In women, being overweight or obese significantly reduces the chances of conception and pregnancy. In men, obesity makes the man infertile and unable to impregnate the woman.
For pregnancy to easily occur, both man and woman need to carry a healthy weight.
Being overweight and obese touches almost 50% of the population in most countries. In America, about two-thirds of the population is overweight or obese.
This increase in the incidence of carrying excess weight has resulted in an increase in childless couples.
Infertility affects one in seven couples and this prevalence is on the increase. Ovulation defects and unknown causes are responsible for more than 50% of these childless cases.
Obesity is a risk factor for infertility in women who also have regular menstrual cycles. Studies indicate that obese women are less likely to conceive as easily as non-obese women. In obesity, the fertility of both men and women is affected.
Obesity and Infertility in Women
As a woman, you should know that if you are trying to become pregnant, being overweight or obese could reduce your chances of conception and becoming pregnant.
Obesity not only creates ovulation problems in women but also causes infertility in women who have normal ovulation.
It is not known, however, how or why obesity causes pregnancy problems in normally ovulating women.
Obesity is associated with various reproductive problems in women ranging from the absence of ovulation, reduced fertility and infertility to increased risk of miscarriage, poor neonatal and maternal pregnancy results.
Women with BMI of 35 have a 26% less chance of conceiving than those with a normal weight. Women with severe obesity (BMI more than 40) are 43% less likely to conceive than those with normal weight.
These stats only go to show that the infertility risks increase with increasing obesity.
Obesity and infertility in Men
More men are obese now than ever before. In the past 30 years, the obesity rates in men have more than tripled in the last 30 years leading to an increase in male infertility throughout the world.
Tne link between obesity and infertility is strongly established by studies conducted and statistical figures.
In men, obesity is associated with low testosterone levels. In men with severe obesity, there is reduced spermatogenesis (development process of sperm cells) and very low testosterone levels.
Furthermore, with increasing body mass index, there is an increasing frequency of erectile dysfunction (impotence). In short the more the obesity, the more chances of erectile dysfunction. However, treatment of obesity improves these disorders.
Why Obesity Causes Infertility
According to Andrew Wolfe of Hopkins Children’s Hospital:
“There was a sense that the reproductive dysfunction was due to insulin resistance. What we propose is a fundamentally new model showing that different tissues respond to obesity differently and that while cells in the liver and muscle become insulin resistant, cells in the pituitary remain sensitive to insulin.”
The Pituitary gland controls ovulation and fertility. When the insulin-sensitive cells of the pituitary gland get exposed to high levels of insulin (which are frequently seen in obesity.), fertility chances are dimmed and infertility prevails.
Another cause could be the high levels of estrogen associated with obesity. As explained in obesity and menstruation, high estrogen levels cause ovulation to stop. Without ovulation, there can be no pregnancy.
Research indicates that obesity is associated with as much as a 67% increased risk of miscarriage. Even recurrent miscarriages are common among obese women. Studies also indicate losing weight reduces the risk of miscarriage.