A Weighty Issue

Weight loss will improve overall health in addition to reproductive health

It’s common knowledge that there is an obesity epidemic in the United States. In fact, more than 35% of adult women in the United States are obese.

Obesity has a multitude of negative health effects, including many on reproduction and fertility. Compared to normal weight women, overweight and obese women have a harder time getting pregnant and have a higher rate of miscarriage when pregnancy does occur. These findings hold true even when using in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Over the past year, I have been doing a research study to investigate why overweight and obese have a harder time achieving pregnancy. I did this research in conjunction with Drs. Santoro and Polotsky.

In late June, I had the opportunity to present our findings at a national conference for the Endocrine Society and was awarded with the Clinical Research Fellowship and Mentor Award.

Prior research has shown that obese women have lower levels of many reproductive hormones than normal weight women. Our study’s aim was to figure out why the reproductive hormones are altered in obesity.

We looked at 7 obese and 10 normal weight women; the study is ongoing with a goal of 10 women per group. The most important finding was that obese women had decreased pituitary sensitivity to physiologic doses of GnRH (a hormone that drives the production of reproductive hormones by the pituitary).

These findings are important in helping to explain the physiology of why overweight and obese women have a harder getting pregnant. The real question, though, is what can you do to improve your chances of pregnancy if you are overweight or obese?

  1. Calculate your BMI and know what it means. (Here is a free online BMI calculator: http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/)
  2. A person with a BMI of 26-30 is considered overweight. A BMI greater than 30 is considered obese.
  3. Aim to lose 10% of your body weight (to start) by making small changes:
    • Increase exercise (even adding walking to your daily routine will help
    • Remove any drinks with calories from your diet (soda, juice, sweet tea, coffee drinks) and replace them with water
    • Add fruits and vegetables to your diet (fresh or frozen are best, avoid canned because they have added preservatives)

Weight loss will improve overall health in addition to reproductive health.

What the research says

Advanced Reproductive Medicine research shows a promising link between omega-3 supplementation and increased fertility among obese women. The study found that these supplements can improve fertility in obese women, who often suffer more from infertility.