Being overweight can have negative consequences for our health that go beyond social or aesthetic conventions.

The most notable is that it increases the risk of suffering from serious and chronic diseases, such as diabetes or hypertension, as well as cardiovascular health problems or greater probabilities of suffering from some types of cancer (breast cancer, ovarian cancer or colon cancer, among others).

In addition, being overweight can also affect fertility. But, does this mean that pregnancy and obesity are incompatible or that being overweight prevents pregnancy from taking place? We will tell you!

Are pregnancy and obesity incompatible?

Not exactly. In fact, the answer to both questions is complex, since, although the relationship between obesity and female fertility is evident, it is not always the definitive factor in achieving pregnancy.

In any case, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology is quite clear about it: overweight or obese women may take longer to become pregnant, both naturally and through reproductive treatments.

The main reason is that being overweight can produce important hormonal alterations that directly influence the correct functioning of the ovaries. In this regard, the chances of an overweight woman to become pregnant are reduced by up to 5% for each unit of BMI (Body Mass Index).

Obesity is also related to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Women with PCOS release too many androgens (male hormones) which causes, among other symptoms, increased facial hair or acne, as well as irregular periods that can affect ovulation.

I am overweight and I want to get pregnant: what should I do?

Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and rest and regular physical exercise are beneficial to keeping a good state of physical and emotional health at any time of our lives, but it is especially important if we want to get pregnant.

In the case of assisted reproduction treatments, ovarian stimulation can be negatively affected by being overweight.

In addition, the oocytes of overweight and obese patients are usually smaller in size and have less chance of completing their development once they have been fertilized.

For this reason, and although overweight women can become pregnant, it is advisable to request a preconception visit with the gynecologist. If necessary, and in addition to the different analytical tests, some guidelines will be recommended to improve the nutritional and lifestyle habits of the mother-to-be in order to help her lose weight. It is recommended to make this visit at least six months before seeking a natural pregnancy or starting any fertility treatment.

On the other hand, in these cases it is also interesting to assess whether it is being overweight that hinders pregnancy or if there is a hormonal problem that, in addition to causing weight gain, influences in some way the ability to conceive.

Diabetes, hypothyroidism and estrogens

For example, when a woman has insulin resistance, the quality of the eggs is worse and embryo implantation failures or miscarriage rates are much higher. In addition, there is a greater likelihood of developing gestational diabetes.

If being overweight is directly related to hypothyroidism, it implies that the woman’s thyroid is working more slowly, which causes her metabolism to slow down. In these cases, losing weight is more complicated, as there is a tendency to accumulate more fat in the body, and it may be necessary to take some type of medication and have follow ups.

Finally, estrogenic excess or hyperestrogenism also causes a hormonal imbalance that can affect body weight and can make pregnancy more difficult.

Risks of being overweight during pregnancy

Although with some difficulty and thanks to medical advice overweight women can become pregnant, the question is: how does being overweight affect pregnancy? Are there any risks for the mother or the baby?

Facing pregnancy with a high BMI is more complicated and presents some health risks.

According to the WHO, the nutritional situation of women before and during pregnancy is one of the determining factors in cases of maternal mortality, and also influences the fetus development, intrauterine mortality, the duration of pregnancy or birth complications, as well as being a factor that can affect recovery after delivery and even the health or development of the baby.

The main risks of having a high BMI during pregnancy for the mother are:

  • Increased possibility of miscarriage, intrauterine fetal death and recurrent miscarriages.
  • High probability of developing gestational diabetes, the most frequent metabolic alteration in obese or overweight pregnant women. Any gestation is considered diabetogenic, and overweight during pregnancy causes an increase in insulin resistance, which can lead to chronic diabetes.
  • Complications in pregnancy due to high blood pressure (hypertension) or signs of damage to other related organs, such as the liver and kidneys (preeclampsia).
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Premature delivery.
  • Cesarean section. Although safe, cesarean sections are surgical interventions and, as such, can generate complications such as wound infections.

In addition, an overweight pregnancy can also have some consequences for the baby, among them:

  • Birth defects.
  • Childhood obesity.
  • Fetal macrosomia.
  • Growth disturbances.
  • Childhood asthma.

Experts advise to follow a balanced diet and avoid being overweight to have a healthy and safe pregnancy. Are you overweight and are looking to get pregnant? Call us.