The Effect of Obesity on the Ability to Get Pregnant

over weightWhen attempting to get pregnant, many look at the considerations, their health, their lifestyles and decide if it’s the right time. Or it just happens.

But one thing that society is now experiencing, especially in the United States, is increasing the prevalence of obesity regardless of all the campaigns to reduce our weight.

According to the CDC, 39.8% of U.S. Adults in 2016 were considered obese and if looking at gender, between 36.5% and 44.7% (based on ages of 2039 and 40-59 respectively) of women were obese.[1]

It’s Preventable

Unless there are some underlying diseases causing weight gain, such as thyroid issues, medications, etc., the obesity is one of the most preventable causes of infertility, and losing weight could reduce or negate the need for fertility treatments.[2]

So it’s a wonder why women don’t take that into consideration when they are trying to determine why they cannot have children.

While this may sound harsh, the reality is that as a society we have put less concern on our health as a whole when it comes to weight, and this is detrimental to women who are trying to grow their families.

The Science Behind It

When it comes to why obese women have a harder time getting pregnant, it’s because the higher levels of estrogen that is being synthesized by fat cells disrupts the hormonal balance in the body.[3]

Your body is a sensitive thing and the levels of hormones have to be relatively precise in order to conceive. When you are at a healthy weight, your body will produce the correct amount of estrogen in order to facilitate conception.[4]

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome PCOS is a common cause of infertility and woman suffering from PCOS are usually obese. Treating this will help reduce the weight and increase the chances of conception.[5]

PCOS also seems to be associated with insulin resistance, which in turn also contributes to anovulatory cycles.[6]

This is also a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes[7] which is also something that either you don’t want to have to deal with, is generally preventable, and can make pregnancy higher risk.

Another consideration for obese women is the consumption of vitamins and minerals in the diet.

The numbers look bleak with about forty percent of women are lacking the proper levels of iron, twenty-four percent are lacking in folic acid and four percent are lacking in B12[8], all of which are important before, during and after pregnancy. This could have a lot to do with a diet primarily consisting of processed foods.

Other Considerations

Being pregnant and obese can increase the risk of gestational diabetes, hypertension, miscarriage, and stillbirth and go into labor early.[9]

This makes pregnancy more worrisome than an enjoyable state. So even if you do get pregnant, you’ll want to still consider your weight during those 9 months as well.

Finding your Healthy Weight

While you don’t have to be skinny in order to get pregnant, you should be at a healthy weight. That is different for everybody, literally.

While I may be 5’2″ and 125 pounds and be at a healthy weight, someone at the same height may be at a healthy weight at 115 or 135. It’s really dependent on the individual due to body structure and muscle.

Doctors measure healthy weights with BMI, which is not exactly the most comprehensive way to determine health.

There are plenty of calculators online where you enter your height and weight and it determines your BMI. Consider though that your BMI is going to be a guideline.

So don’t look for a specific weight as a goal, which is why I’ll say the title of this is misleading, just find a range, aim for that, and make adjustments the closer you get. See how your clothes feel, how you feel, your energy levels, etc.

What Can You Do About it

First, don’t assume that your weight is the only thing that is preventing you from getting pregnant. As said before, it can be a combination of other issues. You should first take a trip to the doctors.

If you do find that that is the only thing that is preventing you from getting pregnant, then research has shown losing just 10 percent of weight can increase your fertility.[10]

But you shouldn’t try and crash diets, do it slowly, do it the healthy way.

Another way to try and get pregnant, especially if you are still getting your periods regularly, is to track them with either an app or some other way.

When you track them, you can determine how often you are ovulating as well and how regularly is your cycle.

You should be having intercourse five days before and up to 2 days after your ovulation. This is your most fertile period.

And don’t give up hope. As your doctor first to make sure there is nothing else that could be causing the issue and then tackle the weight part.

Make it fun, don’t make it a chore. Workout with your husband or significant other and do something that you love to do. It’s not about going to the gym and running on the “treadmill” as some people call it.

Get out, enjoy the fresh air, make a meal plan and eats the foods on the outside of the stores (where the least processed items are).

Cook at home more. Just have fun with it and relax. It’s a change that anyone can make, and it might mean the difference between trying for a baby and having a baby. Good luck.


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults and Youth: United States, 2015-2016. [link]
  2. Rachel Gurevich via Very Well Family. Why your Weight Matters when you’re Trying to Conceive. The Connection between BMI and Fertility + What you can do. [link]
  3. See above #2
  4. Nita Landry, M.D. via Self. This is How Your Weight can Affect Your Fertility. [link]
  5. See above #2
  6. Obesity and infertility [link]
  7. See above #4
  8. University of Rochester Medical Center. Myths and Truths of Obesity and Pregnancy. [link]
  9. Sarah Elizabeth Richards via Time Health. The Obesity Pregnancy Dilemma. [link]
  10. See above #2

Image: Pixabay

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