During Fertility Week (September 1-7), City Fertility Centre specialist Dr Vadim Mirmilstein is keen to raise community awareness about the key factors that impact on fertility.
Optimal health is important for couples trying to conceive – and making sure you are not overweight or underweight is an important factor to consider.
Mature, healthy eggs start forming about 100 days before ovulation, while mature, healthy sperm take about 60 days to develop, so couples need to consider their health – including their weight – well before they start trying to have a baby.
The encouraging news is that studies show that even just a 5 per cent to 10 per cent reduction in weight if you are overweight can make a significant difference to your fertility health.
Body mass index (BMI) is one handy way to determine whether you need to rethink your diet or exercise regimen.
There is a normal range of weight/height BMI ratios. The following guide to BMI applies:
- Underweight: under 18.5.
- Normal weight: 18.5-24.9.
- Overweight: 25-29.9.
- Obesity: BMI of 30 or greater.
Calculate your BMI
To calculate your BMI, square your height, then divide your weight by this total.
For example, if you are 1.78m tall and weigh 67kg:
67kg/(1.78×1.78) = 67/3.17 = 21
Why does weight play such an important role in fertility?
For women, ovulation can be affected by being either underweight or overweight, and studies have shown that bringing BMI within the normal range can ensure ovulation begins to occur normally, thus increasing chances of pregnancy.
Of course, weight is just one factor that impacts on fertility. For women who have been diagnosed with a fertility problem, being underweight or overweight can impact on treatments designed to stimulate ovulation. For example, once IVF has begun, there can be difficulty retrieving eggs if a patient is overweight.
Low or high BMI has also been associated with the production of immature eggs when an IVF cycle has started, and this can impact on successful IVF outcomes.
It’s also very important for men to ensure a healthy BMI, and studies have consistently linked obesity to a lower sperm count because, in those who are overweight, testosterone levels drop while estrogen amounts rise.
The “business” of daily life makes it difficult for many of us to maintain a healthy weight, but it is possible to shed kilos and get in better shape if you formulate a health plan.
Here are some tips for getting into ideal fertility shape:
- Planning a family together can start with planning a healthier lifestyle.
- Avoid crash or fad diets – rather, start by re-educating yourself about eating healthy, balanced meals that are low in saturated fats and added sugars.
- Take it easy on yourself by getting a good night’s sleep.
- Eat vegetables every day, and mix the colours – you get lots of vitamins that way.
- Choose water as an alternative to tea, coffee or soft drink. Minimise your consumption of alcohol.
- We all have bad eating habits, so try to cut out some of the treats that pile on the weight, such as fried food, takeaway meals, cakes or other sugary treats.
- Substitute processed foods for fresh alternatives. Fruit at morning or afternoon tea, for example, is a good substitute for biscuits and muffins.
- Regular, moderate-intensity exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight and has many additional benefits, including reduced stress levels and better sleep patterns.
- Make sure you exercise every day, even if it’s only a short walk to begin with. Incorporate some aerobic exercise in your weekly activity – getting your heart pumping is one sure way of burning up some extra kilojoules.
- Plan to lose weight gradually. Losing weight fast might seem like a good idea, but most people tend to regain the kilos they lose too quickly.
- Be kind to yourself. Losing weight can be a chore, so reward yourself with a treat once in a while, and then do a little exercise the next day to compensate.
- Talk with your doctor or consult a dietician if you are seriously overweight before starting a major diet or exercise program.
- If you are underweight, you might be exercising too much and not eating well enough. Modify your exercise program and make sure you follow a healthy, balanced diet.
- There are many free health apps that can help you monitor your daily exercise and diet – one good example is Fitness Buddy.
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