Most of us know how important food and nutrition is for both mom and the developing baby during pregnancy. It’s incredible too see how what a mother eats and how her weight pattern changes when pregnant can shape the health outcomes, risk for disease and even taste preferences for baby! However, what many don’t know is just how much your nutrition and lifestyle before you conceive can also influence not only a child’s future health outcomes, but even the chances of conceiving to begin with! In fact, fertility can be affected by a variety of factors, including age, body weight, diet, tobacco smoke, alcohol, stress, exercise, medications and chemical in the environment. In part one of the blog post, we’re going to focus in on how a healthy body weight can boost your fertility and increase your chances of conceiving,
Why does weight matter?
The body really is an incredible thing. You see, when mother is trying to conceive, her body is making sure that it will be conceived in the most optimal environment. And so, it makes it much harder to conceive when a mother is significantly underweight or overweight, because it’s telling us that it’s not in an optimal health state to house a baby! In fact, approximately 12% of infertility can be attributed to weight issues. The biggest driver for this “go-no go” signal allowing the body to conceive is the percentage of body fat on the mother. This is because estrogen is produced by fat cells, and so having too many or too few fat cells in the body messes with the amount of estrogen circulating in the body and therefore, affects fertility. More specifically, having very high estrogen levels as a result of being overweight, is attributed to about 25% of anovulatory fertility. Many women with PCOS often experience this difficulty, as being overweight can be both a cause and a result of PCOS. Those with insulin resistance also can experience difficulty with gaining weight and infertility.
So what about dad?
Well, research shows that risk for infertility goes up when both partners are overweight. This is because overweight men tend to have lower testosterone levels and higher estrogen levels, as well as lower number sperm count (and not as healthy ones). So, it’s pretty important that both partners do their part to achieve a healthy weight range if wanting to boost fertility.
Now, what’s the good news in all of this? Research shows that just a 5-10% weight loss can dramatically increase the chances of ovulation and conception! That’s why it’s so important to have your diet and weight assessed before attempting fertility treatments, as a few simple tweaks can make the process more successful! As a registered dietitian specializing in fertility and prenatal nutrition, I help women and men make step-by-step changes to their lifestyles to achieve a healthy weight and help achieve normal ovulation and pregnancy.
Next week, I’m going to share with you some of my top tips on how to begin with healthy weight management in part two of the post.