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The Center for Fertility and Gynecology

Does Being Overweight Affect IVF Outcomes?

By Paula Hovell on March 17, 2015

A fertilized egg, developing When couples strive to increase their chances of fertility, a multitude of factors may be considered. They may be more conscious of the foods they eat, alcohol or caffeine consumed, or exercise regimen maintained. Although these day-to-day habits are certainly good to keep in mind, it is also important to remember that one’s weight plays a part in his or her overall health, and when it comes to female fertility, weight is yet another factor that may influence success rates.

Women who are planning or at least considering in vitro fertilization (IVF) deserve to know everything that may increase or decrease their chances of success. Unfortunately, according to multiple studies, being overweight can negatively impact such chances. However, this does not mean that IVF is still not a good option, or that these effects cannot be offset. By learning the nuances of IVF success rates and teaming up with our Los Angeles fertility clinic, you can best prepare yourself for a potential pregnancy. 

Weight and Fertility Rates

Because every woman’s body is so different, it can be difficult to say whether any one factor will definitely affect her chance of success with IVF. By looking at aggregated data of other IVF patients, though, we can discern certain patterns that imply whether a given factor likely affects success rates and, if so, how. According to numerous studies that control for other factors, it does appear that weight plays a role in female fertility. More specifically, the greater a woman’s body-mass index (BMI) is, the less likely she is to have a successful IVF experience.

BMI is determined by taking someone’s height (in meters) and dividing it by their weight (in kilograms, squared). A BMI between 19 and 25 is generally in the “healthy” range, while a BMI of 28 is considered overweight and 31+ is considered obese. One study showed that women with a healthy BMI had a 38 percent live-birth rate via IVF, whereas the live-birth rate was 35 percent in overweight women and 27.7 percent in obese women. The rate of embryo implantation had a similar discrepancy, with 40 percent success in the “healthy” group vs. 31 percent in the “obese” group. 

The Relationship between Weight and Age

The role that one’s weight plays in the IVF process may be even more crucial when examined in conjunction with another, even more pressing factor: age. It is well established that a woman’s fertility decreases as she ages after her mid-thirties, but women who are above this threshold and overweight have a few factors negatively affecting their odds of success.

One study showed that for women aged 35 to 39 and within a BMI of 17 to 29 (lean to slightly overweight), 40.4 percent of them had sustained pregnancies past 12 weeks. For women with a BMI greater than 29, sustained pregnancy rates fell to 26.5 percent. This can be attributed to both a lower rate of embryo implantation and a lower rate of sustaining the pregnancy after implantation.  

Keeping High Chances of Success

If you are overweight and hoping to undergo IVF, there are a couple of ways you can boost your chances of success:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Obviously, losing weight and maintaining an ideal BMI is the best avenue. In addition to increasing the chances of implantation, a healthy weight will reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy and will lead to long-term health benefits. It’s never too late to begin a healthy diet and exercise routine!
  • Consider donor eggs: While some couples may be averse to using donor eggs, this may greatly improve the chances of implantation and a successful pregnancy. Studies show that weight ceases to play a role in implantation success rates when donor eggs are used.
  • Work with an experienced fertility doctor: Weight is just one side to a multifaceted problem. When you work with our fertility specialists, you will gain personal insight as to your own needs and goals for pregnancy, and we will help you take the necessary steps to meet such needs. Through a range of treatment options and a personalized fertility plan, you can attain the best chances of success.

Contact Our Office

We are eager to help you learn more about IVF or any of our fertility and gynecology services. Please contact our office if you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation for potential treatment.

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