There has been a common perception that women who are obese may struggle to get pregnant. However, a new study has found that there are no fertility benefits from weight loss. The study, whose findings have been published in the journal ‘PLOS Medicine’, involved 379 women with obesity. The randomized study on these women, who were obese and had unexplained infertility, found that intensive lifestyle changes that shed pounds led to no better chances of pregnancy and healthy births when compared to simply increasing physical activity without weight loss.
“We have known for decades that obese women often have difficulty getting pregnant,” said researcher Daniel J Haisenleder, PhD, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine’s Center for Research in Reproduction. “For this reason, many physicians advise weight loss prior to conception. However, there are few studies that have addressed the issue comparing a healthy lifestyle – i.e., exercise – vs. exercise plus weight loss.”
The FIT-PLESE study, which was conducted at nine academic medical centres across the country, divided participants into two groups – Half of the women dieted intensely using meal replacements, medications and increased physical activity. The other half group simply increased their physical activity and did not try to lose weight. At the end of the programs, both groups of women received three rounds of standard infertility treatments.
Women in the weight-loss program ended up losing, on average, 7 per cent of their body weight, while participants in the exercise-only group typically maintained their weights. But, in the end, there were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of the frequency of healthy births. In total, 23 of the 188 women who completed the 16-week intensive weight-loss program ended up giving birth; among the 191 who completed the exercise-only program, 29 gave birth.