Food For Thought: How does weight impact my fertility?
Roughly 16% (or 1 in 6) couples in Canada struggle with infertility. That number has doubled since the 1980’s. While couples can't control all of the causes of infertility, they can control their diets. Diet and weight management for both partners can have a significant impact on the ability to conceive. It has been well documented that a mom’s diet has a direct impact on the health of her baby and there is growing evidence that dad’s diet counts too!
Healthy Body Weight
The National Infertility Association reports that 30 percent of infertility causes are due to weight extremes which can alter hormone levels and change ovulation cycles and even cause Ovulatory Infertility, the inability to ovulate on a regular basis or at all.
30 percent of infertility causes are due to weight extremes which can alter hormone levels and change ovulation cycles
Ovulatory Infertility is often associated with diet and body weight. If you are underweight or overweight, you may experience hormonal imbalance that affect your menstrual cycle or cause changes to your ovulation cycle.
Excess body fat can cause a disruption in hormones. Fat cells produce estrogen and too much can lead to irregular or lack of ovulation. Don’t be discouraged! As little as 5 percent weight loss can improve fertility. On the other hand, women who are underweight can experience a lack of estrogen. A body mass index (BMI) below 18.5 (19-25 is considered normal), may experience irregular menstrual cycles or stop ovulating altogether (known as amenorrhea).
Therefore, healthy nutrient intake and healthy body weight support reproductive health. When trying to conceive, you want to eat nutrient-dense foods that:
- Ensure adequate nutrients to support healthy hormone development (including healthy fats, an important building block for your sex hormones);
- Support the maintenance of a healthy weight (with a BMI between 19 to 25 being considered ideal); and
- Provide your reproductive system with the nutrients it needs for a healthy pregnancy (such as folate, iron, vitamin B12 and calcium).
What about the boys?
Men should also try to maintain a healthy body weight and follow a balanced diet. Male obesity can alter testosterone and other hormone levels. Low sperm count and poor sperm motility are common in overweight and obese men.
Male obesity can alter testosterone levels and impact sperm count and quality!
Where do I start?
Weight management takes time. Avoid going on fad diets, which can deplete your body of the nutrients it needs for pregnancy and usually cause more of a headache than a benefit in the long run. If you are struggling with persistent nasty habits, an unhealthy or dysfunctional pattern of eating, or you just simply can’t sort through all the contradicting information that “Dr Google” has to offer, hire a professional! Work with a holistic Registered Dietitian who works with the perinatal population (like me!) to create realistic, manageable goals that will help bring your hormones into balance and provide you with a plan to nourish your body to best support fertility. It’s my job to sort through all the science and make your chemistry work for you… it’s your job to “get busy” and have fun!