No one wants to hear this, but, women who are severely overweight can have very serious fertility problems and may not be able to conceive at all. Obesity can cause hormonal imbalances and ovulation problems. During pregnancy, the mother’s obesity can also cause health complications and impact fetal growth and development. For example, being overweight permanently programs the child’s metabolism toward obesity, passing the health damage and risk from one generation to the next.
Simple change to disrupt the cycle
So, what can we do to stop the chain reaction of obesity? Prior to conceiving, we can lose weight to reach a better body mass index (BMI), which is the way to measure body-fat level. We can eat healthier; after all, we’re not just “eating for two,” we’re eating for generations to come. Some easy ways to get started are to:
1. Cook only with fresh ingredients
2. Stay away from processed foods
3. Eat less complex carbohydrates and saturated fat
4. Increase intake of protein, minerals and vitamins
The dynamic duo: BMI and nutrition
Research shows that a healthier BMI and a more nutritious diet help improve fertility, produce quality eggs, make conception easier and boost fetal health.
Children born to obese women are usually overweight at birth and have a higher risk of obesity later in life. This is due not only to “inherited” metabolism issues, but also because a mother’s obesity reduces the child’s energy production cell structures (mitochondria). So, losing weight and boosting nutrition before we get pregnant goes a long way for our family tree.
Do men need to worry about obesity too?
The man’s health is also key to the fertility equation. Obese men, research shows, have reduced sperm quality. In addition, obesity also causes physical and molecular deformities in germ cells, the cells that give rise to sperm cells. Similar to women, men pass these traits genetically to their offspring.
For men’s cells, being overweight causes oxidative stress, which, very simply put, is a metabolic process that can cause healthy cells to become unstable. Obesity can also increase sperm DNA damage; it alters men’s hormonal profile, which can raise concentrations of estrogen (a female hormone) in the blood. Fat tissue in the groin increases the temperature of the testes, which lowers sperm production.
It’s not too late: the compelling case for making the change
Fortunately, these fertility-threatening metabolic changes in women and men are often reversible by transitioning to a healthy diet, exercising regularly and losing weight. Studies prove that supplementing with vitamins and minerals can improve metabolism and health. For example, taking selenium improves sperm health and zinc promotes egg maturation.
Now that we know what’s at stake, what steps are you willing to take to improve your own personal health, fertility and pregnancy, as well as the health of your baby?