After following over 3,000 couples, the study found that women with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher (which is considered obese) had a significantly lower probability of becoming pregnant naturally than women with BMIs between 21 and 29 (which is considered normal weight).
Further, the more obese the woman was, the harder time she had with conception. Compared with normal weight women, women with a BMI of 35 had a 26 percent lower chance of getting pregnant naturally, while women with a BMI of 40 had a 43 percent lower chance.
The reduced rate of conception may be due to the hormone leptin, which regulates appetite and energy expenditure. Obese women may have disturbed hormone levels, which decrease their chances of successful fertilization, researchers said.
It’s already known that obesity disrupts ovulation. This new study suggests that obese women may also suffer from lower pregnancy rates than women of normal weight. It is important for women to take extra care of themselves physically and mentally before they plan to become pregnant. A healthy body that is capable of supporting a growing fetus is really the best gift you can give your new baby.
This, of course, includes not only eating plenty of healthy foods (including omega-3 fats) while avoiding dangerous ones (fish, coffee, and alcohol, for instance), but also maintaining your ideal weight.
If your body weight is too high, your body may naturally try to resist pregnancy until you have reached a healthier weight. Still, as obesity continues to rise in the United States, so too will the number of obese women who become pregnant.
I believe that the primary reason obesity is such a major health risk is that it is typically associated with elevated insulin and leptin levels. These elevated levels can devastate your physiology and are the last thing you want to expose a developing fetus to.
However, obesity is not only a risk during conception, it’s a risk during pregnancy -- and a pretty steep one at that. Obese women face the following potential complications during pregnancy:
- Increased rates of hypertensive disease, cesarean section and infections
- Increased risk of gestational diabetes
- Higher rates of blood clots and respiratory complications
- Independent risk factor for neural tube defects, fetal mortality and preterm delivery
- Increased risk for having a child who may have a greater risk of subsequent childhood obesity and its associated morbidity
Generally, women of a healthy weight should gain about 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. But overweight women really only need to gain 15 to 25 pounds and obese women no more than 15 pounds.
Achieving Your Ideal Weight Before Pregnancy
No matter how you look at it, obesity will wreak havoc on your health, including making conception and pregnancy more difficult. It may also give your new baby a rough start to life. Compared with babies born to healthy-weight moms, children born to obese or overweight moms have:
- Twice the risk of congenital heart defects and multiple birth defects.
- Three times the chance of being born with omphalocele, a defect in which intestines or other abdominal organs protrude through the navel.
- A greater risk of neural tube (spinal cord and/or brain) defects, including spina bifida.
- A greater risk (15 times greater) of being obese later in life.
- A greater risk of breast, blood and digestive tract cancers.