An anxious, overweight woman came in to consult me a couple of weeks back. She has been trying to conceive for two years but has been unsuccessful. Now she has not had her menses for last 9 weeks but her pregnancy test was negative. She has been having her periods irregularly for last many years.
A rapidly growing and often ignored problem
The number of young overweight women and men seeking medical assistance for planning family is on a rise. Being overweight not only affects ones’ chances of becoming a parent, but also can lead to complications in pregnancy- adversely affecting both mother and baby. Therefore, it is very important for all young men and women to know the fundamentals of causation and detection of this important disorder.
When to be concerned?
The most often asked questions in this context are- what is a normal acceptable weight, when does one get labelled as overweight and what is the definition of obesity? Another important question we often get asked is- what’s the difference between being overweight and obese? In very simple terms, what a physician evaluates to check for obesity in a person is a simple index known as “body mass Index” or BMI. BMI can be calculated by simply dividing the person’s body weight in Kg by the square of person’s height measured in meters.
BMI is measured as Kg/m2
In very simple terms, a BMI of 18-24 is considered to be normal and anyone having a BMI beyond this range is either overweight or obese. Many simple calculators to measure one’s BMI are freely available on internet. You can try one of the following links to check your BMI-
The following are broad guidelines for detection of obesity-
- BMI of < 18.5 indicates that the person is underweight
- BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 indicates that the person has got normal weight
- BMI between 25 and 29.9 indicates that the person is overweight
- BMI of > 30 indicates obesity
How does Obesity affect fertility?
Excessive body weight in women causes multiple hormonal imbalances, which can result in irregular menstruation and reduced frequency of ovulation, thus leading to infertility. Also, the outcome of Infertility treatment in obese women is poorer than in their normal weight counterparts. Obesity also increases the chances of pregnancy related complications such as miscarriage, pregnancy induced hypertension and gestational diabetes and hence increases the requirement offers cesarean delivery. And not to forget that the labor is that much harder and prolonged for obese women.
Obese males also suffer from reduced fertility as they tend to have lower level of testosterone, which suppresses sperm production. Obesity can also case erectile dysfunction in men, which can result in reduced fertility.
What can you do?
So, what to do if you are struggling getting a baby and have been diagnosed as overweight or obese? Here are five easy weight management tips to help you realize your dream of having a child-
- Watch your meals- take a healthy diet and avoid excess carbohydrates and fat
- Watch your beverages- drink adequate quantity of water, avoid soft drinks as they contain empty calories and refrain from alcohol
- Stop smoking and keep in mind that there is nothing like occasional/ moderate smoking
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle- short sessions of brisk walking, swimming, jogging or skipping are good means to keep one active and healthy
- Avoid stress and practice Yoga/ meditation or other stress buster techniques that suit you
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