12 facts on how weight affects your fertility [Infographic]

Find out what your weighing scale is telling you about your failure to get pregnant.


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Your weight doesn’t just hold the key to better health now and in the future, it can have a serious impact on your ability to conceive, too.

SmartParents expert and Gleneagles Hospital’s consultant ob-gyn, Dr Christopher Chong cautions, “The heavier one’s body weight is, the more difficult it is for the couple to conceive.” In fact, Dr Chong estimates that some 12 per cent of underweight couples and 25 per cent of overweight couples have trouble conceiving because of weight issues.

Your weight category is determined by your Body Mass Index, which is derived by dividing your weight (in kg) by your height (in metres) twice. You’re…

* Underweight if you’re below 18.5.

* An acceptable weight if you’re between 18.5 and 22.9.

* Overweight if you’re between 23 and 27.4.

* Obese if you’re 27.5 and above.

“The heavier one’s body weight is, the more difficult it is for the couple to conceive.”

Ob-gyn Dr Peter Chew explains that your body weight — whether you’re underweight or obese — affects your hormone levels, which can give rise to problems conceiving. Both Dr Chong and Dr Chew share vital facts about the impact your weight has on fertility… 

Infographic: Rachel Lim

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If you’re overweight or obese…

Overweight or obese women are also more likely to experience hormonal imbalances, leading to ovulation problems. Dr Chong highlights that you may develop polycystic ovarian syndrome, which disrupts your menstrual cycle (PCOS), making it that much harder for them to conceive. 

For obese men, endocrine dysfunction — which can trigger hormone-related disorders — may alter your sperm quality and quantity, notes Dr Chew. “The hormonal changes also make men less interested in sex and they’re more likely to have problems getting an erection.”

If you’re underweight…

Hormonal imbalances can interrupt your ovulation patterns, which lowers your chances of getting pregnant, Dr Chew cautions. “Compared to healthy women, underweight women are more than twice as likely to take more than a year to get pregnant.”

If your hubby thinks that he’s free from fertility issues if he’s underweight — he should think again! Dr Chong states that his sperm may be of poorer quality and quantity because he has lower levels of testosterone — a male sex hormone — in his body.

“Compared to healthy women, underweight women are more than twice as likely to take more than a year to get pregnant.”

How can you change this?

Besides making sure you make time to get in some exercise, keeping to a sensible diet matters, too. Both Dr Chong and Dr Chew share simple do’s and don’ts to follow…

Do…

* Keep a food diary A food diary allows you to record your daily food intake, so you have a clearer understanding of your eating habits and nutrient intake, Dr Chew notes.

* Plan and prep your own meals for the week Preparing and cooking your meals helps you to keep track of what you eat. More specifically, Dr Chew explains that you can control the amount of carbs, proteins, fats, and calories in your meal.

* Eat a balanced diet Your diet should include iron-rich foods like red meat, pulses and vegetables. Take foods that are rich in folic acid — such as kale and spinach — dairy, wholegrain cereals and pasta, and drink plenty of water as well.

​​​​​​​Don’t…

* Smoke or drink too much alcohol Which can cause you to pile on the kilos, increasing your risk of other health issues, which, in turn, may threaten your general health and well-being, Dr Chong notes.

* Consume seafood that’s high in mercury such as swordfish and shark’s fin A study in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 2002 noted that over a third of infertile men and 23 per cent of infertile women had significantly higher blood mercury levels than those in the fertile group.

* Drink too much caffeine Consume no more than 200 to 300 milligrams of caffeine daily or about two cups of coffee or tea in a day. High levels of caffeine can affect sperm count and inhibit the absorption of iron, which, in turn, causes fertility issues. Remember this stimulant is also found sin soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and even ice cream!

Main photo: iStock

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