How Being Overweight or Underweight Affects Fertility and Infertility Treatment

Deborah Smith, MD is a Reproductive Endocrinologist who leads the team at Rocky Mountain Fertility Center in Parker, Colorado, and Rapid City, South Dakota.

Our team of experts delivers evidence-based fertility treatments in a setting founded on the guiding principles of compassionate care. The team’s commitment to excellence has resulted in their nationwide recognition as an outstanding fertility treatment center with one of the highest success rates in the United States.

Rocky Mountain Fertility Center uses some of the most technologically advanced treatments available for infertility. However, Dr. Smith begins your evaluation by addressing some basic health concerns, such as whether weight might be playing a role.

Understanding weight, hormones, and female infertility

Not every woman who is overweight or underweight experiences fertility issues. However, many women who are at either extreme of the scale do struggle with hormonal imbalances that affect their ability to become pregnant or maintain a healthy pregnancy.

When you’re underweight, for instance, you may lack certain nutrients that are essential to maintaining appropriate estrogen levels and egg development within the ovaries. This can cause dramatic declines in estrogen and prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulation), which is necessary for conception.

On the other hand, higher-than-normal estrogen levels can also make your body believe you’re already pregnant and thus prevent your ovaries from developing and releasing viable eggs. This is what makes estrogen-based birth control pills and intrauterine devices (IUDs) so effective.

Because estrogen is produced in fat cells as well as your ovaries, excess weight can also increase estrogen levels enough to stop ovulation and prevent pregnancy.

Weight extremes and male infertility

Being overweight or underweight can also affect a man’s overall health and sperm count. Extremes in weight can, for instance, reduce testosterone levels and interfere with sperm production. Male infertility is related to an abnormal or low sperm count about 40% of the time. An unhealthy weight can also cause problems with blood pressure, diabetes, and other conditions that contribute to erectile dysfunction and decreased libido.

How does weight affect infertility treatments?

Unhealthy weights can affect your response to the hormones and other treatments used to treat infertility, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). Underlying health issues linked to weight extremes, such as anemia related to malnutrition in the severely underweight and Type 2 diabetes associated with excess weight, also make it hard for your body to maintain a healthy pregnancy after conception and can result in implantation failure or early miscarriage.

At Rocky Mountain Fertility Center, before beginning any fertility treatment, we perform extensive evaluations to help identify and treat the underlying reasons for your weight issues.  We have onsight nutrition counselors for our patients to help them with their fertility struggle.  Our leading weight loss program was developed for fertility patients and for women preparing for pregnancy. This program also helps women after delivery get back to normal weight.

An underlying metabolic condition, for example, may decrease your ability to gain pounds and/or maintain a healthy weight. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common cause of female infertility and is linked to weight gain and the inability to lose weight despite your best efforts. Or you may simply need nutritional guidance and support regarding weight loss or gain.

For a comprehensive evaluation that focuses on identifying and treating the underlying cause(s) of infertility, schedule an appointment with us at Rocky Mountain Fertility Center today. Call one of our offices or book your visit online.

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