Obesity and infertility: How are they related?

Obesity and infertility- healthians
Contributed by- Krushna Charan

Obesity is a widespread epidemic affecting millions all over the world. It can cause a myriad of health problems including diabetes, coronary artery disease, and certain cancers. Obesity can cause the development of reproductive disorders by increasing the risk of infertility, breast cancer, and endometrial cancer. 

Obese people are more likely to suffer from infertility than people who have normal weight. Obesity-related infertility problem remains unclear to some of the people because it doesn’t show any symptoms. Read on to get a clear understanding of the relation between obesity and infertility.

 

How do you know if you’re obese or not?

Obesity is defined as an excessive accumulation of energy in the body that is accumulated in the form of fat. If our weight is higher than what is considered as a healthy weight for a given height, it is described as overweight or obese. It is usually measured and defined as Body Mass Index, or BMI, that is used as a screening tool for obesity. Body Mass Index (BMI) is calculated as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. Though BMI doesn’t measure body fat directly, but a high BMI can be correlated with high fat content in the body. Following are the BMI ranges defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) for normal weight, overweight or obesity in people.

  • BMI of 18.5-24.9 – normal weight
  • BMI of 25-29.9 –  overweight 
  • BMI of 30 or greater – obesity

The body fat content in men is approximately 15-20% of the total body weight, whereas in women it is approximately 25-30% of the total body weight. The body fat content in men exceeding 25% of total body weight called obesity, whereas in women whose body fat exceeds 30% of total body weight is defined as obese. To know your BMI, you should monitor your BMI frequently for better health.

[Also read: Obesity is a preventable disease

 

Obesity and infertility- healthians

The relation of obesity and infertility

When the BMI is greater than the desired value it may lead to infertility among both males and females. Infertility is defined as one year of frequent, unprotected intercourse during which pregnancy has not achieved. Men and women may have risk factors that can contribute to infertility, and those risk factors can be genetic, environmental or related to lifestyle. One of the most common factors that lead to infertility in both men and women is obesity. Let’s know how they are affected. 

Obese men and infertility

The effects of obesity on male reproduction have been less than those on female reproduction. The factors affecting men’s fertility are-

  • Low sperm count: The higher a man’s body mass index (BMI), the more likely he is to have a low sperm count. This can lead to decreased sperm quality and sperm movement in men. These factors can make it more difficult to conceive, while low sperm quality can also lead to miscarriage.
  • Hormonal imbalance: Obese men have decreased testosterone and gonadotropin levels, and increased circulating estrogen levels. Gonadotropin hormones are released by the anterior pituitary, which acts on the gonads to increase the production of sex hormones and stimulate the production of sperm. 
  • Increased temperature in the scrotum: Another problem in obese men is that the scrotum often remains in close contact with the body. The surrounding body fat tissues raise the temperature of the scrotum, which keeps the sperm at a higher temperature. This higher temperature can damage the sperm and leads to infertility.

[Also read: Understanding various causes of infertility in men]

 

Obese women and infertility

High levels of a hormone called leptin is produced in the fatty tissue of obese women. This can disrupt hormone balance and lead to infertility. The factors affecting obese women’s fertility are-

  • Decreased ovulation: Many women who carry excess weight still ovulate, but it appears the quality of the eggs they produce is reduced. The evidence for this is that among women who ovulate, each unit of BMI above 29 reduces the chance of achieving a pregnancy within 12 months. 
  • Irregular menstrual cycle: The menstrual cycle is influenced by obesity, and this can lead to irregularities in the menstrual cycle. 
  • Blocked fallopian tubes: Fallopian tubes carry an egg from an ovary to the uterus and increase chances of getting pregnant. Obesity results in blocking of fallopian tubes due to the irregular menstrual cycle. 

 

Healthy tips to avoid obesity-related infertility

These are some of the healthy habits you should follow to reduce obesity and manage fertility.

  • Avoid Junk, eat healthy diets: Avoid junk food, processed and sugary food, have a healthy and balanced diet, avoid short-term fad diets or changes that you are unlikely to continue in the future. Little steps like swapping juice or soft drinks for water are also helpful to manage weight.
  • Quit smoking: Tobacco has negative effects on fertility. So, quitting smoking is a better option to increase fertility.
  • Avoid alcohol: Heavy alcohol consumption may lead to decreased fertility. If you’re planning to become pregnant, avoid alcohol, and don’t drink it while you’re pregnant.
  • Focus on being active everyday: Be physically active by going for a walk or run, or engage in regular aerobic activity. even small activities like taking the steps instead of the lift also helps. 


Maintaining a healthy weight is important for good health. Taking action to prevent obesity in your daily life is of paramount importance. Because other than infertility, obesity can also lead to many other diseases like diabetes, heart diseases and high blood pressure, etc. But you should always consult with your doctor before taking any steps to manage obesity. Taking regular health checkups to get a clear picture of your health also helps.

 

Understand your health better 
 

 

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