclampsia which has serious health considerations including impairing kidney and liver function, cause blood clotting problems, and result in problems such as the higher rate of miscarriage and congenital malformations, particularly the heart and spine development. Preeclampsia can be fatal for mother and baby and a woman with obesity and associated problems should be closely monitored towards the end of her pregnancy and particularly during labour and delivery.

In an extensive study published in the “Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine”, scientists found that several different types of birth defect were more common in babies whose mothers were obese. These defects are spina bifida, heart defects, genital and bowel abnormalities and small or missing toes, fingers, arms and legs.

Being obese can even make delivering the baby much harder and caesarean sections are more commonly needed and epidurals harder or in some cases impossible to administer.

  • Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) to know whether you need to lose in order to be withinthe recommended healthy weight range
  • This calculator will help you with your BMI.
  • It is important to aim for a healthy body weight before you even start trying for a baby. The sooner you are within a healthy weight range the better the probability you get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy.
  • Choose a healthy eating programme that you feel you can stick to and which you will enjoy – there are many to choose from.  Ask your doctor to advise you or speak to a nutritionist if you need help and inspiration.  Make sure they know that you are preparing to conceive. They can advise on any additional supplements you may need alongside. 
  • Despite of the importance of losing weight, harsh diets where you lose too much weight in a short period are not recommended as it may disrupt hormonal function and also cause deficiencies in vital minerals and vitamins. Any diet, which avoids essential food groupswill leave you short on a range of important vitamins and minerals, which you will need during your pregnant.
  • It is not just diet but exercise also that is vital when working to a healthy BMI.  Exercise also helps manage stress and promotes good mentalhealth which is very important and can help you managing how you eat. Choose whichever form of exercise that you prefer, including walking, running, swimming, biking, or going to gyms or group classes, such as yoga.

Eating Right:

There is no specific diet to boost fertility, but you need a healthy and balanced nutrition. Nutritious foods are from the whole spectrum of the food pyramid and in specific proportions.  There are foods to avoid when trying to conceive and your doctor can advise on this.

Steps to Lose Weight Before Conception:

  • Understand what has led to your weight gain, what your weaknesses are and understand what your calorific needs are. It is recommended a woman needs between 1900 and 2500 calories daily.
  • Not all fruits are good in large quantities due to higher sugar content for example grapes, dates, figs and mangoes. Similarly concentrated fruit juices can be very high sugar.  Educate yourself as to where these hidden calories and sugars actually are so you can avoid them in excess.
  • Avoid foods with added sugars and saturated fats.
  • Try to get used to eat fat-free, unsweetened, and no-added sugar options.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and raw seafood.
  • Take vitamins and minerals specifically recommended for pre-natal women.Confirm with your doctor which supplements you need first.Folic acid is one of the most important prenatal vitamins.
  • Iron, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acid supplements also help maintain your body functions while aiding your baby in his or her development.
  • Avoid vitamin A supplements, as going over the recommended dose in pregnancy may harm your developing of the baby. Natural sources from your balanced diet are safer.
  • Avoid certain varieties of fish and seafood, after consulting your doctor as some contain high levels of mercury that can harm the nervous system of the baby.
  • Eat 5 or 6 small meals instead of 3 main meals to keep your blood sugar level and prevent cravings for unhealthy snacks.
  • Start off with a well-rounded breakfast to make you feel better for the entire day, and try to have a lighter diner.
  • Eat whole-grain products and avoid processed grains as white bread.
  • Use unsaturated fats like olive oil, instead of butter.
  • Eat healthy snacks
  • Eat a handful of almonds or cashew nuts daily.
  • Eat high-fiber vegetables and fruits. Lettuce and carrots are perfect options and they will, not only, help you lose weight, but also, avoid digestive problems and constipation.
  • Snack options include: a banana smoothie, all-fruit non-fat sorbet, a whole-grain sandwich with hard-boiled eggs, or cheese, as well as plain yogurt.
  • Exercise is an important part of weight-loss and helps build stamina and lean muscle mass which burns fat.  You do not need to start a strenuous regime – 30 minutes of moderate activity daily is perfect and will make a huge difference.
  • Drink lots of water – a minimum of 8 glasses per day.

The above is a guide only; there are many weight loss plans and clubs to support you.  If you are unsure what you need to contact your health care provider who will be able to discuss your personal needs and help you find an appropriate plan for you to successfully lose weight and achieve optimum nutrition.

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