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SPECIAL REPORT: Obesity and Infertility
"When I went into the fertility process, obviously it wasn't healthy for me as an adult to be overweight and no less try and get pregnant and carry a child and be obese,” Jessica Burke of New Berlin said.
But, look at 36-year-old Jessica now. Hard to believe just two years ago she weighed 100 pounds more. Like a lot of women, she underwent in-vitro fertilization. Today, she has a 2-year-old son, Finnegan.
“Once I had him, it made me want to change myself, to be more healthy.," Jessica said. "I was getting older, and I chose to go a drastic route."
That's when she decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery.
Jessica battled a weight problem her entire life. It’s a problem that poses serious challenges when it comes to conceiving a baby.
Dr. Ricardo Loret de Mola, the chairman of the SIU Fertility and IVF Center in Springfield, said weight directly affects fertility.
"Women with obesity can have a variety of hormonal abnormalities," Loret de Mola said. "For example, women with excess weight can't ovulate on a regular basis and frequently that interferes with conception. In addition, women who are obese have eggs that have abnormalities."
Jessica admits she was a morbidly obese mother-to-be. She knew she needed to take control.
"Being pregnant and overweight, it was hard on me, hard on my heart, hard on my breathing, especially as the baby grew,” Jessica said.
38-year-old Michelle Eads of Springfield can relate.
"My doctor said if I would lose some weight, it would help tremendously,” Michelle said.
To make matters worse, while battling her weight problems, Michelle was also diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It's a hormonal disorder, common in overweight women, that leads to cysts on the ovaries. The disorder makes it difficult to get pregnant. After several rounds of infertility treatments, she gave birth to her miracle baby, Carter.
"When you look at the effect of age and fertility, women lose a little a year," Loret de Mola said. "When you lose weight and your BMI goes from 37-38 to under 35, you get a 50 percent increase in your fertility."
It's not just women. Men's weight affects their ability to have kids too.
Fat cells convert testosterone into estrogen.
"Men are equally affected," Loret de Mola said. "If they're morbidly obese, they can have difficulty with erections, ejaculating, problems with a low libido."
So the bottom line--lose the weight.
Jessica had to do it the hard way, but if she had it to do all over again, she wouldn't change a thing.
Aside from difficulty conceiving, overweight women are at risk for gestational diabetes, hypertension during pregnancy (known as preeclampsia) and sometimes induced labor. Experts estimate by 2030, 42 percent of Americans will be overweight.