Reaching a healthy weight
Are you trying for a baby? As well as improving your chances of conceiving, reaching a healthy weight can help you have a healthier pregnancy and baby.
Once you’ve decided that the time is right to have a baby, waiting for that positive result can be real agony. The good news is that for 85 per cent of couples, it happens within a year of trying. There are lots of things you can do to help make it happen sooner, too, and one of the most important is to reach a healthy weight.
Weight and your hormones
There’s a big connection between fat cells and the female sex hormone, oestrogen, says RCM Director for Midwifery, Louise Silverton. ‘Fat cells release oestrogen, which in turn suppresses the release of another hormone, the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH),’ she says. If there’s too much fat, your body will struggle to produce enough FSH for ovulation, reducing the chance of producing an egg each month.
In more recent years, though, experts have discovered an added dimension to the weight-fertility connection, in a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Thought to affect up to 10 per cent of women, it prevents egg follicles from properly maturing, so they form cysts on the surface of the ovaries. Although doctors are still not sure exactly why the condition develops, it’s thought that hormonal imbalances disrupt the ovulation cycle and being overweight increases the risk. And one of the most effective ways of restoring that balance is to lose 10 per cent of your body weight if you are overweight.
A healthier pregnancy
Although many overweight women have trouble-free pregnancies and healthy babies, the worrying truth is that the risk of complications goes up with weight. Women with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or over (around 15-20 per cent of pregnant women) are at an increased risk of developing serious complications like blood clots, pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes.
According to a recent study, women with a BMI of 25 or over are more likely to miscarry, possibly due to raised levels of hormones in the body, as well as being more likely to have a Caesarean section.
There is also evidence that babies born to mothers with a BMI over 30 are more prone to health problems later in life, including struggling with their weight and diabetes. The best advice is to follow the guidance released by the government’s health advisory body for England and Wales, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), and get down to a healthy weight before trying to conceive (although you can always carry on practising!).
‘Following a healthy, balanced diet, which helps you lose weight and gives you all the nutrients you need, can help rebalance hormones and improve your fertility, and so increase your chances of becoming pregnant,’ says Slimming World nutritionist Jenny Barber.
Slimming World sees many members who find that by losing weight at a healthy rate, they are able to get pregnant - in fact, many say it’s the reason they joined!’