How much weight does your BMI carry when it comes to fertility?
Thank goodness for the influencers, celebrities, and artists who are empowering women with the message of body positivity—honestly, it’s about time. It’s also why having a conversation with your doctor about your BMI almost feels like a step back from being uplifting and empowering, even when it comes to your fertility. If you’re a woman who sits below or above the suggested BMI, the words “Body Mass Index” might bring back queasy visions of high school gym class that includes running laps, doing non-pull ups, and overall coming to the conclusion that your body isn’t “normal”.
Rest assured that this isn’t about the shape of your body and this certainly isn’t about praising one body type over another. You can have stunning curves in all the perfect places or barely have any hips to shake to a Shakira song and still be a healthy, fertile goddess.
So what’s the deal with this whole BMI thing?
Well, BMI was created almost 100 years ago as a way to measure if a person is under or overweight and admittedly, it mostly works. It provides a general ballpark of the weight for a healthy person by taking their weight and height and applying it to the formula developed by Lambert Quetelet to come up with a number. The magical number places you as underweight, normal, or overweight.
It was a method created with good intentions though in recent years even doctors have acknowledged its shortcomings. Your BMI does not account for the fact that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes and your health, especially relating to your fertility, depends on more than a 100-year-old index.
I’m above (or below) the BMI but I take care of my body, what do I do?
Let’s start with some questions to consider and talk about with your doctor.
- Is your period normal? Signs of little to no period can be an indication that your body is under unnecessary stress and it’s affecting your hormones. Some women who fall above or below the BMI scale often have irregular or sometimes zero periods. If your period is regular despite being either above or below the BMI “normal” then it’s a good sign your body is balanced the way it is.
- How’s your diet and exercise? Go over your diet and exercise with your doctor, this will give them a clue as to how you take care of yourself and if it’s supportive of your reproductive health.
- Should you do some routine tests? If you’re concerned about your weight or health, ask your physician what basic tests would help you get a better gauge for your wellness. Blood tests, pap smears, blood pressure, or a cholesterol test, can help your doctor understand your health beyond BMI.
What is the relationship between Egg Freezing, BMI, and my fertility?
If you are overweight according to the index, you might not respond well to Egg Freezing or IVF treatments and medications. Adipose tissue (fat) has been shown to increase the production of estrogen. If you have an excess of fat it can throw your body out of whack, cause infrequent periods, and occurrences of severe and heavy flows. Whereas women with little to no adipose tissue are at risk of their estrogen production coming to a grinding halt which has the same undesired result; infrequent or non-existent periods.
Your periods are part of your whole menstrual cycle, it’s your body’s way of prepping your uterus for an egg that could be fertilized. If your body isn’t having periods or isn’t having them regularly, you best believe it’s impacting your ovaries and the whole system.
Your body needs a balance and you’re going to have to figure out with your doctor what that looks like.
So do I need to have a normal BMI to have a healthy reproductive system?
Not necessarily because, as you now know, there’s more to your body than just your BMI. Being under or overweight does not immediately indicate you will have issues with conceiving just like how being “normal” does not guarantee you will get pregnant at your first attempt. Therefore, losing or gaining weight, while it can impact the fertility of the individual still varies from what another person with the same body type might experience and we highly recommend talking to a doctor before making huge changes to your lifestyle.
Think of BMI has a sort of general guide, it helps to give your doctor a starting point to ask the right questions; so your doctor still might use it as a reference point and that’s okay.
Before we wrap this up, we just want to take a moment and acknowledge how sensitive these topics can be for many women. Talking about weight is still something many of us are uncomfortable with, we still treat “fat” as a bad word, and body shaming isn’t dependent on where you fall on the BMI spectrum. Add on the possibility of infertility and it feels hard to send love to your body—especially if it feels like it’s failing you. If you hear those cruel voices starting to rise, sit for a moment and try repeating one of these affirming mantras to yourself.
- My body is strong. My body is enough.
- I take care of myself because I love myself.
- I love myself the way I love my best friend.
- May I be happy, may I be healthy.
We’re also going to use the words of Meghan Trainor to leave you with one more reminder “…I’m here to tell you, every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.”