Infertility and Obesity
Studies show that obesity can put you at an increased risk for infertility and irregularities when trying to conceive or carry a child to term.
Fertility issues that can be attributed to obesity include:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Low testosterone levels (in men)
- Reduced success levels with fertility treatment
- Erectile dysfunction
- Increased risk of miscarriage
- Altered sex hormones (high androgens)
These complications are more prevalent in women struggling with obesity than in men.
Obesity and Infertility in Women
Being obese can be harmful to a woman’s fertility because it can inhibit normal ovulation, which can most likely be attributed to two disorders:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). This is an illness characterized by irregular or absent periods, acne, excessive hair growth and obesity. Women will PCOS do not ovulate.
- Anovulation. In this case, a woman simply does not ovulate, most likely due to PCOS or hormone imbalances.
These disorders have been most commonly linked to insulin resistance and insulin excess—which is common in individuals struggling with obesity—because the imbalance of insulin levels promotes abnormal cell signals, which hinder ovulation. The levels of insulin also increase levels of androgens (hormones that are used to produce estrogen), leading to PCOS and contributing to anovulation.
Obesity can also lead to complications during and after pregnancy, such as preeclampsia and eclampsia which are triggered by high blood pressure. Gestational diabetes and inability to carry a child to term are also risk factors of women who are obese.
Obesity and Infertility in Men
In obese men, fertility can be affected because the excess fat cells produce a hormone called leptin while also lowering testosterone levels. The inclusion of the leptin and the lowered T levels affect a man’s ability to conceive by:
- Damaging sperm production
- Causing erectile dysfunction
Infertility, Pregnancy and LAP-BAND
Unfortunately, even though obese women are more likely to suffer from infertility issues, they are less likely to respond to fertility medications. However, the disorders that contribute to conception complications can be reversed if the proper lifestyle changes are made, including diet, exercise, behavior modification and overall weight loss.
Weight loss surgery, like LAP-BAND is an effective solution for many who are suffering from the effects and complications of obesity. The weight loss associated with bariatric surgery is enough to promote proper hormone functions and aid in lifestyle wellness, which is key to healthy fertility. Doctors recommend that women wait approximately two years after their bariatric surgery before trying to conceive. It is important that your weight has stabilized before trying to conceive.
Because fertility improves with weight loss, adequate birth control while in the active weight loss phase following bariatric surgery is extremely important. If, however, pregnancy accidentally occurs while you are still actively losing weight, a LAP-BAND has the unique advantage of being adjustable so it can be effectively “turned off” during the pregnancy to ensure the fetus receives adequate nutrition from the mother. Since the LAP-BAND doesn’t affect the way your body digests or absorbs nutrients and also given the fact that it can be adjusted, it is considered a safer option for patients who may become pregnant.