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How is Your Weight Affecting Your Fertility? Calculate Your BMI
By Rosalind Haney, RN, ACN

Weight is an important factor to improved fertility, and one that is very much within your control.

If you are under weight you risk under producing sex hormones, which are critical to normal ovulation and growth of a mature uterine lining. Your body is more likely to be fertile if it is confident in having the nutrient and energy reserves to maintain a pregnancy.

Excessive weight can also affect fertility. Fat cells produce estrogen, which can disrupt the hormonal balance that matures the egg follicle. Increased weight may also increase insulin levels, which can further disturb estrogen levels. High insulin coupled with chronic stress promotes intra-abdominal fat storage (the “apple” body shape) and inhibits fat release. This is the most detrimental weight gain to your health and fertility. Entering a pregnancy with excessive weight can increase all pregnancy complications. In men, the testicles can become surrounded by fatty tissue, raising testicular temperature and decreasing sperm count.

How much should you weigh?
Body Mass Index (BMI) is the measure of body fat in relation to height and weight.

To calculate your BMI, type in your height and weight and press enter.

Weight: lbs.
Height: Ft. In.

Body Mass Index
According to the Panel on Energy, Obesity, and Body Weight Standards published by American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, your category is:

  • BMI of 19 or less = underweight, may need to gain weight to enhance fertility
  • BMI of 20 to 24 = within healthy range.
  • BMI of 25 to 26 = somewhat overweight, but should not interfere with fertility.
  • BMI of 27 to 29 = should lose weight before getting pregnant.
  • BMI of 30 or more = weight may affect fertility and overall health. Gradually lose weight before getting pregnant.

"There is a 16% decrease in fertility for each unit increase of BMI (over 26).”
J Assist Reprod Genet. 2004 Dec; 21(12): 431-6.

A BMI of 30 or more indicates a greatly increased risk of infertility and miscarriage.

There is very hopeful news:
" Even a 5 % to 10 % change in your weight can dramatically improve ovulation and pregnancy rates.”

[Cited from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.]

What is a healthy weight gain goal?

A healthy weight gain is one-half to one pound each week – slow enough to keep you from gaining body fat. Adding moderate exercise and strength training every other day will also help you gain muscle instead of fat.

You will need to eat or drink 500 to 1000 extra calories each day to gain about one-half to one pound each week. This does not give you the green light to eat anything. Your body is looking for increased nutrients and energy reserves to allow for a healthy conception and pregnancy. Rather, increase the portion size of the healthy meals and snacks that you should be eating every 3 to 4 hours.

Have only regular fat foods (no low-fat), as your body needs the natural vitamin A in regular fat foods for normal function of the reproductive glands. Do avoid all trans fat foods such as fried foods, commercial baked goods, and packaged snacks. Recent studies show that when just 2 percent of your calorie intake comes from trans-fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils), your risk of infertility increases by 73 percent! Read your food labels.

What is a healthy weight loss goal?

A healthy weight loss should not exceed two pounds each week. That will ensure you are still taking in nutrients and healthy fats needed for fertility and will not signal your body of a pending deprivation. You are not dieting; you are learning healthy eating habits that will become a way of life.

  • Be aware of the foods you eat by completing a 3-day diet history. This will also help you identify trouble spots.
  • Half of your plate should be covered in fruits and vegetables. Add to this a palm sized portion of lean protein and a palm-sized portion of whole grains.
  • Do not skip meals or go longer than 4 hours without a healthy food choice.
  • Avoid all trans fat foods, which interfere with cellular function resulting in increased inflammation, poor glucose metabolism and altered insulin sensitivity.
  • Exercise within 15-30 minutes of your meal. Metabolism increases 10% - 40% after a meal, so even a 5-minute brisk walk will double this metabolic boost and burn more calories.
  • Incorporate small bursts of movement throughout the day, such as squeezing a handball, pacing while on the phone, and toe/heel lifts to keep your metabolism burning.
  • Increase oxygen intake with deep breathing to burn fat cells hotter and faster.
  • Get 8-9 hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation is a stress, which will result in fat storage and an increased appetite.

The benefits of weight loss are far reaching. For example each pound of fat has 5 miles of capillaries, which strain your heart to supply blood. Weight loss will balance your hormones and improve how your body handles blood sugar.

Weight loss or gain is a valuable commitment to both your own health and the health of your child. Very simple changes can result in tangible benefits.

Contact Rosalind for an individualized evaluation of your diet diary and weight and their affects on your fertility. Together we can devise a nutritional plan that will move you towards a healthy weight to foster fertility.

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