Obesity and Its Effect on Fertility
Obesity is a systemic disease, meaning that it affects virtually every part of the body in some negative way. This includes reproductive health. While reproductive issues appear most commonly in obese women, there is also more data being gathered on the effects of obesity on male reproductive health.
Female reproductive health issues
Obesity affects a wide range of reproductive systems in women and there is a strong association between obesity and infertility. Indeed, weight loss and maintaining a normal BMI was positively correlated to fertility and even regaining fertility. Some of the issues associated with obesity and reproductive health include an increased risks of
- Pregnancy complications
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS – a significant hormonal abnormality which may affect upwards of 10% of reproductive age women in the United States. Some studies estimate that upwards of 80% are overweight or obese. Interestingly, obesity and PCOS have had a bidirectional relationship. PCOS is an obesity related condition, however the development of PCOS can also worsen weight gain and obesity. You could call it a vicious cycle.1
Conception rates are significantly lower in those with excess weight and obesity. Interestingly, natural and assisted conception rates are lower too. This means that patients who try ovulation induction or in vitro fertilization may not be as successful as those with a lower / normal BMI.2
The Bottom Line
Once again, we see that obesity does not discriminate as to the organs and processes that it affects in the body. Virtually all areas of reproductive health are somewhat affected by the hormonal and mechanical issues associated with obesity. Further, obesity affects both male and female fertility rates and assisted fertility treatments can be less effective.
- ¹Barber TM, Hanson P, Weickert MO, Franks S. Obesity and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Implications for Pathogenesis and Novel Management Strategies. Clin Med Insights Reprod Health. 2019;13:1179558119874042. Published 2019 Sep 9. doi:10.1177/1179558119874042