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How Does Obesity Affect Fertility?

October 11, 2018

While you likely know that obesity is directly related to other health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, did you know obesity can also affect the reproductive system?

Obesity is commonly measured as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or over, and is a disease that leads to many health complications, including infertility. Women who are obese typically have a harder time becoming pregnant, whether naturally or through reproductive procedures. In addition, obese women who do get pregnant have a higher rate of miscarriage.

What are the challenges?

“Obesity affects hormones, which directly affect the female reproductive system,” explains Carey Brown, MD, bariatric surgeon with Kettering Bariatrics. Hormonal imbalances can lead to insulin resistance, and insulin resistance can lead to anovulation, when the body doesn’t properly produce eggs. Women who are obese also can struggle with irregular periods or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

Women who are obese and pregnant have a higher risk of both pregnancy and delivery complications. Some of these risks can include preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, hypertension, or infection. Many obese women will need medical intervention during labor, and their babies have a higher risk of premature birth, birth defects, or needing neonatal intensive care. 

What are the treatment options?

Fortunately, women who are obese have options for finding better health. “Bariatric surgery and treatment of obesity has been shown to improve all these conditions,” says Dr. Brown. “The hormonal changes of the gastrointestinal tract can positively influence the female reproductive organs. They can also possibly change the physical manifestation of PCOS.”

Incorporating regular exercise, choosing healthier foods, and reducing caloric intake can be a good start on a path to weight loss. Weight loss surgery is an effective and serious solution for those who are morbidly obese, defined as having a BMI of 40 or higher. In general, weight loss surgery can be a good option for morbidly obese people who have tried other weight loss solutions with little to no success.  

If you’re wondering if weight loss surgery is right for you, sign up for a free weight loss surgery seminar at ketteringhealth.org/weightloss or find the answers to your questions by calling (937) 433-5957.