The main reason for my blog semi-anonymity is that I need a place to share our journey to become parents; we’re aware that it may not be as straight-forward a journey for us as it is for many other people. I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) at the age of 19 and this can make getting pregnant difficult. PCOS presents with a whole variety of symptoms but the ones that present most in me are
- cystic ovaries (not every woman with PCOS will actually present with multiple cysts)
- insulin resistance
- irregular cycles
- and the most awesome one of all, weight gain
At my all-time heaviest, I was 115 kilos. I am a tall woman, so few friends would have picked me as that heavy at the time. Over the last year and a half, I’ve lost 17.5 kilos (and gained back two in post wedding partying – yikes). Given my current health statistics, the doctor would like me to get down to 90 kgs – about 10 kilos lighter than I am now. While that puts me at 29 (overweight) on the BMI scale, the doctor believes that this is a realistic weight for my skeletal structure and he will be confident in my health at this point.
There’s another good reason for losing weight (other than looking hell-a sexy this summer):
A study led by Dr. Van der Steeg, a medical researcher at the Academic Medical Center in The Netherlands, shows that even women who regularly ovulate experience sub-fertility when their BMI (body mass index) is in the overweight or obese category. Someone experiencing sub-fertility has a lower than normal chance of becoming pregnant, but unlike women suffering from infertility, spontaneous pregnancy is still likely.
In layman’s terms, they found that women with regular cycles, and otherwise no obvious fertility problems, still have a hard time getting pregnant if they are overweight. They also found that the more overweight the woman is, the lower her chances of pregnancy.
Not only that, but:
For every BMI unit over 29, chance of pregnancy fell by 4%.
In the study, they found that for every BMI unit over 29, the chance of pregnancy was reduced by four percent, when compared to women with BMI’s between 21 to 29. Women who were severely obese, with BMI’s between 35 to 40, had a 23% to 43% less chance of achieving pregnancy compared to the below 29 BMI women.
It’s important to mention that the researchers did not prove that losing weight will increase the chances of pregnancy. However, it would seem that losing weight could help. Entering pregnancy at a normal weight is healthier in any case, and can reduce the risk of some pregnancy complications, like gestational diabetes. (A BMI between 25 to 29.9 before pregnancy doubles the risk, while a BMI over 30 triples the chance.)
So what does this mean?
PCOS puts me at a disadvantage, but being overweight with PCOS makes our chances of pregnancy even worse. Insulin resistance can definitely make weight loss harder, but I managed to lose 17.5 kg already so there is no way I can use it as an excuse. I’ve also started taking the medication Metformin to reduce the impact of my insulin resistance. While research into PCOS is a growing area, there is one thing that most doctors manage to agree on – hormones normalize, ovulation is more frequent/likely and general maternal health is better when you are at a healthy weight.
I owe it to myself to get back to a healthy weight and live a full and happy life. I owe it to Papa M to do my darnedest to make sure that I stick around for a long, long while. I owe it to my future babies to be healthy enough to a) conceive them in the first place and b) be the best mum I can be.