( 15 MAY 2016 )

Can my weight make me infertile?
As you may be aware, maintaining optimum body weight is essential for good health and longevity.Excess weight gives rise to a number of health problems like heart disease, hypertension, kidney disorder and diabetes. However, not many people are aware that being overweight also affects their reproductive health in a number of ways.
When patients come to us with fertility-related issues, our first recourse is to educate them about how lifestyle choices affect fertility, and how the problem worsens with timeas most couples have no idea how their weight, eating habits and other life choices could be interfering with their efforts to conceive.
And it’s not only women who face fertility issues due to excess weight. Overweight affects men’s reproductive health as well. We will discuss both one by one.

What does body weight have to do with a woman’s ability to conceive?
Estrogen, the primary female hormone that plays avital role in a woman’s menstrual cycle, is produced in the body’s fat cells. Consequently, women who are overweight have too much estrogen being produced in the body.On the other hand, underweight women can have the problem of very low estrogen levels. When there is too much or too little estrogen in your body, your monthly ovulation cycle(release of egg by the ovaries) gets disturbed. When ovulation is affected, you cannot get pregnant. For your reproductive system to work properly, you need to have optimum hormone levels and a healthy ovulation cycle.
Do knowthat being overweight does not mean that you cannot get pregnant. What’s important is that your ovulation cycle is restored, and today it is possible to correct ovulation disorders and hormonal imbalance with fertility medication.

PCOD and infertility
PCOD or polycystic ovarian disease is a hormonal disorder in which cysts (fluid-filled sacs) develop on one or both of a woman’s ovaries. Again, PCOD messes up the body’s hormone production leading to disrupted ovulation, which makes pregnancy difficult. Weight gain is a common side effect of PCOD, which complicates the problem even further.
Research has shown that losing weight helps to improve fertility in overweight women who have PCOD.
PCOD is a common cause of infertility in women in the reproductive age, and many women discover the problem only when they have difficulty getting pregnant. However, most women with PCOD are able to conceive successfully with timely treatment by a skilled fertility specialistwho is experienced at handing PCOD-related infertility.

How does body weight affect a man’s fertility?
Research shows that being overweight or obese can affect a man's fertility in a number of ways. His sperm count may go down and he may experience poor sperm quality and also hormonal imbalance. Overweight men also often face erectile dysfunction.
Your fertility doctor can diagnose male-factor infertility by ordering a semen analysis – a simple yet important test which provides vital information about the health and number of your sperm. Based on the semen analysis report, your doctor will advise you of treatment options which present maximum potential for success.

Can fertility treatment really help?
Today fertility treatment has advanced by leaps and bounds, and there are treatments available for even the most complex cases. Fertility specialistsat Shantah Fertility Centre have treated thousands of patients with varied types and causes of infertility. If you or your partner is overweight, our skilled doctors will develop fertilitytreatment plan tailored to your condition.
In weight-related infertility, we discover that there is often an accompanying underlying factor affecting a reproductive organ. Therefore we advise infertile couples not to hesitate consulting a fertility specialist as they have the expertise to evaluate your condition properly. Do know that a good fertility doctor would never coerce you to undertake unnecessary tests and treatments; they would educate you of your treatment options and help you make an informed decision.

Lifestyle changes that can help improve fertility
If you are planning to get pregnant, we would advise you to start making some lifestyle changes right away. The good news is that losing even a few kilos – as little as 5% of your bodyweight – can make a remarkable difference in your ability to get pregnant. This means that a woman weighing 90 Kilos will benefit substantially from losing about 4.5 Kilos.
Also, becoming pregnant when you are overweight increases the risk of pre-eclempsia, gestational diabetes, miscarriage and premature labour. When we educate patients about these health risks, they become even more participative and willing to adopt lifestyle changes recommended by our in-house Nutritionist and Fertility Counsellor. Some tips to help you adopt a healthier lifestyle:
• Exercise, stay physically active and maintain a healthy body weight.
• If you are overweight, take measures to bring down your weight.
• If you are underweight, work on increasing your body weight naturally – eat protein-rich natural foods. Speak to our Nutritionist for further guidance.
• Seek ways to eliminate stress from your life as stress has been proven to impact fertility in both men and women.
• Maintain a positive attitude, meditate, or adopt any activity that helps you relax and fosters a positive state of mind. • If you suspect that you may have an ovulation disorder, or if you experience heavy, irregular or painful periods, or unexplained pelvic pain, do seek professional help at the earliest.
For further information on fertility treatments offered at our Centre, or for a Free Second Opinion, please book a consultation with Dr.Anubha Singh here.