Body Fat and Baby Fat : Does a Woman’s body weight matter for Fertility?.

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How will you carry a baby with this body? You better eat and add some flesh ooo…

If you are lepa, that is on the slim/skinny side, you would have heard something like the above before, Igbos (one of the major ethnic groups in Nigeria) actually talk about needing a wide waist/hip (ukwu) to be able to carry a pregnancy and carry well
There is some truth to that sentence; Conception requires some amount of body fat.
Oh but there is also the flip side which addresses excess body fat too and its effect on fertility and conception
Interestingly, as a weight loss and healthy living expert, I have had countless testimonies of women trying to conceive, even on various fertility treatments including unsuccessful IVFs, who join my weight loss squads, lose weight and GET PREGNANT.

While I do agree that we do not have absolute control over conception, being that there is a divine being called GOD, I however believe that there are some modifiable factors we can adjust here and there to be better positioned for His miracle.
One of which is having the right amount of body fat in the body required for conception.
For one, sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone) are fat soluble and so are stored in the body’s fat layers. What this means is that I need a certain amount of FAT to store those hormones which are then secreted from there and are responsible for regulating ovulation which in turn affects conception.

Research has actually also shown that your BMI (Body mass index) can affect fertility. Approximately 12% of infertility issues can be linked to either low BMI (underweight) or high BMI (overweight).
But don’t go beating yourself up if underweight. The majority of women affected by it didn’t include those who are naturally thin but rather those who as a result of extreme dieting and exercising have gotten to those really low BMI levels, at which point usually, ovulation and menstrual cycle is affected.

Too little body fat means that I will not produce enough of the hormones that I need, then ovulation and conception is affected. The simple fact is that if the body senses a calorie lack to dangerous levels, it can shut down ovulation, so make sure your ‘naturally thin’ is not a result of starvation too (cos some people actually are not given to food AT ALL in which case you must be disciplined enough to eat).
On the flip side, if there is too much body fat, especially visceral fat (fat found around the abdominal area which really is where most of us carry the excess fat), estrogen is also now in excess can interfere with ovulation and ultimately conception
In very simple terms, fat matters – or can I say baby fat- matters.

On a general note, at least 18% of healthy/essential body fat is ideal in women of child bearing age
It is advisable to maintain a healthy weight for conception to happen.
You need a balance of hormones being secreted into the body to ovulate properly.
Not too much (which is the case if BMI is high and person is overweight) and certainly not too little (as is the case with low BMI and person is underweight)
Women need more essential body fat than men because of child bearing demands and other hormonal functions. Men can get away with 3-5% body fat but a woman needs at least 18% body fat.
In simple terms, when we are hugged as women, we also want to feel ‘soft’ not just all muscles. Or bones.

Then there is the second sex hormone progesterone.
If progesterone is low, as may be the case if BMI is low and person is underweight, it affects the second phase of your menstrual cycle so yes you may ovulate but there is not enough time for the egg to implant into the uterine wall. One sure sign of this is your period coming less than 10 days after ovulation instead of about 14days.
On the flipside, obesity or excess body fat can actually lead to anovulatory infertility, meaning absence of ovulation leading to infertility, and also reduce response to fertility drugs, like I mentioned above.
Excess weight also leads to insulin resistance, further leading to irregular cycles, infertility, and a few (maybe) embarrassing symptoms like facial hair and all.

PCOS, that is polycystic ovarian syndrome, one of the leading causes of infertility is worsened by obesity and insulin resistance, with its symptoms increasing with weight.
But good news is that even just 10% weight loss has been shown to increase the possibility of conception with cycle and ovulation being normalized.
That is amazing.
What this means is that if I weigh 100kg and I lose 10%, that is 10kg, I have increased my likelihood of conception because my body fat has reduced too. Of course this excludes those taking those funny slim teas and pills as what you mostly lose with those is water weight and not fat, so lose weight the right way: with a healthy diet and exercise.

Crash diets like those are too stressful on the body and ladies trying to conceive must limit all forms of stress on the body.
And don’t just stop at 10%, aim to be at the right BMI and weight for you.
Even in cases of low BMI and too little body fat, an increase can also lead to your cycle and ovulation being normalized.
Beyond affecting conception, obesity can also lead to many pregnancy and birth complications if and when pregnancy finally occurs including pre-term babies, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and even heart defects in the baby. All of these are avoidable if weight is managed.

So now, what to do
That goes without saying…
Live healthy.
How?
By maintaining a clean diet rich in whole foods from all food classes, vegetables and fruits, and exercising. Both go hand in hand for a healthy lifestyle. You cannot be irresponsible about your health and leave it all to divinity, expecting a miracle. Especially when you KNOW better. Like Joyce Meyer says, we both have a part to play – I cannot do God’s part but God who can do it will not do my part
If you need to lose weight, please lose weight.
If you need to gain weight, by all means do.
And both are best done with the guide of a professional, like CoachE’ (toot toot, that is my horn haha)

Final Words
So as a woman, we must be very body aware. Some of us don’t know how to calculate our own BMI, determine our ovulation and even calculate our own menstrual cycle. You don’t monitor your weight weekly or fortnightly and don’t even know your height. This is wrong, and if you are TTC, this is double wrong. Being body aware is part of being an adult woman. I will not be spoon-feeding us with this article, instead I would ask you to get on google and figure these out. Also ask the right questions when you see a Doctor. However, I can help with a BMI range table. (You are welcome)

In the next post, I would be shining the spotlight on male fertility and obesity, because contrary to widely held beliefs in our side of the world, fertility is not a woman only issue.
So click this link http://body-weight,-obesity-and-how-it-affects-male-fertility-too to see how obesity affects men and their fertility, and how to handle it.
Let me leave you with this – Above all, after doing all we know to do as women, we should put our trust, faith and hope in Jesus.
While we do what we must do, we then let Him do what He alone can do.
Thoughts? Please share in the comments section

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