obesity and fertility

Obesity and overweight affects us in so many ways and has been linked traditionally to hypertension, coronary artery disease, pulmonary problems and diabetes. Recent research is showing signs linking obesity in both men and women to fertility problems. To understand how obesity contributes to problems with fertility, we should understand that there are three sources of estrogen in the body: the ovary (directly), the adrenal glands; and fat cells (indirectly). The ovary makes estrogen (an important sex hormone) in quantities which depend upon the stage of the menstrual cycle. The adrenal glands make androgens. Because all of these sex-hormones (including testosterone and progesterone) are derived from cholesterol, these hormones are converted back and forth in the cells and fat cells can convert some of them to a form of estrogen. In an overweight woman, the fat cells can oversupply its own estrogen which ends up blunting the functions of the ovary, which ultimately interferes with ovulation and can cause infertility.

Many obese women also have polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD). Patients suffering from PCOD have multiple small cysts in their ovaries. These cysts occur when the regular changes of a normal menstrual cycle are disrupted. The ovary is enlarged; and produces excessive amounts of androgen and estrogenic hormones. These prevent ovulation, which can cause infertility.

Some new research also has linked obesity in men to lower volumes of seminal fluid. Apart from this, male obesity has also been linked to production of a higher proportion of abnormal sperms. Some other studies have also suggested an association between male obesity and increased DNA damage in the sperm. The poor quality of sperms in obese men may be due to the presence of excessive fat around their testicles. It leads to an increase in temperatures and causes them to heat up. It is also coming to light that where two partners in a marriage are obese, the chances of them having to wait for more than a year before the woman became pregnant were nearly three times higher than for a normal weight couple. This is a type of sub-fertility which is normally defined as a waiting time to pregnancy of more than 12 months from the time a couple starts to have unprotected sex with an intention to conceive.

For detailed information on how to lose weight, please visit your dietician for more information. Some simple things we can all do include exercising at least 30 minutes daily. The exercise can be in the form of brisk walking, jogging, aerobics, skipping ropes etc. We should also seek to reduce our intake of fats and oils as much as we can and substitute fatty foods and snacks for less fatty/oily ones. Our intake of ‘soft drinks’ and other sugar flavoured drinks should also be severely limited in our diet. Toffees, ice-cream, chocolates, biscuits, cakes, and other pastries should also be well reduced in the diet. Fruits such as oranges, pineapples, bananas, pawpaw etc should be used to replace the sugary snacks. Vegetables such as okro, kontomire, garden eggs, onions, cabbages and lettuce should form large portions of the diet.

Most forms of infertility can be treated medically and should be reported as soon as possible to the hospital for the appropriate treatment and should not be shrouded in witchcraft or other causes.


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