BMI and IVF, why does it matter?

In recent times there has been lots of stories about women being told to lose weight to help them get pregnant

One in particular stands out in which a 17-stone woman was told by her doctor that she needed to lose at least five stone to be recommended for IVF treatment. She lost the weight within a year and now has a beautiful baby girl for her hard work and IVF treatment.

To calculate you Body Mass Index you must divide your weight in kilos by your height and then square it, for example Weight (kilos) divided by Height( in m) and then squared. This will give you an overall score.

An example of this could be if you weigh 68kg and are 1.78m in height, the equation would be 68/(1.78 x 1.78) = 21.4, a healthy range.

But what is the safe range for your BMI and why is it so important?

According to fertility professionals, in order for a woman to have IVF treatment, she must have a BMI of between 20 and 25, anything below that range is considered underweight and anyone over that is in the overweight or obese range.

This has to be addressed before anyone can move forward into IVF treatment, but once a woman has reached her ideal BMI, it is likely she will then be eligible for IVF.

Other factors that can have a negative impact on IVF if a person is obese is egg retrieval

According to the Advanced Fertility Centre of Chicago it can be almost impossible to retrieve eggs from an obese woman as the ovaries have a tendency to move high up into the abdominal cavity due to fatty tissue.

Sometimes it can be impossible for the needle instrument used to retrieve the eggs as the ovary is so far away from the entrance of the vagina, making it a dangerous procedure.

Women are advised to eat a healthy, balanced diet and partake in regular mild exercise, such as walking, yoga and pilates to maintain a good BMI range.

Professor Adam Balen, Chairman of the British Fertility Society (BFS), said:

“Women hoping to conceive through IVF should try to maintain a healthy body weight within a good BMI range.

“They should also use this opportunity to make other lifestyle choices that can contribute to their wellbeing, such as taking moderate exercise, reducing their alcohol and caffeine consumption, and refrain from smoking. Alongside improving their chances of conceiving, this approach will also benefit their long-term health.”

Other factors for someone who may have a high or low BMI is access to funding. Many clinical commissioning groups with England have BMI limits and patients who do not fall within range can be refused funding, which is another good reason to get in shape.

And it’s not only women that need a healthy BMI

According to Herts and Essex Fertility Centre, being overweight can affect male fertility too, reducing both the quality and quantity of sperm. Having a BMI of over 25 for men is associated with poor sperm motility. Obese men also produce substantially less sperm than average which contains higher levels of abnormalities.

Obviously when both the man and woman are overweight this can have a combined effect on fertility. But the good news is that when men lose weight it results in a significant increase in not only the sperm count but also the number of normal sperm.

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