Effects of obesity on fertility: Why fertility rate goes down while obesity soars


It is no secret that obesity as a whole is on the rise. Worldwide obesity numbers have tripled since 1975. In 2020, 39 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese.

An obese person may face several difficulties and limitations in their daily lives, not to mention its dire effects on health. The impact of obesity on fertility has been a topic of much research. From 2019, we saw the obesity number increasing from the effect of the pandemic.

In this article, let us review how obesity affects fertility.

When does a person become obese?

Before we dive into the effects of obesity on fertility, we must understand what obesity is and how to identify the same.

As per WHO, a person is considered obese when their body mass index (BMI) is equal to or greater than 30 kg/m2.

BMI is a value derived by considering how much fat a person has in relation to their height and weight.

Can we pinpoint the degree of damage obesity has on fertility

There have been several studies done on the effects of obesity on fertility. We now know that obesity certainly has an effect on reproductive health. However, there is no real data on its severity in relation to each pound or kilo that you gain.

However, from the data that is clear, we can sum up the following.

Reproductive health in females get worse with obesity

In females, obesity increases the risk of sub-fecundity, misarranges, and pregnancy complications. High body fat affects how the body works as a whole. Women who are obese have a higher chance to suffer from anovulation, menstrual disorders, and infertility.

As per some studies, obese women are three times more prone to infertility than non-obese women.

How does body fat affect reproductive health in women

Let us get some facts in order to understand how common obesity really is. In the united states, it is estimated that 60% of the women in the US and European countries are overweight. 30% among these strata are obese and 6% of these are morbidly obese.

Some of us may have a hard time correlating body fat with the body’s ability to reproduce. However, the science behind it involves the effect of fat on body hormone production.

In obese women, we see an increase in peripheral aromatization of androgen to estrogens. This affects gonadotropin secretion. Gonadotropin is responsible for the production of sex hormones and ova.

We also see that obese women are more insulin resistant and have hyperinsulinemia, which leads to hyperandrogenemia. Women who have hyperandrogenemia exhibit symptoms like acne, hair loss, and infrequent or absent menstruation.

Also, SHBG (Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin), GH (Growth Hormone), and IGFBP (Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Proteins) levels go down while leptin level shoots up, which is a hormone produced in fatty tissue. This causes an imbalance in the hypothalamic pituitary gonadal (HPG) axis, which further impair ovulatory function and reproductive health.

A study found that women with a BMI over 27 are more likely to experience anovulation (when no eggs are released by the ovaries) than women within the normal weight range.

The issue is more complex than it seems

As we just read, the way obesity affects women’s reproductive health isn’t just in one way. There are multiple factors at play and each person can have different experiences.

Women who are obese can have a hard time getting pregnant from conventional methods as well as from assisted conceptions.

Since obesity is more prevalent in developed countries than the rest, the usual suspect of obesity is often lifestyle. Low physical activity levels coupled with high-calorie intake is the major reason why obesity has become so prevalent.

However, we must also acknowledge the fact that there are other reasons that can lead people to become obese. Hormonal disorders, psychological disorders, endocrine disorders, or the use of some drugs can also lead to obesity.

Men are not immune from obesity and the risk of infertility

Till now most of the conversation revolved around women. However, obesity doesn’t discriminate. Men are also at the risk of infertility when the scales tip towards obesity.

How does obesity affect men’s fertility

The increase in body fat increases the overall body temperature, especially around the scrotum. If the temperatures increase beyond the normal temperature (34ºC), then it would adversely affect sperm production.

Hormonal imbalance is another issue that can bring down fertility rates in men. Obese men are found to have more levels of estrogen and lower levels of inhibin b and androgen, which are the two prominent sperm-producing hormones.

Obesity in men is often linked to conditions like sleep apnoea and Type-2 diabetes. Both of these conditions can contribute to low testosterone levels and erectile problems.

In men, an extra 10 kilos reduces fertility by about 10%, according to a peer-reviewed journal on MedinceToday.

What is the solution for both Men and Women

The solution is very simple to state – Weight loss. However, we understand that it is easier said than done.

When you are obese, it can be really tough to get your weight back together, but not impossible. A careful diet and proactive lifestyle can bring down those extra pounds to normalcy. We must also realize that weight loss is a product of commitment and patience. It will not happen in one day but with the determination to steer your life for the better, it is definitely achievable.

How can Be Better Bariatrics help?

Be Better Bariatrics specializes in surgery-less weightless programs. There are surgery-less procedures aimed at lowering the food intake rates in the obese. Endoscopic weight-loss procedures like ESG help people who are obese to accelerate their weight-loss journey without the need for surgeries.

With the advancements in bariatrics, weight loss procedures don’t need to involve knives or lengthy bed rests. We help people to achieve their weight-loss dreams and get back to a healthier living. To know more about Be Better Bariatrics and our weight-loss procedures, contact us anytime!

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