USC Fertility

Weight and Infertility

What you need to know about weight and infertility

Our fertility specialists in Los Angeles sees many women who struggle with infertility and their weight. When ovulation issues are the reason a woman can’t become pregnant, there’s often a relationship between her weight and infertility.

How much does weight matter? Studies have shown that extreme BMIs – in either direction – are related to ovulation problems. In other words, both extremely low and extremely high body weight can cause women to have trouble conceiving.

The relationship between weight and infertility

Women who have very low body weight may have irregular menstrual cycles and ovulation disorders, showing a clear connection between weight and infertility. Because about 12% of cases of ovulation-related infertility are related to being underweight, it’s common for our fertility specialists in Los Angeles to see this condition.

Scientists believe that low calorie consumption, often associated with a low BMI, may affect the body’s production of progesterone and estrogen, two hormones that are critical to ovulation. In some women with very low body weight, menstrual cycles stop altogether, a condition known as amenorrhea.

Ovulation issues are even more common in obese women, with 25% of ovulatory-related infertility attributed to being overweight. Obesity also increases the risk of miscarriage and is strongly associated with polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, which can cause infertility and a host of other lifelong symptoms. Excess fat in the abdominal area may be particularly damaging, as it is common in PCOS and seems to be associated with abnormal insulin levels.

Women who are overweight, even when ovulation is normal, have less of a chance to conceive and it may take them longer to conceive. Obesity is also linked to multiple pregnancy complications that can be problematic for both mom and baby.

If you are one of the many women struggling with weight and infertility, the first step is to calculate your BMI, or body mass index, using an online calculator. Once you know your BMI, you can determine where you fall.

  • Underweight: BMI less than 18.5
  • Healthy: BMI 18.5 to 24.9
  • Overweight: BMI 25 to 29.9
  • Obese: BMI 30 or more

It starts with you

While there are many effective fertility treatments to help women overcome issues with weight and infertility, many women can improve their chances of becoming pregnant by changing their diet and exercise routine.

If you are underweight – especially if your periods have stopped – you should increase your calorie and fat intake, eat more often and consider exercising less often and less intensely.

If your BMI is too high, reducing your weight and body fat may improve your fertility. Reduce your overall intake of calories, restrict fat consumption to less than 30% of your total calories, cut back on sugar and eat healthy foods. Get regular exercise, with low to moderate intensity, building up to 30 minutes to an hour a day.

To learn more about the relationship between weight and infertility, contact us to schedule a consultation with a fertility specialist in Los Angeles.