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How Does Obesity Affect Fertility

Does obesity affect fertility? Yes, it does and that too significantly, if the weight is not controlled within time. If you are an obese woman planning to conceive, you must understand the vital link between weight gain, pregnancy and health issues.
Obesity has become an epidemic in the US in the past couple of decades. You are an obese person, if you weigh 16 Kg or 35 lbs (approx.) more than the expected weight at your age, height and general body build. Technically speaking, if you have a basal metabolic index (BMI) ranging between 30 to 40, you are obese. BMI has been used as a standard method to know if a person is obese, overweight, underweight or normal. Though it is not deemed to be cent percent accurate, it is generally assumed to be true. It is now a well-known fact that being obese is an open invitation to several types of health risks, chief among them being cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure complications. In the recent years, as the number of overweight and obese people has increased manifolds in the US, the relation between obesity and fertility has gained media attention.

Obesity and Fertility in Women
Both male and female fertility is affected by obesity. Obesity is harmful for women, in a more acute sense because pregnancy brings some major hormonal changes in a woman's body. Several studies conduced by medical scholars have confirmed that obesity is emerging as a major cause of infertility in women. Excess body weight in women triggers hormonal imbalances leading to hosts of complications related to menstruation and ovulation. Fatty cells in the body like visceral fats in the abdominal area lead to production of harmful acids and hormones in the body.

Due to excess fat in the body, women may suffer from symptoms of "estrogen dominance", a condition in which there is excess of estrogen hormone in the body. Estrogen also forms an integral component of birth control pills. If there is excess of estrogen in the body, it blocks the eggs from reaching to the wall of the ovaries (just like contraceptive pills) and makes conceiving very difficult. If the function of ovaries is disrupted, it further affects the ovulation cycle, leading to infertility. Obesity also affects the menstrual cycle of women and increases the risk of miscarriage, high blood pressure and gestational diabetes during a pregnancy.

Fluctuations in the blood pressure are quite a common phenomena during pregnancy phase and for obese women, high blood pressure can become a worrying problem as the pregnancy advances. Obesity is not only harmful for the mother but even for the child. Several incidents of birth defects that include neural tube defects (NTDs) have been associated with excessive fat in the mother's body. The most common cause of infertility in women is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), that causes chronic problems of irregular periods. PCOS leads to presence of multiple cysts in the ovaries leading to production of large amounts of estrogenic hormones that interfere with ovulation, ultimately leading to infertility. In many cases of pregnancy of overweight or obese women, it has been found that the success rate of completing full term pregnancy is low. This means that chances of conceiving become lower in overweight or obese women than a normal weight woman.

Obesity and Fertility in Men
Not only women, but even men face dangers of infertility due to being obese. Several studies in the medical field have stated that obesity in men leads to poor sperm quality and it increases the risk of heart diseases. It also leads to mental fatigue, physical exhaustion leading to lack of interest in sexual activities. It is not that obese men are not interested in sex just like normal weight men but the problem comes while performing. Obesity has been related to erectile dysfunction and many experts believe that erectile dysfunction (ED) is not only physiological in nature but it is dominantly physical in nature. Obesity increases the risk of ED as it causes lowering of testosterone levels in the man's body.

No individual chooses to suffer from obesity or for that matter, infertility. Holistic approach towards weight management is very important. Not only strong will and determination is required from the individual's side, proper guidance and expert help is necessary to reduce weight. Living healthy and exercising control in eating anything unhealthy for the body is a must. Many a time, people can suffer from excessive weight gain due to medical problems and in such cases, expert help is required. Being in the normal weight category can reduce the risk of complicated diseases and it is the key to remain healthy.
By Kundan Pandey
Published: 6/14/2011
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