How does weight & diet effect fertility?

A healthy body is the key to fertility. Being over or under weight can cause fertility problems for men and women and nutritional deficiencies cause problems both with conception and the success of the pregnancy.

Maintaining a healthy BMI and eating a balanced diet can improve the chances of pregnancy.

What is BMI?

BMI is an acronym for body mass index, the test used by doctors to define if your body weight is within a healthy range. 

How does weight affect male fertility?

Men who have a BMI of less than 20 are at risk of impaired sperm production, in a similar way to underweight women experiencing problems caused by irregular menstrual cycles.

A higher than recommended BMI can also damage fertility with men who have a BMI of +25 having a sperm count that is up to 22% lower than normal. Sperm count is one of the major factors for male factor infertility.  

How does weight affect female fertility?

Women who have a low BMI are likely to experience a stop in menstrual cycles or irregular menstrual cycles. Increasing weight to a BMI within a healthy range will re-regulate the menses for most women. 

Just as a low weight causes damage to fertility in the short term, so does a high BMI. Women with a high BMI frequently experience changes to their menstrual cycle. 30-40% of women with an increased BMI will have problems with ovulation as a result. 

Fat cells in the body stimulate the production of estrogen. Excess fat cells cause the body to produce increased levels of estrogen which acts as a natural contraceptive and can halt ovulation.

Can weight affect your IVF treatment?

Some fertility clinics refuse to provide treatment to women who are overweight, however many fertility clinics are more sympathetic and can offer nutritional advice and guidance to women who want to begin IVF treatment. 

If you decide to go ahead with IVF while you are overweight, the excess weight you carry could cause complications with the egg collection process.  If no complications prevent egg collection and in vitro fertilisation successfully fertilises collected ova, overweight women have a decreased chance of embryo implantation. Successful embryo implantation rates in overweight women is low, with 15% of implantations resulting in pregnancy compared to 22% of women at a healthy weight. 

Will my diet affect fertility?

A poor diet often leads to weight gain causing the problems described above. A poor diet can also cause nutritional deficiencies or an excess of certain vitamins and nutrients that are harmful to fertility and the health of a woman during pregnancy. 

For men, a diet rich in zinc and vitamins A, C and E has been shown to boost fertility. For women, folic acid, omega 3 and plenty of body-friendly antioxidants are recommended.

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