A new study indicates that there is no increase in the chances of fertility due to weight loss; here’s why the experts disagree

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Contrary to what has been practiced and considered for a long time, a new clinical study indicates that losing weight may not translate into a better chance of getting pregnant. Posted in the OLP Medicinethe randomized study of 379 women with obesity and unexplained infertility found that intensive lifestyle changes did not lead to better odds of pregnancy.

“We’ve known for decades that obese women often have difficulty getting pregnant,” noted researcher Daniel J Haisenleder, PhD, of the Center for Reproductive Research at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. “For this reason, many doctors advise losing weight before conception. However, few studies have addressed the issue comparing a healthy lifestyle – i.e. exercise – to exercise plus weight loss.

The study divided the participants into two groups. While half of the women were on a diet using meal replacements, increased physical activity and medication, the other half simply increased their physical activity without trying to lose weight. Both groups after completing the respective programs received three sets of standard tests infertility treatments.

Notably, the women in the weight loss program ended up losing 7% of their body weight, while the participants in the exercise-only group maintained their weight.

A new study indicates that losing weight may not affect fertility chances (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

The FIT-PLESE study then noted that there was ultimately no significant difference between the two groups in terms of the frequency of healthy births. A total of 23 of the 188 women who completed the intensive 16-week weight loss program eventually gave birth; of the 191 who completed the exercise-only program, 29 gave birth.

However, the intensive diet program offered various benefits such as a reduction metabolic syndrome which increases the risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

“Weight loss improved the metabolic health of these subjects. Unfortunately, the observed changes did not improve fertility,” Haisenleder said in the study. “Infertility within this population remains an important health issue and will require further studies to resolve the issue in the future.

However, experts say that obesity and the chances of pregnancy are inversely related, meaning the higher the weight, the lower the chances of conceiving and having a healthy baby.

If a person is overweight with a BMI (body mass index) greater than 25, losing weight will improve their chances of conceptioneven if they have (or don’t) have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), said Dr Manjiri Mehta, Consultant Gynecologist, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi – a Fortis network hospital.

Dr. Mehta is of the opinion that obesity affects fertility in both men and women. “Excess weight affects fertility by altering the way the body stores female sex hormones. Fat cells convert a male hormone (androstenedione) into a female hormone (estrone). This further has an effect on the center of the brain which regulates ovarian and testicular hormones.While good health is very important, excessive weight loss combined with high impact exercise and crash dieting can be counterproductive.Start by eating healthy and maintain a healthy body weight so you don’t put undue stress on your body.Making these lifestyle changes will make a difference to your overall health, even if they don’t lead to weightloss,” she said indianexpress.com.

Dr Kinjal Shah, Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Bhatia Hospital Mumbai also said: “ fertility increases with weight loss.

It has been found that 20% of women with PCOS conceive with a 5% weight loss”. “This is because weight loss has been significantly associated with ovulation and has a benefit in women planning to conceive. Stress and a sedentary lifestyle are major causes of uncertain fertility. Regular 45 minutes of exercise and a healthy diet should be emphasized for women with fertility issues,” said Dr Shah.

According to Mehta, a study was done in 2014 which showed that even a 10% weight loss increased the chances of conception by 50-80%. This means that a person is more likely to get pregnant and have a healthy baby if they are close to a healthy weight. “If a person is overweight with a BMI over 25, losing weight will improve their chances of conceiving, even if they have (or don’t have) PCOS,” Mehta said.

Obesity in women can also increase the risk of miscarriage and adversely affect outcomes of assisted reproductive procedures and pregnancy, asserted Dr. Bhavini Shah Balakrishnan, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Masina Hospital, Mumbai. “Infants of diabetic mothers are also prone to a variety of neonatal adverse effects, including metabolic and hematological disorders, respiratory distress, cardiac disorders, and neurological disorders due to perinatal asphyxia and birth trauma,” the report said. Dr Balakrishnan.

Stating that there has been much controversy regarding the effect of weight on fertility and whether weight loss really helps with conception, Dr Balakrishnan said that “despite all the arguments, a healthy lifestyle that includes age and height of an appropriate weight” has been beneficial for a woman not only during the childbearing age group, but also helps ease the transition from peri-menopause to menopause.

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