Obesity and Assisted Reproduction

By Georgios Ioannidis
IVF Obstetrician/Gynecologist, Scientific Associate of Institute of Life MITERA

In the field of gynecology and reproduction, obesity is linked to menstrual disorders, infertility, miscarriages and obstetric complications. Obesity is a rising health issue in western societies. It has been associated with elevated morbidity and mortality rates due to various medical conditions.

Obesity seems to affect human reproduction via various mechanisms, such as insulin resistance, elevated androgen levels and elevated leptin levels. Weight control and nutritional intervention may reverse the condition and increase reproductive function. Obesity has a negative impact on becoming pregnant after applying IVF technologies.

Obese women undergoing IVF have a smaller chance of giving birth to a healthy baby compared to women of normal weight. The reason seems to be the result of a combination of: i) lower IVF embryo implantation rates and chances of pregnancy, ii) higher rate of miscarriages, and iii) increased risk of complications during pregnancy both for the mother and the baby.

Fertility prognosis in obese women who undergo all IVF techniques depends on the endocrine and metabolic environment of the ovaries, which affects the quality of oocytes and, subsequently, the implantation and development of embryos and the outcome of pregnancy. There are clear indications that the endometrium is affected negatively in obese women, according to recent studies based on egg donation.

It is necessary for obese women who wish to become pregnant to understand that weight loss regulates their menstrual cycle and increases the chance of spontaneous ovulation and conception.

Gradual continuous weight loss is beneficial both for becoming pregnant after IVF and for the outcome of the pregnancy itself.