Your Weight and Fertility: There Is a Connection

Experts agree -- a mother's weight and fertility are linked. Find out more about your weight and fertility levels here.

You know that maintaining a healthy weight is important during pregnancy, but did you know that your weight can also affect your chances of getting pregnant?

Up to 12 percent of all infertility cases are are the result of a woman being either over- or underweight. The reason: Our fat tissue secretes hormones, including estrogen, that regulate ovulation. If you have too much body fat, excess hormones can interfere with ovulation and conception; too little body fat means you won't produce enough of the hormones you need to get pregnant. It gives a whole new meaning to the term "baby weight."

"Carrying your weight around your abdomen is especially concerning, since fat cells in that area tend to release more of the hormones that interfere with reproduction," says Liyun Li, M.D., a fertility specialist at the Pacific Fertility Center, San Francisco. And heading into a pregnancy if you're obese can complicate the pregnancy, putting you at a higher risk of diabetes, blood pressure, and birth complications, including the need for a C-section.

Being underweight isn't good, either. "When the body senses that it's not getting enough energy from calories, it shuts down ovulation," Dr. Li says. And being underweight while pregnant is dangerous to the baby, who may not get the nutrients needed to hit a healthy birth weight.

To find out if you're at a healthy body mass index (BMI), use a BMI calculator. The best way to gain or lose weight is through a healthy diet and exercise -- talk to your doctor about a plan that's right for you.

If you're at a healthy weight but your partner isn't, encourage him to drop a few pounds: Being overweight can lower sperm count and motility (movement).

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