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How your weight impacts your fertility

Woman's feet on scales that read SOSMost people are aware that being overweight or obese can significantly affect a person’s health and increases their chance of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease or some types of cancer.

What is often less known is that it can also have a direct impact on a person’s fertility and their ability to have a healthy baby.

We all know women who have had healthy, happy babies even though they were overweight, but research shows that weight is a significant factor affecting fertility and maternal health. The ideal weight for conception is different for everyone, but is most commonly determined by measuring your body mass index (BMI), a number based on your height and weight. The healthy BMI range is between 18.5 and 24.9.

On average, women who are overweight can take up to a year longer to get pregnant than women who are of a healthy weight. One of the reasons for the difference is that women outside a healthy body weight can experience hormonal changes that interfere with ovulation. Additionally, overweight women are more likely to develop problems during pregnancy and at birth.

Sounds a bit daunting? Don’t worry, there is good news.

It does not take much to make a difference to your fertility and your general preconception health. For people who are overweight, just a 5-10 per cent reduction in body weight can make all the difference to getting their fertility back on track. This means that for someone who is 80kg, losing as little as 4kg can improve their chances of having a healthy baby.

Changing habits to improve diet and other lifestyle factors like exercise during pregnancy to reduce weight gain can have positive effects on the health of a mother and her child. Research shows that a prospective parent’s diet and exercise decisions in the months leading up to conception can also impact on pregnancy health and the long-term health of a child born. But it’s not just up to mums; a father’s health in the lead up to conception has also been shown to impact a child’s health.

In other words, if you are thinking about trying for a baby, aiming to improve your health and that of your partner will have positive benefits for any child you may have, from infancy to adulthood.

If you are planning to get pregnant it can help to start a healthy eating and exercise plan now to increase the odds of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby. By making positive changes to your diet and increasing your daily physical activity, you will be on your way to a healthy weight.

Small steps to a healthy weight

  • Swap sugary drinks and alcohol for water.
  • Eat fast food less often and make healthier choices when you can.
  • Make half your plate vegetables at lunch and dinner.
  • Use a smaller plate to help reduce your portion sizes.
  • Get moving every day. Fit in regular physical activity like walking to the shops, taking the stairs and walking with a friend.
  • Spend less time sitting by getting up regularly while using a computer or mobile device and swapping ‘screen time’ for other activities.
  • Choose healthy snacks like fruit, low-fat yoghurt or a small portion of plain nuts.
  • Choose reduced-fat dairy and lean meat.
  • Set a realistic weight goal – it can help you feel motivated and active. Aiming for weight loss, 0.5-1kg per week is a good goal.
  • Start a healthy eating and exercise plan together with your partner to increase the odds of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby.

Investing in your health and general wellbeing will not only help you optimise your fertility, but will also be an investment in the future health of your children.

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