Research shows that being underweight, overweight, and obese adversely affects women’s quality of life. It affects nearly every body system, including reproductive health. For example, women may experience hormonal imbalance, difficulty conceiving, health problems during the gestation period and while giving birth. In addition, weight issues may affect the health of the fetus. Being informed helps prevent reproductive health weight-related issues. So, here’s what you should know.

What is a healthy body weight for a woman?

Body weight depends on age, height, sex, and ethnicity. Determining body mass index (BMI) helps understand whether you have a healthy body weight. BMI shows an estimate of body fat; there are diseases that can arise from high BMI. A healthy BMI range for women is 18.5 to 24.9. Women with BMI below 18.5 are underweight and above 24.9 are overweight. A BMI of 30 or higher indicates obesity. To calculate your BMI, divide your weight in pounds (lb) by height in inches (in) squared and multiply the figure by the conversion factor 703. You may also use weight-tracking apps to calculate your BMI. Pregnant women can use their pre-pregnancy BMI to calculate recommended weight gain during pregnancy.

Measuring waist circumference is another way to know if you have excessive abdominal fat. A non-pregnant woman should have a waist circumference of 35 inches or less. Both BMI and measurement of waist circumference are screening methods. However, the results alone are not diagnostic.

How does body weight affect fertility in women?

Body weight above or below the healthy range may cause irregular menstruation and ovulation issues that lead to delayed or failed conception. Underweight women are likely to experience hormonal imbalance-led ovulation problems. As a result, they may take a year or more to get pregnant.

Overweight and obesity in women may also lead to erratic menstrual cycles and ovulation. Overweight and obese women may experience anovulation or produce lower-quality eggs. In fact, obese women with regular periods may still have lower chances of getting pregnant. They are also prone to disorders that affect pregnancy, such as insulin resistance, diabetes, and thyroid disease.

Let’s discuss insulin resistance as an example. Insulin resistance refers to increased insulin production by the body to keep blood sugar levels normal. But, in turn, it decreases the levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), a protein that helps regulate the balance of sex hormones estrogen and androgens. These two factors lead to irregular menses (i.e., the mmaterial discharged during mensturation), causing reduced fertility.

Leptin is another hormone that affects the menstrual cycle and fertility. Its secretion increases when overweight and obese, thus causing hormonal imbalance and lowered fertility.

How to maintain a healthy body weight?

First, consult your doctor to determine the cause of excessive weight or being underweight. Follow their advice to overcome whatever is affecting your weight. Nevertheless, taking a balanced diet and exercising daily are critical. Be at a healthy weight to get pregnant before trying to conceive. It helps ensure the overall well-being of the mother and the baby.