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IVF and Underweight Patients: Can a Low BMI Affect Your Treatment?

By HCRM on March 17, 2015


Smiling couple outdoorsAt the Heartland Center for Reproductive Medicine, we work to educate our patients about their fertility and help them achieve their family goals. If you haven’t been able to conceive, we may recommend IVF (in vitro fertilization) to improve your chances of becoming pregnant. During this procedure, we harvest your eggs, fertilize them, monitor their development, and implant the healthiest embryos into your uterus to help you conceive. IVF has been able to help millions of women become pregnant, but since fertility is a complex issue, there are many factors that can influence the success of this treatment. We use our comprehensive knowledge and expertise to plan IVF treatments that suit our patients’ particular circumstances at our Omaha practice. Below, we discuss the link between IVF and underweight patients so you can better understand one of the many considerations that may affect your chances of conception during this treatment.

Weight and Fertility

Maintaining a stable, healthy weight can improve your overall well-being and ensure that your body is functioning optimally. Overweight or obese women are at risk for PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and miscarriage, but being underweight may be just as detrimental if not worse. Women with a low proportion of body fat tend to produce less estrogen, a hormone required for conception, and have a higher chance of anovulation (a lack of or irregular menstruation) than those within the normal range for weight and body fat. Fertility researchers estimate that approximately 12 percent of infertility cases are related to being over- or underweight.

IVF and Underweight Patients by the Numbers

Several recent studies investigated the link between IVF success and low BMI, or Body Mass Index, a calculation used to measure body fat. These were their conclusions:

  • According to a 2010 study performed on 1,100 Chinese women, women who had a BMI of less than 18.5 were six percent less likely to conceive than those with a normal BMI between 18.5 and 24, despite the fact that their ovarian stimulation (treatment to encourage more egg production) was just as successful as women in the normal range.
  • A 2011 study of over 2,600 women in Chicago found that women with BMIs ranging from 14 to 18 were 16 percent less likely to conceive than those with BMIs between 19 and 28. Most surprisingly, underweight women were also 11 percent less likely to become pregnant than the participants with BMIs between 29 and 43. This suggests that being underweight can influence IVF even more than being overweight. 

Can You Undergo IVF if You’re Underweight?

Yes, depending on the other factors affecting your candidacy and chances for success. We will also consider your lifestyle choices (such as smoking or excessive drinking), age, hormone levels, and gynecological conditions (IVF may not be advisable if you suffer from fibroid tumors, certain uterine disorders, or a sexually transmitted disease). Our fertility specialists also recognize that your BMI may be a flawed representation of your health since women have different body types. Patients who are naturally thin may not have the same fertility issues as those who have a low BMI from a strict diet and exercise regime, for example. In addition, if you and your partner’s difficulty conceiving is largely due to male infertility, your weight may not be as significant of a factor in your success. If you are underweight, we may recommend that you try to gain weight before beginning a cycle of IVF to boost your chances for conception.

Contact the Heartland Center for Reproductive Medicine to Schedule a Consultation

The best way to figure out how your weight and other factors may influence your fertility and IVF treatment is to come in for a consultation at our practice. Please contact us today to schedule an appointment and learn more.

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Each and every staff member at Heartland Center is tremendous. Dr. Maclin is a woman of grace, and a terrific medical doctor. She is a world-class surgeon, and we are so grateful to know her.

Lene - IVF Patient

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