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Ideal Weight for Conception

You may not know it, but you could be one of the growing number of women in America whose body weight - either too low or, more commonly, too high - is hurting your fertility.

Doctors have known for some time now that being either overweight or underweight can make it harder for a woman to get pregnant. In fact, some experts believe that weight may be a factor in up to 10 percent of infertility cases. In addition, overweight women are more likely to experience pregnancy and birth complications, while underweight women are more likely to have a baby with a low birth weight. The best way to avoid these problems is to achieve the ideal weight for your height before you and your partner make the decision to start a family.

To determine your ideal weight, you can use an equation to calculate your body mass index (BMI), which is an assessment of your weight relative to your height, or a BMI calculator, like the one on the official Web site of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. If your BMI is less than 18.5, you are considered underweight. A normal BMI ranges from 18.5 to 24.9, and 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. A person with a BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese.

If you are less than 85 percent of your healthy weight, you have a higher risk of giving birth to a baby with a low birth weight. If you are more than 135 percent of your ideal weight, you are more at risk for diabetes, hypertension and a more difficult time during pregnancy and delivery. Being either over or underweight can also cause abnormal menstrual cycles, which can make it extremely difficult - sometimes impossible - to get pregnant.

If you are underweight and your doctor has recommended that you put on a few pounds, that doesn't mean you should start scarfing down the cookies and candy. Do it the healthy way by exercising to build muscle, increasing your energy intake, eating at least three full meals a day, snacking more often and drinking more milk and juice. Extra calories from a nutritious, well-balanced diet will ensure you get the proper nutrients both you and your future baby will need.

Trying to lose weight, on the other hand, may prove to be a more difficult task than trying to gain it. However, a few simple lifestyle changes and a little discipline can help you reach your goal. Stay away from fad diets that eliminate certain types of foods, like the Atkins diet and carbohydrates. Although these diets work for some people, cutting out things like milk products, fruit and vegetables can deny your body of many important vitamins and nutrients that you need to sustain a healthy pregnancy. Stick to foods that are low in fat and high in fiber. Also include plenty of lean protein (fish, chicken) and whole grains, and drink lots of water.

Staying active is just as important and eating healthy. Try to incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine at least three months before you conceive, which will make it easier to maintain an active lifestyle during your pregnancy. Being in shape will also help you during labor. Choose some fun activities you will enjoy, such as hiking, bicycling, swimming, gardening, dancing or weight training. Remember that once you lose the weight, exercise is still important for keeping it off. But don't overdo it! Start slowly and be sure not to overwork your body. Aim to lose one to two pounds a week, which will ensure you're losing fat rather than fluid or muscle.

Just remember whether you need to shed or gain a few pounds, the closer you are to your ideal weight, the better your chances are of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy.



Featured Sites:

Cord Blood Registry
March of Dimes
Susan G. Komen

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