Weight Loss and Fertility



During this time of the year many of us are still thinking about our recent New Year’s resolutions and for most Nigerians, losing weight and getting in better shape topped that list.

Women who are trying to get pregnant, however, may have a different priority for weight loss- doing whatever is in their own power to improve their chances of having a baby.

Well, it turns out that weight and fertility are so intimately linked that these two goals might just as well become one. Studies have shown that losing as little as 5% of body weight can dramatically improve chances of pregnancy

“Women are always asking, what can I do to improve my chances of becoming pregnant?” says Dr. McKeeby. “The answer is clear.

Whether you are trying on your own or you’re starting fertility treatment, getting your BMI as close to the normal range as possible will improve your chances – not only of getting pregnant but of having a safe and healthy pregnancy.”


When healthcare professionals talk about weight, they usually refer to Body-Mass Index or BMI. BMI is a calculation based on your height and weight. A BMI within the 19-25 range is considered normal while a BMI in the 25-30 range is considered overweight. A BMI over 30 is considered obese.

By my research I saw that most of us in Nigeria don’t have a BMI of 25, so I always tell my patients that a good goal is to try to get under 30 before we start treatment. Of course, it depends on where you start.

Your weight loss doesn’t have to be dramatic to improve your chances of success. Any movement toward the normal BMI range will help.”


Doctors have known for a long time that women with a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS can improve their fertility by losing weight.

PCOS is caused by hormonal imbalances that prevent ovulation. The woman’s body produces too much of some hormones and not enough of others. This imbalance also contributes to weight gain in many women with PCOS.

However, when these women start a specific nutrition and exercise routine, many of them begin to ovulate again. Even those that need medication to ovulate still dramatically improve their chances of conception with weight loss.

It turns out that women without observable hormonal imbalances like PCOS may also be helped by losing excess weight. I’ve found that even women with normal cycles whose BMIs are higher than normal can be infertile or subfertile.

There’s no way to definitively say that the excess weight is the cause of their infertility, but I can say with confidence that losing weight can improve their fertility.”

One study showed that as a woman’s BMI went over 29, her chances of conceiving went down by 4% compared to women with a normal BMI of 25.

Each point over a BMI of 29 caused an additional 4% decline in success, says Dr. McKeeby, “so you can see how bringing down your BMI, even by a few points, can increase your odds of success.”


Weight continues to be a factor when couples start fertility treatment. Studies have shown that weight can have a significant impact on the success of fertility treatment and resulting pregnancies.

As a weight loss consultant and researcher I have an obligation to make treatment as safe as possible and not to take unnecessary risks. I also want your subsequent pregnancy to be as safe and successful as possible.

For patients undergoing IVF, a higher than normal BMI can make it more difficult to get to the embryo retrieval stage because they may not respond as well to fertility medication which can lead to cancelled cycles.

Also, during the egg retrieval procedure, it can be technically difficult to reach all the eggs, so that consequently, chances of conception are decreased.

In addition, one study showed that women whose BMIs are either above or below the normal range are more likely to produce immature eggs during their treatment cycles, leading to lower success rates.

When it comes to pregnancy, excess weight can cause several complications. These include an increased risk for gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, more difficulty with vaginal deliveries, and even an increased rate of miscarriage.

Here, again, losing some weight was shown to improve outcomes dramatically. A review of 33 published studies evaluating the effect of BMI on IVF treatment outcomes found that moving from the overweight to the normal BMI category reduced miscarriage rates by 13% and increased the chances of delivering a baby by 10%.


It is always difficult for physicians to talk to patients about their weight, but believe me, I am sympathetic or I should say, empathetic, since I have helped many people who have struggled with weight just like everyone else.

In general, though, I want my customers to take a holistic approach to their fertility, so I want them to lose weight in a way that is nutritionally sound and also to increase their physical activity.

I know every couple is looking at the calendar and hoping that this is the year that brings them their baby. I work with quality people to evaluate how weight and other factors are impacting your fertility. I also work together, with my customers, to develop an individualized treatment plan to help make your dreams a reality.

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