Can You Get Pregnant by Losing Weight?
A Little Weight Loss Goes a Long Way
Can Losing Only 5% Help You Get Pregnant?
Getting pregnant is becoming more difficult than ever. Despite scientific leaps and advancements in fertility studies and research, many factors have been contributing to delays in pregnancy including women trying to get pregnant at an older age, environmental toxicity levels and much more. Among these pregnancy-delaying factors is the escalating global epidemic of obesity – often referred to as “globesity”.
Obesity has become a major problem on a global level because of the health consequences associated with it. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted that there will be over 2.3 billion overweight and 700 million obese individuals by the end of 2016.
The UAE in particular has a very high rate of individuals suffering from obesity, with a study by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation revealing that more than 66 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women in the UAE are already overweight or obese.
While obesity and its links to diabetes, heart disease and chronic health complications are often highlighted, its impact on women’s fertility is not emphasized enough. “Obese women are three times more likely to suffer from infertility than women with a normal body mass index, especially because obesity causes hormonal imbalances and problems with ovulation,” explains Dr Patrick Noel, laparoscopic and bariatric surgeon at The American Surgecenter in Abu Dhabi.
Although there is a healthy target weight which needs to be achieved when one is aiming for weight loss, experts agree that even a modest reduction in your total body weight is beneficial for your overall health. The Human Reproduction study, led by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the University of Adelaide in Australia, has revealed that extra body weight affects a woman’s ovulation and decreases her chances of getting pregnant.
Although bringing your weight down to the healthy range is ideal for your fertility and the baby’s health, the study has shown that a weight reduction of as little as 5 per cent can help achieve pregnancy.
In the study, a weight management program was assessed to determine whether it could help overweight, anovulatory women – anovulation being a cycle in which a woman fails to ovulate –undergo ovulation and help achieve pregnancy without further medical intervention. Although most women will experience anovulatory cycles at some point in their lives, they are considered abnormal and a common cause of infertility.
Participants in the study underwent a six-month program of behavioural and lifestyle changes, committing to regular physical activity and a balanced diet. Women lost an average of 6.3 kg, with 12 of the 13 subjects resuming ovulation and 11 of them getting pregnant. Improvements in the subjects’ fitness, diet and self-esteem were also observed.
Researchers concluded that weight loss, with its subsequent improvements in ovulation, fitness and psychometric measurements, was a viable first-line treatment option for obese women suffering from infertility.
Weight loss surgery a last resort?
Dieting and exercise may not result in weight loss for some individuals, even despite repeated attempts. Until a few years back, this would have meant a very worrying and hopeless situation for the individual who was trying to lose weight. Fortunately, there is ever-growing evidence today to show that weight loss surgeries can increase fertility in women – giving them another option to consider in cases where the natural solutions had failed.
“Obesity adversely impacts fertility – and even in-vitro fertilization (IVF) outcomes – through a variety of mechanisms. Weight loss by surgical procedures can increase fertility in women by improving menstrual cyclicity in anovulatory women. The increased risk of miscarriage in obese women may also decline after bariatric surgery. Moreover, findings suggest that women who have undergone weight loss surgery were less likely to suffer from diabetes during pregnancy,” adds Dr Noel.
While bariatric surgery promises hope for obese women who are struggling to conceive, Dr Noel emphasized that it is not suited for everyone: “Weight loss surgery should only be considered as a last option. If you still fail after repeated attempts to lose weight through diet and exercise, then that would be the only time you should consider bariatric surgery.”
Moreover, it is important for women who successfully get pregnant after undergoing bariatric surgery to follow strict post-operative care and have their health status monitored by a group of specialists including a nutritionist, in addition to an educated nursing staff, obstetrician, endocrinologist, internal medicine specialist and a bariatric surgeon to ensure their weight – and fertility – are within the right ranges.