Our New Jersey fertility center offers support and answers about weight and infertility

Weight is often a touchy issue. People don’t want to be reminded that they are too heavy or even too lean! At our New Jersey fertility center it is not uncommon for patients to refuse to be weighed. After all, everyone has a friend who weighed more (or less) and still conceived without difficulty.

But patients come to North Hudson IVF precisely because they are not getting pregnant the “good old-fashioned way.” Fertility expert Dr. Jane Miller explains to her patients that lifestyle choices can indeed influence fertility, and should be considered and discussed.

The systemic connection between weight and infertility

Abnormalities of hypothalamic and pituitary hormone secretion are relatively common in underweight, overweight and obese women. These descriptions are defined by the body mass index (BMI), which is the ratio of weight in kilograms divided by the height in meters squared.

  • An optimal BMI for most people is between 20 and 24.
  • Underweight people have a BMI of 17 or less.
  • Overweight people have BMIs between 25 and 29.9.
  • Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 and higher.

Women who are underweight may lack the percentage of body fat needed to sustain regular, ovulatory cycles. Severe weight loss, as seen in anorexia nervosa, can result in amenorrhea (no periods), hypothyroidism, and other metabolic dysfunctions that can prevent ovulation and pregnancy.

With weight gain, the metabolic changes in an underweight woman have a good chance of being restored to normal.

The opportunity to restore fertility with weight loss

Overweight and obese patients are more commonly seen than underweight ones at our New Jersey fertility center as the prevalence of obesity has dangerously increased over the past two decades.

In the United States 50% of reproductive age women have BMIs higher than 25, and this has profound effects upon their reproductive lives as well as their future health.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has recently published a new document, “Obesity and reproduction: a committee opinion,”* which eloquently discusses the consequences of weight and obesity on reproductive health.

Dr. Miller, our New Jersey fertility specialist, discusses the following important issues with her patients when appropriate.

  • Obesity is associated with an increased risk for miscarriage and a lower live birth rate than normal-weight women.
  • Excess weight and increased abdominal fat increase the risk of irregular periods and ovulatory dysfunction. This can present as oligo (few) or anovulatory (no ovulation at all) cycles. With increased weight gain, periods can become so irregular that they appear every 4-6 months or not at all.
  • Obese women usually require higher doses of medications to stimulate follicular growth and ovulation during fertility treatment than do their normal weight counterparts.
  • In addition, obese women have fewer mature eggs – and only mature eggs can fertilize.

Obesity has been found to alter egg morphology (shape) and impair embryo quality – lowering the ability of the endometrium (uterine lining) to enable implantation.
As a result, overweight or obese women have significantly reduced rates of clinical pregnancy and live birth weight.

Our New Jersey fertility specialist counsels all overweight and obese patients on lifestyle management, diet and, medical or surgical treatment. The goals are multiple: better response to treatment, a better chance at normal-term pregnancy, and – most important – improved body-image and overall health.

Contact our New Jersey fertility center to schedule a consultation with Dr. Jane Miller.

*(Fertil Steril 2015;104: 1116-26)