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Fertility, pregnancy and weight loss

If you’re in a larger body, have PCOS, are struggling to conceive or have a BMI above the eligibility criteria to access fertility treatment, then, the chances are you’ve probably already been told by your doctor to lose weight.

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Written by Apricity Team

Losing weight sustainably for pregnancy

Whilst weight is not the only factor in fertility, weight loss is generally recommended as first-line therapy in people with PCOS or before trying to conceive, because it has been shown that losing 5% of your body weight can significantly improve PCOS symptoms including regulating periods and improving fertility. During pregnancy, having a high BMI increases the risk of developing problems such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia and once you are pregnant it is not recommended to diet so it is worthwhile focusing your efforts on weight loss before conception if weight loss is something you want to achieve.  

If you are having fertility treatment, it is desirable to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) under 30, which is the NHS eligibility cut-off, however, some private clinics will accept higher BMIs, usually up to 35, and in some cases will go beyond this with additional assessments on a case by case basis. A BMI of between 20 and 25 is ideal with the correct level of body fat as people with a BMI of under 19 may also not be eligible for treatment. This is because both too much and too little body fat can affect fertility, IVF success and miscarriage risk. 

We have to be realistic, losing weight can be extremely difficult and yoyo dieting and restrictive diets can have a negative effect on our health leaving us with below optimum nutrient levels.  Therefore, it can be helpful to seek specialist support from a registered nutritionist or dietician who can take into consideration your medical history and individual needs. They can support you in a healthy approach to weight loss that is sustainable, so you can prepare for conception and access fertility treatments. 

Here are our top weight loss tips:

  • The Mediterranean style diet is a great foundation for both a weight loss diet and fertility optimising diet as it contains the key nutrients required to improve egg quality, ovarian function and sperm health but also is also well balanced in terms of food groups 

  • A lower carbohydrate (not too low) and higher protein diet may be able to help support weight loss, however, it is still important not to go too low with carbs especially as they give us energy 

  • Lower glycaemic carbohydrates such as beans, pulses, fruit, veg and whole grains are good choices as they help to balance your blood glucose levels and combined with protein can also help you feel fuller for longer 

  • Opt for healthy sources of fat such as olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds over saturated fats such as cakes, pastries, coconut oil and butter. Fats will keep you satisfied, are crucial for our hormones and are needed to absorb fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin D which is important for fertility 

  • Keep up or start regular movement and exercise as this will help to maintain your metabolism

  • Sleep is extremely important when it comes to weight loss and often gets neglected but a lack of sleep can really impair your appetite-regulating hormones affecting what you eat throughout the day and encouraging you to opt for higher carb and more sugary and high-calorie foods 

  • Stress management is another important factor, especially if you are an emotional eater or use food to cope with negative emotions and have the added stress of fertility struggles. Develop an emotional tool kit with mindfulness practices such as journaling, yoga and meditation

  • If you are in a couple, focus on the positive dietary changes together and help one another out

  • Seek support from a registered nutritionist or dietician to help you to achieve your weight loss goal 

Written by Apricity Team

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