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Is Your Weight Weighing On Your Fertility?

Weight and Fertility Issues - Whether an individual male or female overweight or underweight can have a direct consequence on fertility. Girls don't begin to menstruate until their bodies are composed of at least 17% fat. Women or young girls with anorexia or who exercise to the extreme (such as athletes and gymnasts) can lose their menstrual cycle due to the reduction of body fat - therefore become technically infertile temporarily.

Reproductive hormones depend on body fat for their production and metabolism. It is believed that less than 22% body fat will adversely affect oestrogen levels - reducing them to a point of stopping ovulation altogether. If weight is very low - it affects the ovaries - which revert to those of an adolescent (pre-pubescent) grl.

Underweight Females

Underweight is classed as anything below 19 BMI. Being underweight or having to little fat can cause conditions such as:

  • Long cycles

  • Anovulatory cycles

  • Amenorrhea

  • Scant cervical mucus

  • Low oestrogen levels

  • Disruption of hormones

  • Infertility

  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

  • Low progesterone levels

Insufficient body fat can also:

  • Cause a woman's eggs to develop poorly

  • Low potency hormones

  • Reduce the chance of a healthy pregnancy

  • Risk of miscarriage / premature birth increases

  • Cause problems with breastfeeding

Increasing Body Weight

A supervised weight gain programme is of paramount importance. Women should be assessed by a medical practitioner / dietician, and if there are any signs of an eating disorder counselling will be of benefit.

The key to a healthy weight gain to prepare for pregnancy is to:

  • Eat a healthy nutritionally-balanced diet

  • Any changes must be introduced slowly and methodically - so as to protect physical and psychological health.

It is not appropriate:

  • To start on 3 heavy meals a day

  • Or snacking whenever you want to - to gain weight - as this would be damaging to the body's systems

  • Over-feeding too quickly can be as dangerous as not eating enough

Little and often at this stage is very important - the slower it is done the more chance there is of maintaining a healthy weight gain.

Gentle exercise is of benefit - but excessive activity would have a negative effect during a weight gain program.

Over exercising would need to be curbed

Overweight Females

Being overweight can also have an impact on fertility - women tend to have a higher percentage of fat on their bodies. As fat cells produce oestrogen, an abnormal amount will increase levels as to have a negative effect on the reproductive system, and ultimately fertility:

Affecting the menstrual cycle

Suppressing the pituitary gland

Affecting the release of FSH

Negatively affect responses to certain assisted conception treatments

Being overweight you are likely to develop:

  • Thyroid issued

  • PCOS

  • Diabetes - close monitoring of blood sugars will be necessary

Overweight Males

A normal range BMI for a man is between 19 and 30, men with a BMI of more than 25 are considered overweight, over 30 are considered obese upsetting the functioning of the endocrine system, leading to hormonal imbalance, and therefore lowering testosterone.

Exercise can raise testosterone levels somewhat - but if exercise is extreme, levels can actually drop. Low testosterone makes it harder to exercise.

Due to the excess fat layers that can surround the testicles, it can raise their temperature to above 96 degrees, which is damaging to:

  • Sperm morphology

  • Reduce sperm quality

  • Reduce sperm motility

  • Sperm count

Underweight Males

Underweight in men are also at risk for fertility issues, they tend to have:

  • Lower sperm counts

  • Poor sperm motility

A weight gain programme and a reduction in exercise will be required.

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