Hi, I am Dr. Parul Chopra Buttan. I am a gynaecologist and obstetrician with 18 years of experience. I am also the co-creator of the conceive effortlessly online program to help you get pregnant faster, naturally, easily & most definitely. 😊
I am often asked this question, what should my ideal weight be or can I not conceive if I am overweight? Well, health is not a number. You may weigh exactly as your ideal weight and not be very healthy. Or, you may be a couple of kilos over and be healthier.
It’s not about obsession with a number or numbers. However, being around the recommended weight is certainly healthier than being overweight or obese. Let’s understand what exactly happens when you have a lot of excess fat. One of the considerations is the body shape. This is determined by where the extra fat is stored.
Two most commonly defined body shapes
The first one is an apple shape and the second one is a pear shape.
In the apple shape, you’ll notice more fat deposition around the middle part of the body, the waist or the abdomen. The legs are usually thinner. In the pear shape, the waist is thin and the fat is concentrated around the lower body, the hips and the thighs.
In studies, the apple shape has been shown to be more unhealthy and women who have this body shape are at a higher risk of complications of obesity as compared to those with a pear shape.
A simple way to express this is that your waist circumference is an important indicator of your health. For women in the reproductive age group, a waist circumference of more than 88 cm, that is more than 34 inches is associated with more abdominal fat and such women are at a higher risk of hormonal imbalances leading to delay or difficulty in conception, among other complications.
How to know whether you have extra fat in your body?
I would recommend you to take a minute. Find a measuring tape and measure your waist circumference right now. Place the tape around the narrowest part of your waist and note the circumference after breathing out. If it’s more than 88 cm the following effects apply to you.
What happens when there is extra fat in the body?
The fat, technically called the adipose tissue, acts as an endocrine gland and secretes hormones. It converts androgens to estrogen and upsets the healthy balance of estrogen and progesterone in the body. I’d like to mention that estrogen and progesterone play a very important part in the reproductive functioning of the body.
Overweight or obese women with extra facial hair, loss of scalp hair, acne, darkened neck area or pigmentation are at an even higher risk of these complications. Hormonal imbalance may cause PCOS with all its attendant issues. I have discussed PCOS in detail in a separate blog, but one of the major side-effects of PCOS is that the periods become irregular and fertility reduces. When I see an obese woman desirous of pregnancy, I am often asked and I suggest weight loss.
Can I not conceive if I don’t lose weight?
The answer is, you can, and if you want to go deeper into conception then do read another article I wrote about how babies are made. But you might not want to after you understand the implications of conceiving when you are obese.
The list of issues is long and highly undesirable, risks being high both for the expectant mother and her baby within. Obese women have a higher risk of miscarriage. They are likely to have a higher incidence of early pregnancy and discomforts like constipation and vomiting.
Obese women have a higher risk of medical complications in pregnancy like pregnancy- induced diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension, hypothyroidism, etc. They will be more troubled by backache, are likely to get joint pains and breathlessness. They may perceive baby movements inside the womb much later than usual. They may also perceive relatively less movements, leading to more emergency visits to the hospital. They have a higher risk of infections like vaginal infections, UTI etc.
The risk of preterm delivery, that is, the baby arriving before full maternity is higher. The chances of normal delivery are lower. Not only do the chances of an operative delivery by the cesarean section rise, but the surgery is more difficult to perform, and is associated with a higher risk of complications such as infection, excess bleeding and a need for blood transfusion. Also lactation difficulties are higher and milk production may be delayed or less. Postpartum recovery is also more difficult in obese women.
An obese mother is also at a higher risk of complications of obesity which in turn gets passed on to the baby as well. Prematurity is a big concern and depending upon the baby’s maturity weight, the baby may need prenatal intensive care after birth. Now, before you find this information too depressing, let’s just invert this same information and see.
What happens if you lose weight and get fitter before your pregnancy?
You have a higher chance of conceiving naturally. Your risk of miscarriage reduces immensely. Your risk of medical complications in pregnancy that we just spoke about reduces.
You will find it easier to be more active through pregnancy. Your posture is better. Joint pains will be less. You will perceive your baby’s movements within you better. You are more likely to deliver at full term, more likely to have a natural birth with all its advantages. You will be more confident going through pregnancy and childbirth. Your recovery after childbirth, be it normal delivery or c--section, will be much faster. You will be able to breastfeed better. And being fitter, you will enjoy the precious early days of parenting which can be as exhausting as running a marathon or far more.
You will give your baby a much healthier start to life. The return on investment on getting fitter is MASSIVE!
And what’s more? You do not need to lose all the extra weight to reap these invaluable benefits. Even a loss of 10% body weight in obese women is associated with a change of psychology, normalization of hormonal balance, improvement in periods, chances of conceiving naturally and much more. So let’s say you are 5 feet tall and you currently weigh 90 kgs. Even losing 8-10 kilos of weight over 3-4 months and you are writing a completely different destiny for yourself.
Motherhood brings unprecedented motivation!
I have known so many women who have been overweight for long, but have found unprecedented motivation when they are ready to become mothers. This journey you undertake within yourself as you go about shedding those extra kilos, putting down the extra baggage you don’t need to carry any longer, can be the most deeply rewarding one.
Women have found their true essence through this. They have healed childhood traumas as they discovered what it was that they were trying to fulfill through mindless eating, and what they were trying to escape from by indulging in food, what fears were holding them captive when they were distracting themselves with sugar and carbs.
I know I unravelled so much of myself when I discovered stress makes me go foraging for carbohydrates in the house. A simple switch to taking a 20 minute brisk walk when I’m feeling overwhelmed has had a ripple effect over my physical and mental health, my relationships, and fully impacted the whole of my life. I wish for each of you to discover the nectar of fitness in life.
There are only two action points here -
I will leave the healthy diet part to our expert nutritionists from Team Zoe. I would highly recommend Zoe’s online programs and products that encourage healthy and sustainable weight loss.
Regarding regular exercise, I’ll answer the common questions asked by women keen to conceive.
Any and every kind of exercise is good but which is the BEST? The answer is, the one which gets done! Please feel free to explore the workout that works for you but do ensure all aspects of fitness - strength, stamina, endurance and flexibility - are improved over time. It is always safer and more effective to workout with and under the supervision of a fitness trainer/expert. If you are new to working out, and need to kick-start your fitness journey, you can also try out They will surely help you.
Can I do cardio? Yes, you can jump and squat when you are trying to conceive. No, jumping will not cause a miscarriage. If you are still too anxious to start, maybe take it easy a couple of days around the expected time of your period. Or really tune in to your body and follow the signals it gives you.
Regular exercise of 180 minutes per week is recommended for young women. So dedicating an hour 3 times a week will work well for most. Or you could dedicate 30 minutes six times a week. More than this is always welcome, but make sure that you are working out at least 180 minutes a week.
Now, if you ask me, when should I start?
I’ll say, start right now! Put on your socks and shoes and as this video ends, go for a 30 minute brisk walk while your subconscious mind assimilates all of this and aligns itself to get you what you want.
If you can’t step out, maybe walk on the spot at home! The key is JUST DO IT!
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Love and good health,