Infertility Risk Factors: Being Overweight

Medical studies indicate that being overweight can cause infertility and affect the chances of conceiving. Although weight may be a causing factor only for only 10 percent infertility, it can still impact a woman’s ability to conceive. Overweight women may not ovulate regularly, possibly affecting fertility. Being overweight is having a body mass index (BMI) of 26 to 29. Studies show that 50 percent of women aged 25 to 55 are overweight in the United States alone.

Fat Cells and Estrogen

Because fat cells produce estrogen, being overweight with extra fatty tissue can increase estrogen levels. If there is too much estrogen in the body, the ovaries react similar to that of being on birth control. Too much estrogen can cause a hormone imbalance, possibly causing infertiity. Overweight women may not ovulate at all in this situation or ovulate to a lesser degree. When ovulation is not up to par, a luteal phase defect (LPD) can occur.

Luteal Phase Defect (LPD)

The luteal phase is the time between ovulation and menstruation. Ideally this phase should be 14 days, but 12 to 16 days is often considered adequate. Under 10 days is definitely considered to be a defect, with many physicians finding that even anything below 12 days is a problem.

When a woman is pregnant during the luteal phase, the fertilized egg will travel from the fallopian tube to the womb. If the woman has a luteal phase defect,  an early miscarriage will usually occur.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome can cause a woman to not ovulate and miss a period. Medical studies indicate that this problem and PCOS can be worsened when a woman is overweight.

An important factor with being overweight and PCOS is insulin resistance. This does not necessarily mean that the woman is diabetic, but it could indicate the body’s inability or difficulty with utilizing insulin. In turn, this rejected insulin and glucose can find its way into the blood stream of the woman, possibly causing a hormonal imbalance and PCOS, as well as cardiovascular disease. In addition, this can also create cysts on the ovaries, where if there are too many, infertility may develop.

Sex and Being Overweight

Not in all cases, but for some women, being overweight can cause women to have difficulties conceiving during sex. If excess skin prevents the sperm from reaching the cervical mucus or the deep cervix, conception may not take place.

Nutrition and Fertility

Overweight individuals may not always consume a healthy diet. This inadequate nutrition and perhaps unhealthy lifestyle can decrease the chances of conception.

Overweight Men and Infertility

Fertility can be affected by a man being overweight. Although there has been no significant evidence that sperm production and quality of sperm is affected by men being overweight, medical research and studies do show that overweight men have lower testosterone levels, which is linked to male infertility.

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