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Can Being Overweight Affect Fertility? An Expert Explains

While trying to conceive (TTC), if it seems like it’s taking forever (or at the very least, longer than other couples), you may be wracking your brain wondering what you’re doing “wrong,” or trying to figure out what those other people are doing to find success. As you search TTC message boards, you’ll see everything from alcohol being the reason you can’t get pregnant, to smoking, to any number of scary sounding diseases. But what about your weight? Can being overweight affect fertility? While it’s not impossible, being overweight does make it harder to conceive, according to experts.

And apparently, being overweight affects not only your own fertility, but it can affect your male partner’s fertility, too. Rachel Eisenberg, a nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida, tells Romper that being overweight changes your natural production of hormones, which affects your chances of a successful conception. “For men, being overweight can decrease semen production and hormone production of testosterone. In addition, erectile dysfunction is more common in overweight men,” Eisenberg explains. As for women, it can cause a decrease in how often you ovulate, which makes your periods irregular, which then affects eggs if they’re produced properly. Quite the chain reaction. “Overweight women are also more at risk for miscarriages and failed In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedures due to the eggs not being produced properly,” she adds.

As far as your chances of becoming pregnant if you’re overweight, Eisenberg says, while it’s difficult, it is definitely possible. Healthy ways to lose weight to help you become pregnant include healthy diet changes and smaller portion sizes, exercising more, and tracking your menstrual cycles and ovulation through kits, suggests Eisenberg. “I would recommend seeing a fertility specialist if you've tried to conceive for over six months and have been unable to become pregnant. It’s also important to get tested for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) to check if your ovaries are enlarged or if there are cysts present that could be affecting your fertility,” she says.

Since PCOS is pretty well-known to cause weight gain in women, no matter how much they try to lose it (trust me), is there anything you can do to help you lose weight more efficiently and make you more “fertile” when you’re TTC? Eisenberg says you should see a specialist for treatment and to see if you need any medications to help you become pregnant. She also explains, “PCOS is a disease characterized by an increase in male hormones and abnormal insulin levels which lead to irregular cycles. Correcting the insulin may allow a woman to ovulate and succeed at getting pregnant. Exercising also helps increase the chances of women with PCOS getting pregnant because it causes weight loss and helps naturally regulate hormone levels.”

If you are lucky enough to conceive and are still overweight, can you have a healthy pregnancy and baby? Absolutely. Eisenberg suggests checking your vitamin levels, especially vitamin D and folate, and eating a balanced and healthy diet while you’re pregnant. She also suggests seeing a nutritionist if you can, increasing your fluids, and exercising safely based on doctor’s recommendations. While it’s certainly not impossible, being overweight does affect your fertility — and your partner’s — and can make it a bit harder to conceive. But with ovulation tracking, exercise, and trying to eat as healthy as you can, it can be done. Being the healthiest you that you can be — and making sure your partner is eating healthy and being as healthy as they can be — is a great place to start during your TTC journey. Once you have your health together, everything else will eventually fall into place for you. And that includes making a baby.

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