Fertility expert Dr. Kenosha Gleaton gives her advice on trying to conceive (TTC) when overweight.
By OBGYN and fertility expert Dr. Kenosha Gleaton
Being above average weight may add more stress to your fertility journey. How does weight impact fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth? There are some risks to be aware of, but I’ve seen women of all sizes have healthy, happy pregnancies.
Can being overweight impact fertility?
Yes. Excess weight makes you more likely to experience irregular cycles, including irregular ovulation and periods. Anything that impacts ovulation in turn impacts fertility.
To find out if you are ovulating, you should use ovulation tests. Even if you do experience irregular ovulation, keeping track of your cycle can increase your chances of getting pregnant!
There are many factors to consider in the relationship between fertility and weight, including hormones, fat tissue, and more. It’s important to note that being overweight is associated with higher miscarriage rates, lower pregnancy rates, and pregnancy complications.
This isn’t to scare you away from trying to conceive, as women of all sizes can have happy, healthy pregnancies! It is important, however, that you know what to look out for and how to best support your body for TTC and pregnancy.
Is being overweight considered a high risk pregnancy?
Being overweight doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy pregnancy, but careful considerations during labor and delivery, as well as careful management of diet, exercise, vitamins, and regular prenatal care, are important. There are some health risks you should be aware of:
- Gestational hypertension: High blood pressure during the second and third trimesters is called gestational hypertension and can lead to serious complications if not closely monitored.
- Preeclampsia: A serious form of gestational hypertension that may occur late in pregnancy or soon after childbirth. This condition can cause organ failure, and in rare cases, seizures, heart attack, and stroke.
- Gestational diabetes: High blood sugar during pregnancy increases the risk of having a large baby. Women who have had gestational diabetes put themselves and their children at a higher risk of diabetes in the future.
- Obstructive sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is used to describe the cessation of breathing for short periods during sleep. Sleep apnea during pregnancy can cause fatigue and may increase the risk of other pregnancy complications.
How does obesity impact pregnancy and delivery?
Being overweight during pregnancy may put your baby at a higher risk for birth defects, preterm birth, macrosomia (a large fetus), and it may be harder to read diagnostic tests, depending on the amount of adipose tissue.
Labor is often a longer and more difficult experience for overweight women. It can also be more difficult to monitor your baby’s heart rate and wellbeing during labor. This may lead to a cesarean section, which carries an increased risk of complications if you are overweight.
Tips for TTC when above average weight
Tips for trying to conceive are the same for all, regardless of weight. General things to note include:
- Track ovulation to make sure you are ovulating, and time sex accordingly
- Start taking a prenatal vitamin supplement
- Ask your doctor about CoQ10 supplementation
- Have your partner take the Prenatal for him, a multivitamin for male fertility
- Be the healthiest version of yourself that you can!
- Use fertility-friendly lube to protect sperm health
You should also tell your OBGYN that you are trying to conceive during your next visit. If you have tried for 12 months (and are under age 35) or six months (and are over 35), then it may be time to schedule an infertility visit or see a specialist.
TTC success stories
I treat many overweight patients who have successful pregnancies and who use pregnancy as a springboard to a healthier lifestyle. If you are above average weight, don't be afraid to speak up— advocate for yourself. It's important to ask your OBGYN how your weight will affect pregnancy, and together come up with a plan.
By following a healthy diet, increasing physical activity (under physician supervision), and promptly addressing pre-pregnancy conditions, you can increase your chances for a smooth pregnancy and delivery.
- Being overweight (or underweight) may result in irregular cycles, which may make it more difficult to track ovulation and conceive.
- Overweight women are more likely to experience pregnancy complications and higher miscarriage and preterm birth rates
- Tracking ovulation, taking a prenatal vitamin, and using fertility lubricant are just a few helpful tips to follow when trying to get pregnant.