Fertility Week 2015: how weight impacts on fertility and child health

A healthy weight is great for fertility

Fertility Week begins today (1-7 September). Designed to coincide with the first week of spring (think fertility, babies and so on), this year’s campaign focuses on the impact that being overweight or obese can have on a person’s ability to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy and baby.

On average, women who are overweight take longer to conceive than women who are of a healthy weight. Women who are overweight or obese can experience hormonal changes that interfere with ovulation; they are also more likely to develop high blood pressure and diabetes during pregnancy, experience miscarriage or stillbirth, have a baby weighing more than 4.5 kilos, or have a caesarean section to avoid birth complications more common with large babies.

In men, obesity is associated with lower fertility, which has multiple likely causes including chronic health problems, lower testosterone levels and erectile problems.

Just as being overweight or obese can significantly impact your health and increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease or some types of cancer, it can also have a direct impact on a person’s fertility and their ability to have a healthy baby.

While we all know people who have managed to conceive despite being overweight, research shows that weight is a significant factor affecting fertility and maternal health.

Fortunately, the good news is that for people who are overweight, just a 5‐10% reduction in body weight can make all the difference in getting their fertility back on track. This means that someone who is overweight at 80 kilograms may only need to lose four kilos in order to their general health and their ability to get pregnant back on track.

Fertility Week is run by Your Fertility, a national public education program funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services.

Your Fertility is delivered by Fertility Coalition, which consists of VARTA as the lead agency, Andrology Australia, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health and The Robinson Research Institute.

This year Your Fertility has also partnered with Livelighter to promote positive messages about ways to make lifestyle changes – including diet and exercise -‐ in order to increase a person’s chances of conceiving and having a healthy baby.

Changing habits to improve diet and other lifestyle factors like exercise during pregnancy to reduce weight gain can have positive effects on the health of a mother and their child.

But a prospective parent’s diet and exercise decisions in the months leading up to conception can also impact on pregnancy health and the long-‐term health of a child born.

During Fertility Week, Professor Sarah Robertson of The Robinson Research Institute will be delivering a public lecture on research results that reveal lifestyle and environmental factors during pre-‐conception and pregnancy can have a lasting impact on child's health.

Entitled ‘Parenting begins before conception’, the lecture will discuss how the health of the parents before conception transmits information that determines the health of children after birth and throughout life, and the so-‐called ‘epigenetic’ mechanisms involved. Epigenetics affects not just fertility and pregnancy health, but the life course potential of offspring, particularly their susceptibility to non-‐communicable diseases including heart disease, diabetes, allergy and asthma, and neurological conditions.

For more information about Fertility Week visit Your Fertility

For more information about the lecture visit ‘Parenting begins before conception’

Andrology Australia 

Jean Hailes for Women’s Health 

The Robinson Research Institute